Jumbo Slice Wars: DC Vs NYC

With Spike Mendelsohn’s We the Pizza slated to open in about six weeks, you’d think that would be the subject of conversation for DC’s pizzascenti. Much to the chagrin of some DC food-lovers, Travel Channel’s Food Wars recently shone the spotlight on jumbo slices with a face-off between the Chishti brothers’ dueling jumbo slice shops: “Pizza Mart,” and “Jumbo Slice.” As a Georgetown graduate, I can vouch for ruling in favor of Pizza Mart. But the resolution of one feud raises another question.

Locals have noted that DC is not a pizza town. Of New York’s iconic foods, pizza is king. Among slices, Koronet may not be the best, but it is one of the largest, and most visually memorable. So, how would Pizza Mart fare against New York’s jumbo slice?

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First Look: Paulie Gee’s Greenpoint Pizzeria

Brooklyn’s newest pizza drama is playing out in Greenpoint, just blocks from Metropolitan, in a space that was previously a restaurant of a former Top Chef contestant. The new chef is someone with considerably less airtime, a guy from Jersey named Paul Giannone — Paulie Gee.

Until weeks ago, Paulie’s pizza-making was mostly confined to the oven he built in his yard. Now pizza-lovers and aficionados are gathering to see if this former software quality assurance engineer can pull off dreams of joining the City’s elite pizzaiolos. It’s the kind of New York— er— Brooklyn story you can literally sink your teeth into. To learn more about his story, check out this interview.

Recently, we joined Slice’s managing editor, Adam Kuban, at Paulie Gee’s to sample some of this Brooklyn-born dreamer’s early efforts.

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Paulie Gee, On Living The Dream (From Pizza-Questing To Pizza-Making)

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?
Paulie: 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.

And so…pizza?
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.

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First Look: Pulino’s Bar And Pizzeria On Bowery

Funny how things work. Frank Pepe opened its first New York location in Yonkers last November. Last week, Eddie’s of New Hyde Park announced it would soon make its first inroads into Manhattan since they opened in 1941. Now both styles of pizza have met on Bowery and Houston in Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, Keith McNally and Nate Appleman’s much-awaited pizzeria. The kicker? As Eater has well-documented with its first looks at the decor, the place looks like it has been there on the corner forever.

Of course, Neapolitan-style was a New York staple long before Frank Pepe left the confines of New Haven. But Pulino’s combines the crust texture and taste of Pepe with an even thinner pie, one that’s just about two-and-a-half times the thickness of what you’d expect from Eddie’s. Not to say it’s cracker-like — it’s not at all. But it is not a doughy pie. Do not think KestéCo., or Motorino. Nor are pizzas as charred as the ones pictured by Zagat. What we have here folks, as was the intention – is an idiosyncratic style of pizza. A standardized amoeba shape, a thin crust, and square cuts.

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A Quick Look At Eddie’s Pizza Of New Hyde Park

It is exciting news that Eddie’s is planning to plant a flag in Manhattan with a food truck that will sell pizza featuring par-baked versions of their signature cracker-thin crusts. Bar pizza goes mobile! Can you get a tumbler of Jack on the rocks with that?

Look, it’s not that Eddie’s is the world’s best pizza, but there is something about the quasi-matzoh crust that makes it a great pace-changer between typical New York slices. Given how thin it is, it will be interesting to see how everyone adapts to eating it on the run in the city. At the New Hyde Park location (that’s Nassau County, folks), the slices are foldable, so you could technically do the two-fold move, and walk with them. The fact that they’re not very filling may mean that the lunch move is the 16-incher.

In honor of the news, here’s a quick look at the original location.

“When people say cracker-thin, they mean Eddie’s.”

There’s a large parking lot in the back that often stars motorcycles. Inside, it’s dark, the kind of place that will mostly seem dark no matter what time of day it is. Unlike another New York bar pie institution, Denino’s on Staten Island, which has a large dining room in the back, Eddie’s definitely appears more bar than pizzeria. It’s no-frills. Sit at the bar, have a drink, and watch the game. Or wander towards the back and grab one of the booths surrounded by movie posters.

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Featured Pizza: “The Rustica” At Manducatis Rustica In Long Island City

Manducatis has been a Long Island City stalwart almost uninterrupted since 1959. No one is saying it’s the City’s best Italian. But there is still something fun about walking through its non-descript door and into the cascading dining rooms that each feel like secrets. Development may have infiltrated Long Island City, but Manducatis’ owners, the Cerbones, have made their own progress in the past two years. Namely, when their daughter, chef Gianna Cerbone opened her Italian café nearby: Manducatis Rustica.

There is a doll-house, but thrown together quality to Rustica’s decor. An old oven. Mismatching chairs. Brick walls. There’s a large open doorway to the kitchen. The layout takes a cue from Manducatis, with a working fireplace in the back of the first dining room.

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New York’s Battle Of The Pizza Cones

K! Pizzacone is getting the kind of opening day publicity that most restaurants would kill for. We almost ended up on Japanese television this morning just by stopping in for a Breakfast Pizza. Cone-steria indeed. In anticipation of getting a first taste this morning, we visited Rio Bonito last night to have their Pizza in the Cone fresh in our minds. Let the battle of the Pizza Cones commence!

We visited Rio Bonito (the fantastic Brazilian grocery in Astoria), with the same spirit of discovery that I Dream of Pizza visited with last August. We also wanted to love the Pizza Cone! And while the cheese wasn’t rancid, we did notice similar issues.

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First Look: Totonno’s Reopens

Frank Ciminieri filled the fridge with small bottles of wine while talking about how much he loves Cash Cab, “I watch it for two hours in the morning when I wake up and two hours at night.”

His sister, Cookie, bemoaned the lack of mirrors in the restaurant and said, “We need some music in here.” So a customer obliged by singing Louis Prima in between taking pictures on his iPhone. Eleven months after a fire shut it down, Totonno’s is back.

The large cheese pie ($19.50) was delicious. The center crust was as thin as the styrofoam plate it sat on, the edge’s crust was light, airy, and delicate, and the upskirt was covered with wonderful, large raised flecks. That thinness created a ratio of cheese and sauce that even makes sauce-monkeys happy. And with the opening, making New Yorkers happy with pizza will be routine once again in Coney Island.

Good luck, Totonno’s. Welcome back.

Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana
1524 Neptune Ave.,
Brooklyn, NY, 11224
Phone: (718) 372-8606
Subway: F, Q (W 8 St – NY Aquarium)

This post was originally published February 12th, 2010, on the now-defunct, James-Beard Award-nominated blog AlwaysHungryNY.com.

5 Best Clam Pizzas In New York City

You can’t talk about clam pizzas without mentioning the New Haven, Connecticut, clam pie maestro Frank Pepe, but until it makes its way to Manhattan, you have to look to lesser practitioners (there’s no shame in being in this shadow). We tried clam pizzas all over town, and in the end, found these five to be the briniest, juiciest, clam pies around.

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Spatola Latticini Factory: Queens Mozzarella From Factory To Plate

You can find great mozzarella and great pizza in New York. But restaurants that make mozzarella from scratch to put on their pizza? That’s another story. When Franco Spatola offered a factory to plate demonstration in Queens, we couldn’t resist.

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