Very cool, I just got back from a two day business trip to NY/NJ area and Paulie Gee's was the first place I visited strait from the airport.
That place has a really funky entrance that makes it look closed or not in business. When I drove by I almost didn't see the dimly lit tinny sign or I might have wandered around without finding it. Even after finding it, I called in before parking because as far as I could tell they had either moved or were closed up. After confirming they were open and that I was at the right address, I found parking and walked back and still had trouble finding the entrance. Their silly sign is more above a side door which is locked and has a doorbell (I rang this to no answer by the way
) until I noticed a tiny sign on the large barn door(s) a little to the left which read "push to open" or something like that. Inside was a busy, warm, and lively interior which made you feel a little like Alice in wonderland or part of a secret society or something.
I requested to sit near the oven and was seated at the end of a long table closest to the prep station. It was very interesting to watch, there were 3 young guys looking in their 20's or possibly early 30's stretching and dressing the dough and managing the oven. They were busy and seemed to flow easily around each other even in a fairly tight work bench. I also noticed that all three of them were launching pies or manning the oven at one time or another without any noticeable "shift change", they acted much like a single pizza making machine each aware of what the other was doing and quite fascinating to watch. There was also one girl who was at the end of the prep station who would add finishing touches and slice the pies as they came out of the oven.
To be honest this was my first experience in this type of a pizza parlor, and so I ordered what I thought to be the simplest pie on the menu the Mootz (Fier di Latte, Chopped Fresh Garlic, Percerino Romano, Olive Oil, & Fresh Basil) a white pie. Perhaps my expectations were set a little too high, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed. To me I felt the pie was a slight bit undercooked, the lighting inside is dim at best so it was hard to get a good visual, but it seemed as if the dough was still slightly raw directly under the cheese. Perhaps this is how it is supposed to be, or maybe it was the slight rubbery texture of the cheese that was confusing me. It also seemed to lacked the oven spring I was, possibly wrongly, expecting to be there. The charring seemed ok, but perhaps since I believed it slightly undercooked I felt that it could have been a little more charred at least on the bottom.
To my embarrassment I couldn't hide to my waiter that I was a tad underwhelmed and I don't know if he told someone or if I just got a random visit, but an older gentleman in a plaid flannel shirt came up and asked how my pizza was and silly me gave a rough accounting of my above comments. To my dismay I soon found out I was speaking to Paulie Gee himself.
Knowing good and well that my assessments are opinions of a novice at best I was ashamed to have possibly insulted someone I would have to say I admire for what they have accomplished. Paulie was actually very gracious and went out of his way to say he really appreciate the candid and honest response which he said most people would not even think to give. He offered to bake me another pie which in hindsight I stupidly declined (I originally had planned to visiit Johnny's in Mt. Vernon that night as well. That didn’t pan out due to their closing time). Paulie did bring out some of his home made Lemoncello for me on the house which he said was extra special as it was made from some rare Serrento Lemons which a friend of his had given him. He said I was the first guest to try this batch, and it was very very good.
After talking with him more and looking at the char on the bottom he agreed it could maybe have used a few more seconds in the oven, but he said it was a fairly good representation of how their pies looked. When asked he said they generally bake for around 75 seconds.
Overall it was a great experience. We talked for some time and I told him I baked my own at home and even showed him a couple quick pictures on my iPhone. He also asked if I liked a thin crackery crust although we had not talked about this and when I said I did, he recommended Joe & Pat’s
over on Staten Island and went on to show some of his own pictures of their pizza from his iPhone.
When I manage to get back to Paulie Gee’s, I will try to request a standard margarita as well as try their greenpoint. Now that my expectations may be better aligned with the product I may have an even better experience.
As I mentioned it was pretty dimly lit and I felt a little odd taking pictures so what I did take are kind of hard to make out, especially the ones for the prep area. The top char from the pictures (taken with flash) seems to me now to be more burnt than I remember, but again the lighting…
P.S. Paulie Gee’s son was one of the three guys “manning the sticks”