Wait… what!? John’s of Bleecker Street, the no-nonsense, West Village, pie-only stalwart known for scratched tables, initialed walls, and one of the city’s most iconic thin-crust pizzas announced some big news for pizza nerds late Tuesday afternoon on Instagram: They now deliver.
“EXTRA EXTRA! You’ve waited and waited, and now… we are officially ready to deliver John’s of Bleecker Street pie to your doorstep! You’ve heard that right – our very own service is up and running. GO to our website: johnsbrickovenpizza.com and click ‘delivery!’ 🍕🍕🍕💕💕💕”
If things go as planned, Loverboy, the East Village’s newest pizza spot (brought to you by owners Richard Knapp and T.J. Lynch of Nolita gin mill, Mother’s Ruin) may actually be able to serve pizza by early August.
“We’ve basically decided to say, ‘Fuck Con Ed,’” the bartender at Loverboy explained. “We’ve outfitted the kitchen so that we can just go all electric. We’re closer than where I thought we’d be since making the shift. We should be ready to serve pizza within the next two weeks.”
In an interview with Grub Street, Loverboy co-owner T.J. Lynch said the spot hadn’t been named for the Patrick Dempsey pizza deliveryman-gigolo movie or the ’80s band (we’ll have to settle for a hed inspired by Mickey & Sylvia) and described their concept as combining “the unpretentious feel and good drinks of Mother’s Ruin, but with pizza by the slice and pie.” Instead of having folks leave the bar to find slices to sop up the frozen cocktails, they decided they’d serve pizza themselves (“I think it’s because we’re geniuses” Lynch added).
Loverboy’s pizza style? Lynch, who worked on it with consulting chef Nick Pfannerstill (previously chef de cuisine of Dovetail), told Grub Street, “Our style is called awesome pizza. That’s the culinary definition.” More specifically, he then went on to describe it as a square-style with a thicker crust that’s not quite Sicilian-thick.
Tone can be lost in translation, but the quotes do read a little, ahem, abrupt and… confident.
Last week’s Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pop-up took over Toro with foot-long cheese pulls, delighting Chicago transplants and skeptical New Yorkers with pizza FOMO. But how did it come about? And how did Lou Malnati’s pizza heir and Toro partner Will Malnati and team pull it off?
“I was in Chicago for the Beard Awards,” chef Ken Oringer explained. “I told Will, ‘There must be thousands of Chicagoans in New York City who crave this pizza. Why don’t we do some type of pop-up?’”
Toro had been doing guest chef pop-ups over the past year, inviting friends like Rachael Ray (who connected Will with chef Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of the original Toro in Boston) to cook, selling tickets for the events in the private dining room. Time and again the question arose: could they pull off a Lou Malnati’s pop-up? “It never went away,” explained Malnati. “So, one day I was like, ‘All right, all right, all right. Let’s see if we can really do this.”
Moving forward meant Will acting as middleman between the kitchen in New York and the Lou Malnati’s team in Chicago, figuring out what they had and what they’d need. Will may have spent years establishing restaurateur credbeyond pizza, but the Chicago native earned his pizza chops in the family business before studying at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, working in every restaurant. He even returned to Chicago after graduating to open a Lou Malnati’s before starting a career in hospitality in New York at EMM Group.
There’s a unique, new pizza in town. It’s called the “DoughDici,” and it’s a poofy play on a Detroit-style pie, a purposefully fallen pizza soufflé with a thin frico edge and an airy interior that resembles the inside of the Platonic ideal of a garlic knot. The DoughDici, a play on “dodici,” Italian for “12” (a nod to its dough’s 12-hour rise), is the creation of pizza tinkerer Tom Degrezia of Sofia Pizz Shoppe on 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th. Because of the time that goes into tending them, each DoughDici will be sold by appointment (link below) in limited quantities (two to three a day) just a few days a week.
If you’re a pizza fanatic looking for the next new thing: this is it.
There’s an ever-so-slight oil crisp-brown and golden undercarriage, a frico, Detroit-esque crust that’s slightly chewy and salty from the cheese, but without the Motor City overflow.
Degrezia has been tinkering with the DoughDici in his Sutton Place sliceria for seven months (he’s still looking for someone to make pans with the slightly angled effect he’s striving for), giving lucky regulars a slice if they happened to be there when a pie came out. Meanwhile, Degrezia’s partner Matthew Porter has trademarked the name. They were inspired by the Detroit-style pizzas popularized at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg but wanted to take their own approach.
Ivan Orkin, the brash Jewish guy from Long Island who supposedly had no business opening a wildly successful ramen shop, is now the ramen guy whose brand seemed to have nothing to do with pizza and who has now opened Corner Slice, a grandma pie joint.
“You could say I’m the white guy making ramen, but the white guy went to Japan in 1980 and learned how to make it for 30 years,”Orkin retorts. “My family was Japanese and my heart is Japanese. Pizza is no different. I was born in Lenox Hill Hospital and been here my whole life. The experience of a great pizzeria… it’s who I am. If you listen to my backstory one of the things that reminded me about ramen was New York diners. Your guy was always there. You could get your food pretty quickly. I think pizzerias are really similar.”
