We got in NYC around 9pm last Friday night Ė just in time for pizza. We were staying in Times Square, so Olio Pizza E Piý, was only a couple stops down the 123. When I told the rest of our group our plans, they all wanted to tag along. We started with Caesar salads. They were excellent with just the right amount of anchovy. That late at night, we basically had the place to ourselves. Nonetheless, we gave the oven a workout. I think 17 of us ate 19 pies including Margherita extra, Funchi (Margherita + mushrooms), Diavolo (Margherita + hot salami), Capricciosa (Margherita + ham, mushrooms, artichokes, olives), Caprese, Romana (Margherita + capers and anchovies), and Nostrana (truffle oil, ricotta, prosciutto). All the pies were good, but the Nostrana was otherworldly. We ordered two more after the initial round Ė nobody was still hungry, but we couldnít stop eating this pie! The crust itself was a little tougher than mine, but the flavor is all there. I took a couple slices back to the hotel for breakfast, and again, the crust came across as very flavorful. The look of the crust was in some ways similar to mine. Could it be because we have the same oven? Somehow I doubt it, but who knows. The rest of our group went back here a second time on Monday night they liked it so much.
Our next stop on the pizza crawl was Luzzoís for a tomato and buffalo mozz pie. The last time here, I had the best pie Iíve ever eaten. This one was good, but nowhere near #1. The crust was excellent Ė soft and light with a thin outer shell. It had an even coal-oven browning, but the cheese was really not-so-great, and the sauce was just OK. It certainly did not live up to my memories.
After leaving Luzzoís we headed around the corner to Motorino for an appetizer. I just canít pass up that Brussels sprout pie. Like last time, the bake was right at 3 minutes. The pie was just as incredible as I remember the last one being.
From Motorino, we took the L across to Brooklyn for some chocolate at Mast Brothers. It was still 45 minutes or so until Paulie Geeís opened, so we decided to walk over. I checked my phone for directions, and my wife and boys and I headed out. About halfway there, we began to notice that there were no longer any people around and instead, lots of gang-looking graffiti - so much for listening to the phone for walking directions in Brooklyn. I made a manual recalculation that about doubled the length of the walk, but we made it safe and sound 5 minutes before they opened. We were the second group there, and by the time the let us in 8 minutes later, there was enough people waiting to fill the place.
Our dinner at PGís was one of my most fun meals ever. Right after we sat down, Paulie was walking by. I called to him, introduced myself, and we spent the next 15 minutes talking pizza, Houston, getting ovens into tight places, and all matter of other things. He came back again after our pies were served, and even had a little more time for me later at the oven. He comes across as a really great guy. After meeting him, itís no surprise how successful his place is.
At PGís, we had the Greenpointer w/ Prosciutto (Mozz, arugula, prosciutto, olive oil, lemon juice, parm), the Baconmarmalade Picante (mozz, baconmarmalade www.baconmarmalade.com
, and red onion), and the Anise and Anephew. The first observation is that his pies have a very distinctive look. He uses a smaller dough ball because he wants a less puffy rim, this combined with very pronounced leoparding strikes me as a trademark look of his pies. The crust is a bit tougher than mine and more charred overall Ė particularly on the bottom. The flavor is very good. Given the less dough and aggressive charring, the pies lean more towards the caramelization flavors rather than the yeast flavors.
Of the three we tried, the Baconmarmalade was my favorite. Iím going to have to work on reverse-engineering that stuff. The Anise and Anephew was good. I like Anise as much as anyone, but I donít get the hoopla Iíve seen written about it. Slice has it listed as the first of ď8 Pies That Haunt My Dreams, 2010.Ē I didnít think it was that good. Maybe it is because mine was baked a lot more than the one in the picture at slice? Also, it had maybe?
half the toppings of the one pictured there: http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/12/adam-kubans-top-8-pizzas-of-2010.html?ref=skybox3
PGís has some of the most interesting and thoughtful combinations of ingredients Iíve seen. There isnít a pie on his menu I donít want to try. Hopefully Iíll get back soon.
Our last stop on the crawl was Sunday lunch at Frannyís in Brooklyn. Here is a place Iíve wanted to get to for a long time. I was really happy we were able to make it over on this trip. Despite a couple things that annoyed me and being a tad bit on the expensive side, overall, it was the best of the places we visited on this trip, and now one of my all-time favorites.
First, the annoyances: 1) they donít tell you that they put (a lot of) grana on the tomato and buffalo mozz pie (though other pies note it on the menu). I wish they had, so I could have told them to leave it off, and 2) they only have basil when it is in season locally. Sourcing locally is fine, but to not have something so basic for your customers because of some misguided environmental whatever is just STUPID. Now for the good stuff: the clams, chili, and parsley pie is one of the best pies Iíve ever eaten. I had to try a second just to make sure. It is incredible. No cheese at all, just fresh clams, a little cream, olive oil, dried crushed chilies, and fresh flat-leaf parsley. This is a pie that will haunt MY dreams.
Frannyís crust is almost identical to mine in texture but with a little less flavor. It is very light and soft with just a paper thin outer shell. One interesting thing youíll see in the pictures is that every pie is leoparded on one side and a more even char on the other. Iím not sure if this has to do with how they turn the pies or the oven itself. They were not all that busy when we were there, so there is no reason they couldnít give the pies proper attention, and the oven was plenty hot Ė the pies were coming out in 90 seconds or so. The oven is huge, and it doesnít appear to have any insulation at all. It is just a big brick dome with a chimney at the front. When my oven is running that hot, there is no smoke visible Ė theirs had a fairly thick layer of dark smoke in the top 2/3 or so of the oven.
We worked off a little bit of the who knows how many pounds we had put on over the past couple days with a walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge in the bitter cold. Coming from Houston, I donít have much in the way of warm clothes.
It was a good trip, but Iím happy to be home. Now itís time to pack up for a week of hunting with the boys after Christmas.