New York City Pizza Tour 2015 (Summer Fancy Food Show Tradition): Day 1
JFG Nation, I love pizza. Like, I LOVE pizza. Heck, my New Year’s Resolution this year was to EAT MORE PIZZA. Seriously. And may I say – your friendly neighborhood JFG has been doing very well on that promise.
In DC, we have lots of good pizza places (I’m not gonna be one of those pizza snobs – while I like some places more than others, let’s be honest, I’ll shove almost anything into this pie hole). I have a local favorite that I order from almost exclusively. But having lived in NYC before, I do have a biased notion of what pizza SHOULD taste/look/feel like. Now, there have been PLENTY of places that have confirmed that NYC is not the ONLY place to have good pizza (Vin909, I’m looking at you, you lovely beast) – but the fact remains: I love NYC pizza.
SO, whenever I visit New York for the Fancy Food Show, DESPITE eating nothing but cheese, meat, cookies, ice cream all day long, the JFGal and I have a hard rule which has grown into a tradition: All meals outside of the show will be PIZZA ONLY. We’re there, so we need to take advantage – that’s the gist.
So with that in mind, as the JFGal and I traveled to NYC the day before the Summer Fancy Food Show, we began researching pizza places on our phones. In the past (and this is NOT an exclusive list, just places we’ve eaten at in conjunction with the Fancy Food Show), we’ve noshed at Grimaldis, The Sicilian, Sal and Carmine’s, and the kingpin, Di Fara’s. This year, with the exception of trying for Di Fara’s again, we wanted to try all NEW places.
So as soon as we hit the Big Apple, it was off to our first stop: BLEEKER STREET PIZZA.
All of these New York City pizzerias claim to be the best in New York. Bleeker Street was no exception, with tons of signs lauding their pies. There were lots of tourists outside taking pictures of the joint. I guess I was one of them.
Bleeker Street slices could be ordered individually, and besides the normal cheese and pep options, they had plenty of others. They reheated their slices upon order.
Bleeker Street was small and sort of cramped, but it was the perfect type of shop for me – most NYC people hopped in, grabbed a slice, at it quickly at the tiny tables, and got the hell out. If I lived nearby, I would do the same.
I opted for a pep slices and a cheese slice, like I always do, to try the basics. Slight sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and it was off to the races.
The JFGal REALLY liked this place, as did I. The crust was perfect – probably due to the reheating. Crispy, crunchy, whatever you want to call it, the crust with its corn meal sprinkled underside was classic and just what I wanted.
Cheese? Pretty good – perfect melt, perfect pull, and a decent amount of saltiness to it without being over. The sauce was a little underseasoned/nondescript, but it worked with the rest of the pie. Overall, good pizza flavor – these slices were piping hot and super easy to eat. The type of slice where halfway through it I was like, “We’ve only been here two minutes. Maybe I should slow down.” BUT I DIDN’T.
Wanna see an awkward pizza pose?
Anyways, Bleeker Street was a big thumbs up. I’d eat here again for SURE.
We wandered over to John’s Pizzeria, or John’s of Bleeker Street, for some pizza….but found out it was more of a sit-down joint than a quick slice shop. That’s not gonna work; our stomachs were growling. Moving on.
Instead, we walked a little bit further and headed to Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street. A bunch of reviews I read compared Bleeker Street and Joe’s repeatedly, so we had to find out what the deal was.
Joe’s was also small and cramped slice shop. Like Bleeker Street, they also had a display of pies that could be ordered by the slice. Yeah, gimme a cheese slice and a pep slice please. They had Sicilian slices, which I enjoy, so I ordered one of those too!
RED FLAG: No reheating. WHAT? I know the pies look PRETTY fresh and were sort of hot, but NO reheat? Not even a little?
When the JFGal and I took our first bites of Joe’s Pizza, we knew we didn’t like it as much as Bleeker Street. Now, you NYC pizza people, DON’T START ASSAILING ME IN THE COMMENTS. My opinions are only based on what I had that day – and what I had that day was subpar compared to Bleeker Street.
The pep slices was not hot, so the cheese didn’t have the right pull – it was melted but had already started to seize up, so it tore rather than stretched. Cheese flavor was good – but texture was off.
