Posts Tagged ‘pizza’
Sometimes a meal fails, but the experience is still worth the price of admission. A recent Living Social deal offered a brunch boat tour for $40. I was lucky to make the trip with Nick and Becca, not only for their fine company, but because Nick drove us in Becca’s car to the dock down in the Southern tip of Brooklyn. The final couple of miles took us along a bay–the smell of the sea filling the car. Worried that the boat might leave without us, we arrived with time to survey the water from the dock. Swans and a variety of seagulls (I learned there is more than one kind) meandered above and on the water until it was time to board. As we sat at a table with a panoramic view of the shore the crew began to pass out mimosas. Horribly sweet mimosas. Possibly made with Sunny-D rather than real OJ. But respectably strong. They tasted great with the view, the sun, and fresh air.
The “brunch” buffet turned out to be be much more lunch than brunch with wrap sandwiches and various salads. The wraps were more or less edible, with the exception of the eggplant, which was as dry as sandpaper. But the Cesar pasta salad was satisfying and lunch was lifted by two of the best words in the English language: “open bar.” We sipped mixed drinks from the bar and refills on mimosas as we floated on the water.
On returning to land, Nick was in the mood for some digital violence in form of Big Buck. I’m never one turn down a game of buck. Various bar closures and fails at internet searching lead us to trek north to Cherry Tree. I had seen this bar on a couple late night cab rides and had been meaning to check it out.
On arrival, after a long walk, we learned the Sunday special: a pizza pie from the attached South Brooklyn Pizza shop and two pitchers of PBR for $20! PBR isn’t my favorite beer, but I’m easily lured by the siren song of a bargain.
Before the arrival of the pizza, we sipped beer and explored the Cherry Tree. The bar is a large space with a generous with a junk filled and closed patio space. However, fresh air and sun could be found near a large open window on the second floor. Renovations appear underway to portions of the interior. Seemingly haphazard planning (odd spaces, protrusions, unlit nooks and crannies) and the halted construction left me feeling like I had dropped into an M. C. Escher drawing or H.H. Holmes’ hotel. But the beer was cheap, the patrons pleasant, animated animals to be shot were of plenty, and the pizza good.
The pizza encompassed the best the New York style, with a thin crisp crust. A higher end version of the New York pizza to be sure, but fantastic. With football season quickly approaching, it may be a while before I’m able to make a Sunday return, though I look forward to it.
The night before I grabbed my last MN burger lunch with my dad at the Bulldog, I grabbed my last MN dinner with my madre at one of our favorite spots.
Punch Pizza takes the Neapolitan pizza seriously. Punch is among the few U.S. restaurants to be certified by Vera Pizza Neapolitana (V.P.N), the Naples organization that oversees that quality of those wishing to take the V.P.N title. Aside from the three letters, the title means that Punch makes some of the best Neapolitan pizza you can find outside of Naples. Better than some I’ve had in Naples. Really freaking good pizza!
The certification means an eagle’s eye attention to ingredients and process. The pizza is cooked at 800 degrees in a bell shaped wood fired oven. The high heat creates a crispy crust with a doughy layer under the toppings. The uninitiated might think the crust is burned. It’s not. That crisp, with the occasional blackened spot, is exactly how it should be. It’s a unique style of pizza perfectly designed to celebrate quality ingredients.
My mother had the margherita. As always, it encapsulated the prefect simplicity of basil, mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes. I opted for the vesuvio (spiced salami, saracene olive, cracked red pepper, piparras pepper, and basil). The vesuvio was good, but in my selection my mind was too much on one of my favorite Brooklyn haunts, Toby’s. There was just to much going on. I should have kept things simple and ordered the margherita extra, a prefect combination basil, mozzarella di bufala and crushed San Marzano tomatoes. Similar to the regular margherita, but made with absolutely the best ingredients to be found.
Eating at Punch took me back to innumerable dinners with friends and family over amazing pies and back to Naples. If you live in the Twin Cities and haven’t made your way to Punch yet, now is the time!
Not long ago, I was lamenting the absences of deep dish pizza in New York. Well, take note New York, Los Angeles came through and delivered the king of pizzas.
