Pizza was pretty high on the list on this visit to New York, so where better to get stuck into it first than the borough we stayed in. Good old Brooklyn. Just about everywhere you look you see a pizza joint, and the style of pizza that got our attention was Neapolitan. Those gloriously blistered and slightly chewy bases that make my heart melt.
Not all that far from the first apartment we stayed is Sottocasa, a place that takes its Neapolitan pizza seriously. It’s oven was even shipped from Naples and placed where it is by a helicopter, as the restaurant floor couldn’t take the 2 tonne weight.
Sitting out the back in the enclosed “glasshouse” may have been a little warm and stuffy, but the occasional breeze cooled things off a little. As did the beers.
I thought a salad might be nice to nibble on before the pizza’s hit the table. Barbabietole (8). A salad of roasted beets, apple, arugula and whipped goat’s cheese. Some dressing or even a bit of sea salt would have done it wonders.
The pizza itself comes out in a flash; as it should, seeing it’s from a wood-fired oven. I go for the boscaiola (17) – tomato based with mozzarella, Italian sausage, gorgonzola, mushrooms and basil. The base is pretty good, as is the topping combination, but the centre of the pizza was wet and sloppy.
The other pizza, an aglio olio (14) comes with loads of mozzarella, a few dabs of ricotta, some garlic, basil and chilli flakes. Not bad, especially the hum of chilli that was left on the lips afterwards.
Sottocasa – 298 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
When I fell in love with the pizza at Motorino on the previous NY visit, I made sure we dropped by on this one. Rather than schlepp over to the East Village digs again we were fortunate to have the newest outlet just ten minutes from the apartment. It’s much bigger than the East Village location as well.
Having a weekday $12 prix fixe at lunch was too good to pass. Four pizza’s to choose from as well as a green salad. Bargain. I couldn’t help but tack on a serving of wood-oven baked corn (5) as well. Lovingly drenched in oregano butter and parmesan.
As you’d expect, the pizza’s are just like the ones you get in the East Village. Chewy, bready and blistered crusts with toppings that keep the taste buds happy. I had to revisit the Brussels sprouts pizza (plus fior di latte, pecorino, garlic and smoked pancetta). The other one – sopressata piccante with fior di latte, tomato, chilli flakes & garlic.
Motorino – 139 Broadway, Williamsburg
Over in Bushwick, a few neighbourhoods away, is Roberta’s. Housed in what looks like a besser brick bunker, this wood-fired pizza institution has a bit of a following. The place was already heaving in both dining areas and it was only midday. Get in early, folks, is all I can say.
A couple of Southampton Double White’s and a plate of fried peppers (9) got lunch rolling. I loved that these little babies were in season and on many menu’s about town. Shishito peppers, snap-fried and dusted with fennel pollen and a light smear of meyer lemon curd. A few of them were like rockets; clearing the sinus with their bite.
Down to the pizza. I was on a roll with the chilli heat so I go with the bee sting (16). Tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, chilli, gorgonzola and honey. A winning combination and perfect balance of heat, sweetness and pungent gorgonzola. And that base. Better than Motorino, I can safely say. Not as bready, and a nicer “bite” to it.
The other pizza gracing the table was the rosso (9); simply topped with tomato, oregano, speck, garlic and ricotta. Another winner. When I saw them being delivered to another table, I needed to order the cinnamon sugar doughnuts (5). Yes, needed. These little fella’s are made fresh to order, so they’re still hot when they meet your lips. There’s even a smear of crème fraîche and chocolate to smear them with. So good.
Roberta’s – 261 Moore Street, Bushwick
Ducking from Brooklyn to Manhattan, we decide to give this place on Bleecker a go. Kesté Pizza & Vino. It’s squeezed into a narrow space along this busy West Village strip, and in typical New York-style, its diners are squeezed in as well. So intimate that we couldn’t help but listen in on a conversation five tables away. Admittedly the voice came from a large mouth with a lot of crap to be said. Or was that the girl behind me?
Kesté so happens to be the place that the owner of Sottocasa learned a thing or two about pizza. Refer to the first entry, incase you’re here to just look at the pictures. I wasn’t in raptures with the pizza at Sottocasa, as was the case with Késte, but they were far from being shabby none the less.
Marinara (10) with tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, basil and virgin olive oil. Quite a bit of tomato sauce, actually. Rustic, tasty and a little “soupy”.
Padrino (18) for me. Tomato sauce, caciocavallo ragusano (cow milk cheese), sopressata, basil, olives and virgin olive oil. Once again it was all about the simple flavours and a decent crust.
Kesté Pizza & Vino – 271 Bleeker Street, West Village
Back in Brooklyn and up in Greenpoint away from busy Williamsburg is another pizza institution, a stones-throw from the East River. Dimly-lit and oh-so-Brooklyn in appearance is Paulie Gee’s, another place I’d heard did amazing pizza. Aside from a couple of salads and soups, it’s all about the pizza in this deconstructed warehouse. There are about thirty to choose from.
Once again it’s wood-fired heaven. And once again the bases are thin, Neapolitan-style and beautifully blistered. So many great topping combinations to choose from, with so many I wanted.
Cherry Jones (18) it was, and man, what a flavour sensation. Mozzarella, gorgonzola, salty prosciutto, dried (yet juicy) cherries and a good squirt of sweet orange blossom honey. Teamed with the chewiness of the base and charred blisters on the crust, I was moaning with every mouthful. This is pizza.
Another winner is in ricotta da vita (17), scattered with baby arugula with a tomato base, fennel sausage, pecorino, ricotta and virgin olive oil. Beautiful.
I can confidently say that Paulie Gee’s is now my favourite pizza in New York. Better than Motorino, and only marginally better that Roberta’s. Now I wish I had more time to get out and try more places!
Paulie Gee’s – 60 Greenpoint Avenue, Greenpoint