The crust on these slices wasn’t crispy at all. It wasn’t cardboard, but it was only SLLLIIIIGHTLY crispy – these slices were more floppy than anything else. Sad. And the sauce was even less vivid than Bleeker Street, which I didn’t think was possible.
Now here’s the thing – I’m sort of killing Joe’s, but it wasn’t bad pizza at all. I believe these slices would’ve popped more had they been heated. But without it, the pepperoni wasn’t even well done – it felt and tasted half cooked. I’m not complaining TOO much, since I can kill a bag of raw pepperoni from the grocery store, no problem. But on what is supposed to be a great NYC slice? I wanted more.
The Sicilian slice? NO. Big and doughy, and only emphasized the not-so-seasoned tomato sauce flavor. Not a fan. Again – the cheese actually tasted pretty good. But the crust didn’t have any slight crisp on the bottom and the sauce killed it for me.
AWKWARD PIZZA POSE #2! I’m a natural, aren’t it? Someone call GQ.
(PS: Do you see what I mean with the pepperoni? You can TELL it’s not cooked because it hasn’t even curled at the edges. WTF, Joe’s).
When we arrived at our friends’ apartment to crash for the evening, we were exhausted and full of pizza. The next three hours consisted of watching women’s soccer and drinking more than a few beers. Finally, it was around 900pm, and it our bellies were rumbling again. Which could only mean one thing: PIZZA TIME. AGAIN. YOU HEARD ME, BRING IT.
Our pizza drug mule that night? Pizza Plus, in Brooklyn. A local pizza place in Park Slope, Pizza Plus gets decent Yelp reviews and is one of those places that has other Italian things to eat (which you’ll see).
I love a place that uses generic pizza art boxes. This better be fresh and hot.
Pizza Plus wasn’t as good as Bleeker Street, but we liked it better than Joe’s. Honestly, it was pretty basic, but solid, pizza. Not mindblowing, but satisfied all the pizza cravings we had that night. The Pepperoni was nice and crispy, the cheese had already started to seize up but had good seasoning, and the crust was still nice and crispy, although sort of flavorless – it didn’t have that nice bread-y taste that both Bleeker Street and Joe’s had. Sauce wise, again, semi-nondescript. But overall, it hit the spot. Plus, I love the little white mini table in the center. I missed that.
Because I am also a glutton, JFG Rob recommended I get one of their subs, which he claimed were good. And he was right – the meatball parm, seen above, was GIGANTIC. HUGE bread, split open, loaded with meatballs and sauce, and then covered with mozz cheese to seal it in when melted. OMG this was beautiful.
I mean, the fresh mozz cheese formed a perfect PERFECT seal, and came oozingly hot still.
It may be blasphemy, but this sub surpassed the pizza! The flavor of the meatballs was spot on – lots of good herbs and perfect texture – meaty, tender, and still juicy. The sauce was nicely tangy and full of tomato flavor, and the THICK LAYER OF CHEESE was an amazing blanket of chewiness on top. The bread was nice and crusty so that there was no sogginess. Meatball parm perfection that I hadn’t had in a while. Awesome stuff.
THE JFGal is also a glutton, so she ordered a pepperoni roll. I had no idea what a pepperoni roll was. Apparently it’s THIS – a loaf of bread/crust/pastry that is loaded full of pepperoni, cheese, and onions, and then baked into the monstrosity you see above. JFG Rob warned us – it’s a lot of onions. He was right.
The pepperoni roll was LOADED with onions. But it was also loaded with all that other goodness I mentioned, so we were in hog heaven. Nice onion garlicky bread-y outside, cheesy salty meaty insides. The JFGal LOVED this.
I enjoyed it too – one drawback was that unlike a calzone, there was no sauce inside of this. And it didn’t come with any dipping marinara sauce. So while the whole thing tasted good, the moistness came from butter/oil rather than any other sauce. After I ate a section, the whole thing became slightly one-note, and I turned back to my juicy meatball sub. Still, pepperoni roll? Thumbs up. Just give me a vat of marinara beside it next time.
Not bad for the first day of my NYC pizza tradition for 2015. In the span of eight hours, I’d eaten at three pizza joints. I call that a good day.
Have you eaten at any of these places? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Or, if you’re a pizza fan in general, I’d love to know about YOUR local pizza joint because if I’m ever in the area, I wanna know where to get a good slice.
Part Two (i.e., Day 2) forthcoming!
Junk Food Guy