GREENPOINTERS PIZZA TOUR 2011
The trauma of 19 espressos on the Greenpointers Espresso Tour didn’t stop us from touring the neighborhood for the best slice of pizza. As a pizzeria, your regular slice is your best and only business card. Get that right, then add your fancy toppings. We identified 12 pizzerias in the 11222 area code that served pizza by the slice. Two were closed on Sunday (Baldo’s & L.A. Convenience), which were automatic disqualifications.
The three judges were Brooks, AKA the Pizza Commander (left), Greenpointers’ writer Peter (right), and myself. We ordered one slice cut into three pieces and used a scoresheet adapted from American Pizza Championship, which accounted for appearance and taste. Each slice had the potential of scoring 225 points after we added our individual totals.
*** 1st PLACE: VALDIANO ***
Top Score: 166.5
2nd Place: Franklin Pizza (161.5)
3rd Place: Triangolo: (157.5)
Best Music: Valdiano
Best Service: Vinnie’s
Best Bribe: Grandma Rose’s (giant plate of zeppoles)
Best Place to Watch Soccer: Italy Pizza
Best Pizza Cat and Pizza Window: Carmine’s Original
I suspected Greenpointers take their pizza very seriously and when I posed the “what is your favorite slice?” question on facebook we got a whopping 45+ comments and a heated debate! I am bracing myself for the reaction to our tour results.
Like the espresso tour, we biked to all 12 locations, starting at Grandma Rose’s. They gave us a huge bowl of zeppoles, which were warm and delicious and the best bribe of the day. (Zeppoles are fried pizza dough drowned in powdered sugar.) The pizza was standout with a noticeably seasoned sauce, but it’s never fair to be first on the tour.
Second stop was Nina’s under the BQE. I’m glad we checked it out because with Vinnie’s on my corner why would I go anywhere else? I might not go out of my way to invite Nina’s slice into bed, but once there I wouldn’t kick it out. A decent slice which scored well, but the location is not ideal.
So much can be said for great atmosphere, friendly service and a giant Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle poster! Vinnie’s was a much anticipated joint. The young pizza guys are awesome and like Peter said, “Pizza is fun food,” and Vinnie’s is certainly a fun place to eat it. They have Manhattan Special, which is espresso soda (I repeat espresso soda!) Brooks loved his “palette cleansers” of McGolrick Knots, more delicious bribes. Winthrop Knots just doesn’t have the same ring.
Baldo’s, our next stop on Nassau, was closed. Capital LAME. Who closes on Sunday? Good Christians? Bah! They were also closed for the espresso tour. Offended but quietly relieved we moved on.
Along Nassau we stopped in at Polish restaurant called PYZA.
“You sell pizza?” I asked.
“It’s isn’t pizza; it pyza! Pyza is a dumpling stuff with meat!” (Sound bite recorded; stay tuned for the video!)
A Pyza Tour is next on the list.
Back on our bikes we headed to Manhattan Ave to Valdiano. I didn’t even know this place existed. The cheesy Italian music won major ambiance points and the pizza was a winner with a crisp crust, simple sauce, tasty cheese and overall well balanced and satisfying flavor. Brooks, the pizza obsessed genius, taught us about the “gumline,” which happens when you put cold sauce on dough and bake it, leaving a thin layer of uncooked crust. Obviously, this did not affect the taste. Congrats Greenpointers pizza slice champions!
Onto Carmine’s Original, legendary among Greenpointers. Carmine was there (I love old men!) and he told me he eats pizza at least once a day. Plus there was a pizza cat on the roof (Greenpoint equivalent of a unicorn.) That and the convenient pizza window off the Nassau stop makes this place, which has been there for thirty years, a Greenpoint gem. It was a really good slice, too.
Next was Russ, which according to the facebook comments is a big favorite. It was a good slice and had a relatively high score. The narrow interior was claustrophobic and crowded but the seating in back took you into a truly local Greenpoint pizza joint, with old school booths and screaming kids. By then we were hitting the pizza wall.
Italy Pizza was next, a small unassuming spot farther up Manhattan. Not a top scoring slice, but the pizzeria had a warm atmosphere and soccer. There was major pizza topping pushing happening but we resisted.
“I don’t even know why I am finishing this,” Peter said. Because it was delicious! Taste fatigue was kicking in but this slice was inhale-able.
The ninth spot was Triangolo all the way up on Manhattan. This legendary spot had a “Steve Segal of Fame” as Brooks put it! Amazing. The service was great and we again scarfed our mini slices. It was a nostalgic slice for me, taking me back to Rosa’s II on Metropolitan Ave in Queens. Well balanced, sweet simple sauce, good crust, and it came in third.
Our last spot, off the beaten path and both seedily named and located was Casanova on McGuinness at the foot of the Pulaski. Taken aback by the amazing bar, when I snapped a photo the grumpy owner yelled at me. It’s not a top secret missile silo! It’s a pizza place! The slice was cold and didn’t stand up to all the other great pizza we had eaten that day.
Beer and scoring took place at Gypsy Bar. “Most pizza places use similar sauce and cheese, so the crust is where all the action is,” Brooks explained, and during the day there was a lot of major crust analysis. Because of this a lot of the pizzas tasted similar and scored closely. Nothing was outright inedible and everything was pretty scarf-able. But go out of New York, the Pizza Commander explained, and pizza in general is awful.
We have it made here in Greenpoint! Yet another reason never to leave!
Thanks to the pizzerias and the awesome judges who sacrificed their intestinal tracks to determine the best slice in Greenpoint!