Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Discovering the West Village: Bleecker Street Pizza

Beside espresso, the other serious flaw in New York’s Italian food is its corner pizza shop. There is plenty of quality gourmet pizza to be found in New York, and no other American city can boast a pizzeria like Una Pizza Napoletana. (From my perspective, the widely lauded Pizzeria Bianco is not a meaningful alternative because it is in Phoenix, and even if I deigned to visit, I refuse to queue for several hours in the searing heat behind the legions of retirees who, by virtue of living in such a wasteland, have become impervious to the elements.) But the corner shop selling slices has lapsed into mediocrity with its industrialized ingredients and its audience of tourists and inebriates.

When I complained to Justin, he brought up the relatively new Bleecker Street Pizza as a good alternative to the various permutations of Famous Original Ray's, et al. As the proprietor recounted to Justin, he was searching New York for a location to open his shop and found a storefront at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Bleecker Street. Skeptics advised him to look elsewhere because of the stiff competition offered by the nearby venerable pizzerias, John’s and Joe’s. But the proprietor, after trying -- and dismissing -- their wares, knew his enterprise would be successful. Incidentally, I’ve long thought that John’s and Joe’s are as much an affront to pizza as Pink’s is to hot dogs. It comes as no shock that Joe’s is opening a location for the formaggio at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

We ordered two slices and had a few bites each as an appetizer to our upcoming Bar Pitti lunch and a dessert to the sandwich we'd just shared at Sant’ Ambroeus. We tried what I believe was the “Grandma,” a square-shaped slice with a delicious homemade sauce made with actual tomatoes, as well as mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil, and fresh garlic. The chewy crust was moderately thick, but the sweet tomato sauce really made it.

The second slice was the “nonna maria,” and it had a thin crust and came in the traditional wedge-of-a-pie shape. The pizza had a patina of fresh mozzarella along with parmesan and basil, but with less sauce than the other nonna. The flavorful mozzarella was the dominant and winning ingredient in the nonna maria.

Unlike every other pizza slice shop that I’ve tried in recent memory, Bleecker Street emphasized ingredients and preparation and deserves a description of “artisanal” even if it is just a guy selling pizza to passersby and locals with no evident pretensions. Since the West Village has not been immune from the City’s metamorphosis into an overpriced version of the Grove, it is heartening to see quality mom & pop pizza shops open and succeed in what may still be Manhattan’s most charming neighborhood.

Bleecker Street Pizza
69 Seventh Ave. South
New York
(212) 924-4466


Larry said...

It's a little late considering UPN closed in NYC and Chris Bianco stopped making pies in Phoenix, but... you really missed out on Bianco. I have literally traveled the country for pizza and have had every top pizza in NYC, SF (possible #2 in the country when UPN opens up there in the fall) and Bianco was the transcendent winner. It was worth the wait every time, and he has an air conditioned bar next door that you could wait at. Oh well.

Steve said...

I loved UPN and look forward to its re-opening in the Bay Area. I have never been to Bianco, which is embarrassing since I'm in Phoenix a few times a year. My favorite will probably always be Il Forno in Rome's Campo De' Fiori ( based on what I truly hope will be more than my one past visit. Have you been?