Matt (NYC based friend and LA hotel co-habitant) and I stumbled on this pizza by complete accident. After the wind down of Saturday’s events, Matt and I retired to our hotel room and flipped through channels. In between infomercials and even less watchable late night television, we stumbled on a food show that happened to be talking about deep dish pizza at Masa of Echo Park. The next morning, a little Google map research revealed that Masa was just off our route to Beverly Hills.
We sat at the bar and ordered an onion and sweet sausage pizza. During our 40 minute wait for the pizza (deep dish takes its time) we sampled a house IPA. When the pizza arrived, I knew we had found the real thing:
- 2 inch thick crust, check;
- diced tomatoes for sauce, check;
- cheese under the sauce, check; and
- a corn meal crust, check.
Matt and I were a little full because we had taken down an In and Out burger “snack” about an hour before arrival, yet we still managed to take down the whole delicious pie.
So simple, but so good. I can only guess that its ignorance or fear of a 40 minute cook time or a perverse sense of pride that keeps deep dish off the streets of New York.
Masa of Echo Park
1800 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
If you asked to describe a quintessential dinner date ambiance, I might well lead you to Giuseppina in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Dark wood, exposed brick, and aesthetically placed wine bottles are perfectly basked in candle light and the fire from the pizza oven. The tables are large and uncharacteristically well spaced for New York. With attentive, but unobtrusive, servers its easy to slip into your own world. Though if you, or your date, aren’t in the mood for pizza or calzones you’d better steer clear, as that’s the extent of the menu–no antipasti, no salad, no desert.
In an effort to branch out from our usual Park Slope haunts, Iggy and I swung into Giuseppina’s almost at random. While waiting briefly for a table, we learned from the articles posted near the door, that Giuseppina’s is sister restaurant to Lucali (a restaurant in Carroll Gardens of similar design and occasionally frequented by Jay Z).
While the menu choices may be spartan, the prices are not. Pizzas and calzones start at $22 each. Regular toppings are $3 and, on my trip, special grilled artichokes were available for $8 and a hot and sweet sausage for $6. Iggy and I opted for a pizza with shallots and the special sausage, also electing for the free garlic and basil additions. The pizza, with a thin crust and an unsweetened sauce, was good, but not great. Anything special about the $6 sausage, aside from the price, was lost on me.
A glass of wine, a beer, and a two topping pizza set us back $50, pre-tip. The pizza was solid, but given the extremely limited menu I expected more. The cost-value equation just falls flat.
However, its not just Jay Z who appreciates this uniquely New York style of pizza. Through our dinner, there was a constant wait for new seats and more than a couple takeout pizzas left the restaurant. People seem to love Giuseppina’s for more than just the atmosphere. Given Giuseppina’s proximity to Toby’s (who manages to present a full menu and provide more flavorful pizzas at a lower cost), I am happy in my belief that everyone is entitled to their own incorrect opinion. I’m happy for the denizens of Giuseppina’s to leave the amazing pizza and table space at Toby’s for me and my friends.
691 6th Ave
(between 21st St & 20th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Dear New York City,
We need to talk. No, I’m not breaking-up with you. But you have some problems you need to work on. Well, one BIG problem.
You have a huge pizza ego that’s writing checks your pizza ovens just can’t cash. Sure, you can do thin crust like no other. If I want to fold a slice in half on a paper plate while I’m on my way from one way to place to another, I know I can rely on you. If I want a neapolitan style pizza, with a crust cooked to crispy perfection in a wood burning oven, either classic or with innovative topping, I know you’re there for me. If I want to climb towards the sky with the crispy sponge of a Sicilian style pie I need not worry.
But if I want a Chicago style deep dish pizza… well…. where are you? And don’t give me that Pizzeria Uno line. You know I deserve better than that. And I swear, if you try and pull a fast one on me again, like you did last week, by promising a Chicago style deep dish and giving me a Sicilian, you’re spending the next week sleeping on the couch.
