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).
I’ve worked on numerous pizza lists over the years, each with its own challenges when it comes to ranking. But coming up with a list of New York City’s best pizzas by price for First We Feast? Well, this one was a doozy. It may also be one of the more interesting and difficult pizza lists I’ve worked on.
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.
Ready, set, go! Er, no, wait, eat! No! Run!
There may have been some confused passers-by and homeless people at Tompkins Square Park on Sunday, but the 65 people who gathered there at 11 o’clock in the morning knew the score. Four laps around the park (2.25 miles), with stops after three for a slice of pizza. It was the first annual New York City Pizza Run, an event conceived by pizza blogger, Jason Feirman (I Dream of Pizza).
Any Way You Slice It, it was a New York Neapolitan pizza-lovers’ ultimate dream, a Le Fooding preview at Co. that featured some of the City’s hottest pizza-makers.
Representing Manhattan: Pulino’s Nate Appleman; Jim Lahey of Co. (the evening’s host); and Heather Carlucci of Print. Representing Brooklyn: Mathieu Palombino of Motorino, and Mark Iacono of Lucali. Five pizzas were paired with Rhône Valley Wines introduced by Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ sommelier, Thomas Carter.
Last June, when Grub Street reported on the pizza wallet at Kesté Pizza & Vino, aka “the portfolio,” we took note with excitement — the Neapolitan pie goes portable! But we measured the ‘Neapolitan’ equivalent of New York’s street slice against the original with mixed results.
While they tasted good, wallets made with regular Kesté pies (they wouldn’t make minis), with toppings and without, eaten crust or tip first, either burst open or devolved into a mess of bread and cheese. Whether you were sitting or walking, it was a fail. A new innovation at Kesté, the “pizza sandwich,” had more promise.
The concrete jungle sizzles in summer. Light twinkles off the glass condo windows through waves of heat. You get jostled by sweaty sidewalk-denizens. The city is too much. Too full, too busy, too— too much. It’s Saturday. Almost noon. Or maybe Sunday and already past two. You’re hungry. Need food. Brunch. Breakfast. But you don’t want French toast. Enough eggs Benedict. You laugh in the face of omelettes. You want something different, somewhere else. It’s time to flip this meal upside-down. You need to head to Brooklyn — to Roberta’s. You need pizza for brunch.
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?
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.
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.