The sign is up and the butcher paper is about to come down at the new Artichoke Pizza just across the street from the old one, which sadly burned down just a few weeks ago (FDNY fire marshals said it was caused by heat from its overheated pizza oven flue). The new sliceria had been in the works for almost a year and there’s a new lease, about six times the space for customers, and about 15 times more room for the Artichoke crew to sling their signature pies late into the night for hungry East Village party-zens. These things sometimes have a way of turning from days to weeks, but cousins Francis Garcia and Sal Basille said they may open as soon as today.
It’s happy news that the block will continue to feature one of businesses that helped bring life to a strange stretch of 14th Street that will soon see even more foot traffic from all the people who will call all the new construction going up either work or home.
And it sounds like if you swing by in the opening weeks, you may have a chance to eat a slice from a pie personally slung by one of the owners. More from the Artichoke pizza boys to come.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
320 E 14th Street, New York, NY 10003 Phone: (212) 228-2004 artichokepizza.com Subway: L
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 Pizza 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.
What’s the state of San Francisco slice culture? What are the worst reheat sins a sliceria can commit? What’s the future of pizza? Tony Gemignani has become synonymous with great pizza in California since opening his first shop, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, in North Beach in 2009. He hasn’t looked back, opening 12 other restaurants in California and Nevada, and three slice stands in the Giants AT&T Park! So, with the opening of his newest San Francisco slice joint on Haight Street, who better to ask the questions above?
For the uninitiated, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and Gemignani’s Pizza Rock routinely make lists published by national publications that rank America’s best pies. This pizza maven grew up in Fremont, and got his start as a teenager at his brother Frank’s spot Pyzano’s, and has spent more than a quarter century perfecting and “respecting the craft” (his motto).
Tony’s dexterity in pizza-throwing, his pizza making skills and bragging rights for having spun the world’s largest pizza (a Guinness World Record) make him a great character study. But one of the most interesting things about him as a pizzaiolo is his expertise in different pizza styles. Where many struggle to do one style well, several of Tony’s restaurants do many expertly. You’re just as likely to find a great cracker-thin Chicago pie as a classic American pizza, or pizza pies done with Roman flair, Detroit panache and according to traditional Neapolitan rules.
So, it’s interesting to see him take on what one might argue is a dying art: the quality slice joint.
Tony’s 25-seat Slice House takes over 1535 Haight Street, which before housing a pizzeria called Fast Slice, was once home to the Psychedelic Shop, often cited as the world’s first headshop. Inside, portraits of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon pays homage to icons of the 60s. Tony uses an old Blodgett oven to fire up 10 different 13-inch and 20-inch pies, and reheat five different slice styles: cheese, pepperoni, grandma, Sicilian, Love Me Two Times (pesto, mozz, double garlic and “sun-bathed tomato”) and the Purple Haze, which he discusses below. Going beyond the traditional definition of a sliceria, Tony’s Haight Street menu also offers sides, salads, pastas, sandwiches and burgers (you won’t guess his secret burger ingredients). Sausages are homemade, patties hand-formed and burger buns baked daily.
What’s the state of San Francisco slice culture? What are the worst reheat sins a sliceria can commit? What’s the future of pizza? Who better to ask than Tony Gemignani?
In this interview, Tony talks about how the Haight Street slice joint has been received, whether he’d ever franchise, the travesty that is putting pepperoni on a pizza post-bake and what’s going on with the quality of the average slice in New York City.
What oven are you using?
It’s an old double-stack Blodgett and the stones in it are like 20 years old on the upper deck. They never changed it and it’s still cracked. The bottom deck they re-did maybe five or six years ago. It has no markings on it. Once I opened it up, I was like, “Oh, this is a fucking old Blodgett!” It cooks great. I won’t ever change it.
What’s the signature slice?
Purple Haze or the grandma. You don’t see grandma on the West Coast. It’s a little bit thinner than my Sicilian. We sell a ton of both of those all day.
How did you decide on the location for your new slice joint and what’s different about this one compared with your other ones?
It had to be a special place, not only with the look of it and the artists that we brought in. The menu had to change for the clientele: more vegetarian pizzas, more pesto on the menu, and a lot of burgers. People don’t know, but I serve great burgers.