It can be fun (though sometimes cringe-inducing) to read things you’ve written years ago. So it’s been a bit of a blast to have stumbled across a cache of pizza writing from almost a decade ago. I’d thought that these 20 posts, originally published on AlwaysHungryNY, had been lost for good. They never got repurposed (save this one on the cold cheese slice) when we launched The Daily Meal, and despite early assurances by a former colleague, the original site was allowed to disappear. I don’t know why it took me this long to try to find them on the Wayback Machine — it certainly would have been a helpful thing to have thought of during numerous pizza caption-writing occasions over the years — but here they are now, nonetheless, and without all the weird stylization of an arbitrary stylebook (#nogrudgeshere).
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.
Slice aficionados who’ve bemoaned the lack of a good slice in Midtown can rejoice. A new sliceria called Sofia Pizza Shoppe in Sutton Place is serving a crispy-bottomed thin pizza that inspires faith that the art of the quality New York City slice joint may yet persevere in the face of average reheats and the $1 slice. But this kind of quality doesn’t usually pop up out of nowhere. No wonder then Sofia’s family pedigree is linked to one of Brooklyn’s longstanding, unheralded neighborhood pizza institutions, Bensonhurst’s J&V Pizzeria.
Sofia opened last July on the west side of 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th streets in a space last occupied eight years ago by a pet groomer. Founders and friends Tom Degrezia (left) and Matthew Porter have both directing and acting credits (Porter had a role on “30 Rock”) and a passion for pizza. But it’s Degrezia with the sauce in his veins. His grandfather Vincent Degrezia opened J&V Pizzeria in 1955. And Sofia isn’t his first restaurant. Tom and his dad opened Sofia Wine Bar & Cafe on 50th near Second Avenue in 2008, where they serve a limited pizza menu.
“We live in the area, so we knew there weren’t any great slice places around, but when we started getting pizza delivery requests at the wine bar, we knew it wasn’t just us that felt the neighborhood needed a go-to ‘sliceria,’” Tom explained.
In fact, Degrezia and the New Hampshire-born Porter (who name Staten Island’s Joe and Pat’s and Rocco’s Pizza Joint in Chelsea as their respective favorite slices after theirs and J&V’s), said until Sofia opened, they had to go downtown or Brooklyn to get a good slice. They weren’t alone.
Ten years ago, bewildered by the dearth of quality slices in Midtown, I spent a week systematically seeking good pizza. River to river, 25 blocks deep, America’s supposed pizza capital was dominated by Bravo, Little Italy Pizza, Sbarro, and Papa John’s. Neapolitan joints PizzArte NY and Don Antonio by Starita (by Roberto Caporuscio of Kesté renown) have made inroads, but when it came to New York slices, it was a disgrace. (For the record, Pizza Suprema on 31st and 8th is technically in Chelsea.)
The wait is over.
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.
The Empire State Building is one of New York City’s defining symbols. So nearby it you might expect to find a fantastic slice of this great metropolis’ defining food. But as one local doorman advised, “I’m from the Bronx so I know, most of the pizza around here tastes like cardboard!”
It was a Midtown challenge worth investigating. Since the closing of Giuseppe’s we counted fourteen pizzerias within a two-block radius of the Empire State Building (36th to 32nd streets, north to south; and Park to 7th avenues). That’s without venturing inside the Manhattan Mall, and including Rosa’s Pizza, which is actually in the Empire State Building.
While technically Sbarro and Pizza Hut are pizza places, most self-respecting New Yorkers wouldn’t consider them representative slices (same goes for the California Pizza Kitchen, just outside the aforementioned boundaries).
Similarly, a Brazilian cone pizzaspot called K! Pizzacone is preparing to open nearby on Fifth Avenue. While it will be interesting to see how New Yorkers (and tourists) take to it, this taste-off to find the best ‘Empire Slice’ involved eating conventional, plain slices in each pizzeria.
Check out the top six slices below, and the full cast of cheesy characters.