Sunday, March 16, 2008

If there’s one thing I could happily eat every day it’s... 

...Pizza! I have been kookoo for pizza as long as I can remember. My sister worked at Vinne’s Pizzeria in Scarsdale when I was a kid in the 70's and while I have no idea if their pizza was any good (it’s long defunct so there’s no way to know), I thought that it was cool she worked there. Growing up, Pizza & Brew became the destination of choice for pretty much every birthday party in elementary and junior high. When I went to boarding school, Sunday nights were awaited with bated breath because that was pizza and Pepsi night. (I suspect that’s an unthinkable menu for a boarding school today.)

My pizza obsession came into full effect when I was released into the pseudo-adulthood of college where you can choose your own food night after night. Napoli Pizza in Poughkeepsie delivers so many pies to the college that the Napoli’s go on vacation when Vassar is on break (at least they did in the 80’s). And every year there’s an article in the campus newspaper about the extreme volume of pies ordered during exam week. For me, exam week was hardly an exception to my pizza consumption. There were any number of weeks that I ordered (or scrounged) pizza every night of the week. Ah, the metabolism of the young!

Fortunately, now that I am arguably in full-on real adulthood I have chosen to make my home in The City. Here there no reason to suffer bad pizza. The City has lots and lots of great pizza. (And a remarkable number of blogs devoted to purely to pizza!)

Since this is The Evangelist, this is yet another list of my highly personal and idiosyncratic choices…only with a twist. This is actually cribbed from an email K. wrote to her friend who was coming to town while we are away (I write this from the comfort of the Southern Cross Club) and that friend just happened to have a serious hankering for pizza.

So here is our list (I have embroidered on the original so consider this co-authored), working south from our nabe.

Upper West Side
If you're on the UWS, and want to drop in somewhere for a slice, we love Rigoletto on Columbus around 70th street. Our favorite kind there is called "Garlicki" which doesn't have cheese on top, just a chunky tomato sauce with garlic and stems of parsley. Love it. Their stuff is best eaten on the spot -- when you get it delivered, you always have to throw it in the toaster oven to crisp the crust back up.

Also on the UWS is Patsy's (Columbus and 74th), which also makes a damned good pie. You just have to time your visit to avoid the stroller set because this being the UWS, it can be overwhelming.

Lots of locals rave about T&R on Amsterdam at 80th, but frankly we just don’t get the appeal. It’s not bad per se. It just seems unexceptional. If you want a classic NYC slice on the UWS, we much prefer the unexceptionally named New Pizza Town on the corner of 78th and Broadway. Slightly sweet sauce with the whitest of white crusts.

Now the real excitement at the moment for us is that as of a few months ago, at 72nd and Broadway is Grandaisy Bakery! For some, Grandaisy may fall too far into the "fancy" category of pizza, but their little thin-crusted rectangles of Roman-style pizza are world-class and not to be missed. You can do the very simple, cheeseless pomodoro, or we also pine over the zucchini and the cauliflower. As a special taste sensation, go for the which is not pizza at all, but a kind of bread somewhere between a focaccia and a ciabatta.

In fact we first went to Grandaisy specifically because of the bianca con pecorino. We were staying in LA at a friend’s home while they were away. (Thank you Lee & Josiah!) Lee reads Vogue and we stumbled upon a Jeffrey Steingarten piece about his obsession with true Italian pizza bianca. He went to Italy to learn a whole historical baking tradition that includes baking the pizza on humongously long boards (nine feet as I recall). Of course, after failing to recreate this comically improbably experience in his tiny apartment he learned that the folks at Sullivan Street Bakery in SoHo had long ago mastered it. As soon as we returned to NYC, we hied ourselves downtown to check it out pronto. (The Sullivan Street partners split up into two companies, one of which is now Grandaisy.) We have been obsessed ever since!

Midtown West
At West 57th Street (and another outpost at 54th and Broadway) is Angelo's Coal Oven Pizza. Their pizza is an excellent exemplar of traditional coal oven pizza - we usually get one with sausage and olives which comes with nice big leaves of fresh basil on it. A perennial favorite and very satisfying. How it ended up on 57th Street is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t seem to fit into the neighborhood exactly, but that’s New York for you.

In addition to the downtown outpost of Grandaisy (which is in the original Sullivan Street storefront), there is Lombardi's on Spring Street, reputedly the oldest pizzeria in the New World and considered by many to be the best in the city. Lombardi’s is a coal oven pie with a thin, slightly blackened crust. Oh, so delicious.

I'm on vacation in the Caribbean...and I can still find joy in writing about NYC pizza! :-)

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