The truth, as Orkin and partner David Poran quickly point out, is that Corner Slice, Gotham West Market’s new pizzeria, is the brainchild of chef and partner Mike Bergemann, 29, who Orkin and Poran call “the mastermind of the pizza.”
It’s been asserted that 2017 will be the year of the square pizza in New York City, a declaration Corner Slice will help cement. Bergemann describes the pizza he and his younger brother Pete, 27, are baking in an electric PizzaMaster deck oven from as “a blend of every square-style pie.” Actually, thinking inside the box has been on the rise for years. Prince Street Pizza opened with squares in 2012, when chef Michael White was also testing square pies at his East Village Midwestern riff Nicoletta. Razor-thin edged square icon Rizzo’s opened in 2013, on the Lower East Side after being Queens-bound nearly 55 years, and quadrate aspirations made news in 2015 at beloved Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s and with Matt and Emily Hyland of Emmy Squared.
Square-centric pizzerias have been pretty successful recently. Prince Street’s Spicy Spring square now tops many pizza-lovers best-of lists, Rizzo’s soldiers on and Matt and Emily’s Emmy Squared is an Instagram staple bound to amplify the trend when their second Detroit-style spot opens in the former Blue Ribbon Bakery space. (It will be their first Manhattan pizzeria). With 310 Bowery, grandma pizzas (always square) have even entered a New York City bar pie arena dominated by poofy crusted quasi-Neapolitan rounds at Alligator Lounge and Crocodile Lounge in Williamsburg and the East Village. But lackluster “Detroit” squares at the new Bryant Park Whole Foods (not good) are a reminder that it’s quality, not being on-trend, that leads to success.
You’ll find that focus on quality at Corner Slice.
“The pie is special because it’s made properly,” Orkin explains. “I don’t mean to sound like a jerk but we have good flour made with care and fermented the way dough is supposed to be fermented in my opinion. And I think we decided we could make a little less money and buy better ingredients and make it up in volume. We’re really doing that on purpose because we want people to enjoy the pizza and not get caught up in the price of artisanal ingredients. The reason why slice business has fallen off is because they’re not using great ingredients. New York took a bit of a left turn into Neapolitan style and we’ve lost our way a little bit in terms of what New York pizza is. It’s been an international phenomenon and while it’s absolutely delicious when done properly, it’s just not New York pizza. Remember, that’s means going to John’s where they say, ‘No Slices,’ and it’s like, ‘Dude, how many times do I have to tell you we just serve pies.'”
Corner Slice’s signature tomato square calls on New Haven tomato apizza and Jersey tomato pies for inspiration. The crust is airy and light with a pocked, golden-crispy undercarriage and a wide, dark edge reminiscent of a crunchy bread loaf that should eliminate comparisons to focaccia. There’s a thorough slathering of bright tomato — part California sauce, part Jersey chunk — spread across the base and a scattering of garlic confit. It’s garnished with a gentle Di Fara finish of grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil (fresh basil goes on the pie into the oven).
The effect of enjoying Bergemann’s tomato slice and an espresso almost has more in common with the fresh, crusty pan con tomate traditionally served with coffee in Catalonia. And in case it wasn’t obvious, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a delicious slice.
Bergemann has a ton of ideas and he’s been involved in every part of the design and process. (He did all the branding and design with his girlfriend Courtney Inge.) There are 10 to 20 baked goods in the mornings until pizza starts being made at 11:30 am, including a delicious lard bread. I caught up with Mike Bergemann the day before he opened Corner Slice to learn more about the philosophy behind what he and his partners are doing at Corner Slice.
You do your best every day to realize your dreams. But how many people get to see their dreams come true? And if and when they come true, how does what was dreamed measure up to reality? There’s man in Brooklyn making pizza who may be best suited to answer these questions, Paul Giannone. Or as New Yorkers are starting to know him, Paulie Gee.
As recently as February 2009, Paulie was profiled by MyCentralJersey.com talking about a pizzeria as a ways off. Last week he broke from making Neapolitan pies to discuss Paulie Gee’s, his pizzeria in Greenpoint.
Paulie, you’re living a dream here, aren’t you? How did this come to be?
: I always loved to cook, I’d invite people over my house just so I could cook for them. You know, for the past 25 years, people have been encouraging me to open a restaurant. What I did for a living wasn’t what I really enjoyed. But opening a real restaurant always seemed daunting.
About 15 years ago I become a pizza enthusiast after visiting Totonno’s. Me and my sons started going on quests for good coal-oven pizza. You know, pizza is very challenging to make, but it’s also very simple. And I started to realize that serving it to people could be very simple.
How did you go from pizza-questing to pizza-making?
Up until about three years ago, I didn’t take it very seriously. Then I built an oven. I started in September 2007, I was going to buy one, and then I saw that I could build one for one-tenth the cost, and I went out and took one of the steps that was the point of no return: I bought a couple of hundred dollars worth of bricks.