I know you think you know it all, but here is the deal on a deep dish pizza. Lets start at the top. It’s chunky sauce or diced tomatoes . Under the sauce is the cheese. A deep dish pizza is a beast. It needs to be in the oven for a good long time and we want that cheese to stay nice and soft. (In fairness there is a reasonable controversy about whether toppings go above or below that sauce, but you’re about 20 steps behind that.) Under the cheese is 1.5 or 2 inches of doughy bread with a nice crisp bottom sprinkled with cornmeal. Towering above it all is a pinched rim of crisp crust.
You tell me if I can make it here, I can make it everywhere. Well deep dish is made everywhere but here. Slow down, take your time, and make things right.
Now you know how I feel.
All The Best,
Toby’s takes its spot at number 6 because it’s my favorite pizza spot in New York. Great pizza supported by a good staff and a good beer selection. Just thinking about it is making my stomach rumble in anticipation.
Some of you Manhattanites are believers. Others have heard the stories and aren’t sure what to think. Well I’m here to tell you the rumors are true: amazing food can be found just a subway ride outside of the island of Manhattan.
Down in South Park Slope, just off the N train, is a gem of pizza places. Toby’s Public House manages to fit the best of a pub, a sports bar, and small Italian restaurant all into one place. When I first moved to the Slope at the beginning of the school year, a neighbor told me I had to go for the great beer selection. Upon arrival, I found a beer list that, while not vast, is varied and regularly updated and includes some uncommon brews.
Toby’s is in three story brick building with tall narrow windows and heavy wooden shudders. The “faded” painted name on the brick exterior above the door suggests a timeless establishment, despite its 2008 opening. The old style character continues as you walk through the door with dark woods, exposed brick, and a hammered tin ceiling. Once inside, you find yourself looking down the length of the one room bar at the large bell-shaped wood fired brick oven that is truly at the heart of Toby’s.
Out of the wood burning oven come some of the best pizza I’ve found in New York. I know that’s a huge statement, but Toby’s backs me up. (And for the Minnesotans out there: this pie beats Punch Pizza.) The pizzas are seemingly Naples-styled (or at least influenced, given it’s a little larger than a true Neapolitan pizza), in that the high temperature of the wood burning oven yields a wonderful crispy thin crust. My biggest disappointment with this style of pizza at too many New York restaurants is a soggy middle. A good Neapolitan pizza should have a crispy under crust from the edge to the center—end of story—and Toby’s delivers, without fear of piling on amazing topping combinations.
The only drawback to Toby’s is that, despite its Brooklyn location, it has Manhattan prices. Pizza prices range from $13 for the classic margherita to $18 for the tartufata (complete with black truffle cream sauce, mozzarella, crimini mushrooms, prosciutto cotto, truffle oil). One of Toby’s pizzas can satisfy a single ravenous person or be split between two less eager diners. The real danger comes off the pizza menu. Though tempting and, yes, delicious, the antipasti can quickly make your bill spiral out of control. If you venture off the pizza menu, mussels in a spicy marinara sauce (on the list to be made cheaply at home), served with focaccia to soak up the extra sauce, is sure to be a hit.
A favorable departure from the ol’time feel of Toby’s are the three flat screen TVs playing everything from soccer to college football. I can’t think of a more tempting bar at which to watch “the game.” And though the football season may be over, with its outdoor patio seating, Toby’s is sure to be a favorite summertime destination.
Toby’s Public House
686 6th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
On what may well be my last first day of class for the rest of my life (lets not think about that LLM right now) it was time to grab lunch with the A Team, aka the old crew from Section A in first semester of law. After an extensive group gchat the place was picked: Piola.
I’ve walked by Piola hundreds of times–it’s near school and on the way to the gym and what used to be one of my favorite bars (the Reservoir dropped like a stone in my rankings when they got rid of their Big Buck machine). Piola always looked good from the outside, signs luring me with descriptions of tasty pizza, pasta and wine. I was excited to finally make it through the door.
As the five of us sat at the table we found a tasty looking list of lunch specials, including pizza, pastas, and salads. A quick scan of the regular menu revealed even more interesting dishes, but also told me that we were getting a good deal (probably $3-$5 off each entree).
I ordered the “Born in USA” pizza (which featured chicken, spicy salami, mushrooms and onions), Meg ordered gnocchi in a bolognese sauce, Nick ordered the “Pisa pizza” (ham), Debbie ordered a cheese pizza with diced tomatoes, and Rebbecca ordered a cheese pizza with tomato slices and dried oregano.
From where we were sitting we could see a beautiful wood burning oven. I know I saw them put the pizzas in the oven. But Piola made a mistake that all to many places make–they either have the temperature too low in the oven or don’t keep the pizzas in for long enough. If there is a wood burning oven, the bottom of the pizza should be nice and crispy, NOT SOGGY, when it lands in front of me. The toppings on my Born in USA were fine, though the chicken was dry and nearly flavorless.
I tried a slice of Nick’s pizza. It had the same soggy crust problem, but the ham on the pizza was a good combination.
Rebbecca’s pizza, which I didn’t try, looked like it had been bombed with oregano–far more than a dusting. She found it to be way too much and had to pull off the sliced tomatoes in order to make the pizza edible.
Debbie was very satisfied with her pizza, but then again, if Piola couldn’t handle making a cheese pizza they probably would be out of business by now.
Meg’s pasta was okay. Though the sauce was entirely uninspired, just meat and some tomato. No real flavoring, not even any onion. The gnocchi itself was good, a nice texture in that it wasn’t too hard or too soft. But, all in all, a very bland plate.
I wouldn’t avoid this place like the plague, maybe it was just a bad day, but I’m also not in a rush to check it out again.
48 E. 12th St.
New York, NY 10003
The following is adapted from a restaurant review first publish in the Cardozo Jurist.
Let me start by saying that I don’t like writing negative reviews. They seem kind of boring. I would much rather write article about places that are great to eat at. But these were some new places I had high hopes for and well I felt the need to talk about them falling shorty.
Over the last summer two new restaurants have sprung up near Cardozo, my fine law school, on the corner of University and 13th Street: Vapiano, a stylish pizza and pasta bar and its next door neighbor Nanoosh, a sleek Mediterranean hummus bar. After eating at each a few times, my mind settled on a number of words that describe the food at each restaurant: adequate, all right, fine, and OK. My issue is that both restaurants are chains that put fashion above substance and quality.
Vapiano occupies a large space and sports a modern design and lounge-like feel. It has a novel payment system where you are given a card when you walk in. You swipe the card when you get food at cafeteria-style stations, and the card records your purchases. Upon leaving, you give your card back to the hostess or cashier at the door, and you’re given the total bill to pay.
Ordering my first pizza at Vapiano, I had high hopes. The pizzaiolo (Italian for the guy that cooks the pizza) makes the pizza in front of you and puts it in the oven. The pizza even looked great once it was on my plate. But the problem was in the crust; it just didn’t have the crispy, almost burnt crust an Italian style pizza should have. It made a fine flatbread, but an uninspired pizza. The other pizzas I tried during that visit and subsequent visits shared the same crust failures.
After trying the pizza, I turned my attention to the pasta bar. I ordered the Pesto e Spinaci pasta. Given the name, I was expecting a fresh pesto dish with spinach. What I got, however, was an overly creamy, heavy dish that had a hint of pesto. Not a bad dish, but not up to the potential of the fresh ingredients the server at the pasta bar had at his disposal.
Nanoosh is a smaller space that has a chic atmosphere and décor that reminds me of a spa. The menu is, not surprisingly, heavy on the hummus but also has Mediterranean influenced salads and wraps. The hummus comes in either plain or tahini (sesame seed paste) and can be ordered with a few toppings. The hummus’ flavor was par for the course, but the texture was too smooth—overly creamy. The Lebane wrap was a solid combination of Mediterranean salad with a bit of cheese.
In all, I may have gone into both restaurants with excessive expectations. Both offer fine food at a decent value. I won’t avoid going back to these places, but I won’t go out of my way to return to them, either.
113 University Place (at 13th Street)
New York, NY, 10003
111 University Place (between 12th & 13th Streets)
New York, NY 10003