How To Avoid Bad Pizza In New York

It’s New York City’s deepest, darkest secret: most of the pizza served across the five boroughs is borderline inedible. Oh, you’ll eat it—no problem there—but you won’t be satisfied, and you might feel sick. There’s only so much uncooked dough and tomato-like paste the human body can handle. How do you know which hole in the wall to give your business and, more importantly, your pizza-trust?

You could start by not going to a hole-in-the-wall, maybe. Upscale pizzerias like Co Pane in Chelsea will char each personal pizza (with an assortment of gourmet toppings) to perfection. Indeed, most decent Italian places have a great mozzarella di bufala pie on the menu. But neither of these options are ideal when you want to eat your pizza on the go, a beloved pastime in this quarter of the world. 

If you’re going cheap, one great idea is to avoid gimmicks: the jumbo slice can be tempting, but even the “reliable” jumbo specialists, like Koronet on 110th and Broadway, are batting about .600—every slice is a gamble. Likewise, the dollar slices are almost always garbage, with the odd exception of 2 Bros. Pizza, which has also managed to be a solid chain. Don’t go to any other franchise spots, especially not anything with “Famous Famiglia” in the name. [Shudder].

But the real mark of a great pizzeria is the foot traffic: it helps you gauge the quality of the product, and it guarantees you won’t be eating something that’s been sitting under plastic for a week and a half. Some places, including my own corner spot, deliver excellent pies but can’t produce the same results slice by slice. 

And here’s the most valuable lesson of all: if you walk in, look at the pizza. If you have second thoughts, just leave. Even if the dude at the counter already asked what you want. There’s another place just right down the block.

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This Week’s Miami Happenings: Ultra Music Fest, Harry’s Pizzeria, Lucali Opens

FRIDAY: Ultra Music Festival Rages On
Get ready for the ultimate freak show that mixes top DJs, herds of mask-wearing, half-naked club kids, hallucinogenics, and Miami traffic jams at Ultra Music Festival. It may be tough to top last year’s unexpected appearance by Madonna at the turntable, but that doesn’t mean that the likes of Azealia Banks, Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, and Deadmau5 won’t try. Should you opt to stay home this year, the Ultra soundtrack – slated to hit digital stores on March 19th – ought to give you a taste of all that you missed. Minus the traffic, of course.

Ultra Music Festival kicks off Friday the 15th at Bayfront Park (301 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown). For tickets, visit the officialwebsite.

TUESDAY: Charitable Bites At Harry’s
Harry’s Pizzeria is the location of chef Bill Telepan and his effort to raise funds via a $150 dinner for the replanting of the edible garden at the Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in Overtown, a project that emphasizes locally-sourced produce and nutrition in public schools, potted by Harry’s Pizzeria and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.

Bill Telepan hosts the event at Harry’s Pizzeria (3918 N. Miami Ave., Design District)Tuesday the 12th. For details, read the listing in BlackBook Guides.

NOW: Lucali Opens In South Beach
Sticking with the pie theme, Brooklyn’s finest has finally landed in South Beach. Heralded as the country’s top pizza maker, Lucali has opened its first out-of-borough post of this wildly successful, no-thrills eatery. No sign, no menu; just seven toppings to pick from, secret tomato sauce, and on-tap Brooklyn beers.

Lucali is open now (1930 Bay Rd., South Beach.) For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

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Riding Out the Apocalypse With Pizza and Wine

The world is not going to end on Friday. The world is not going to end on Friday. In fact, we can’t wait for Saturday because then all this “end of the world” nonsense will be over and we can all go back to pretending the world’s resources are infinite. You may be going to an “End of the World”-themed party or bar night on Friday. And any excuse for a party is a fine one, ultimately, just be sure of a couple things before you go out. First, that the party that you are attending is not a secret Doomsday cult meeting and you have no exit strategy. Second, don’t let anyone talk you into doing anything stupid because the world might end, or whatever. This isn’t a Christmas movie, where everyone makes silly declarations of love and impulsive marriage proposals because “it’s Christmas,” which is never an excuse to do anything like that in real life. And be sure to get good alcohol and dress nicely, not as a “just incase the world does end” precaution, but because you’ll have a nicer night, especially when surrounded by Fake Apocalypse revelers.

Or, if you’re from the tiny French town of Bugarach, nestled beneath the Pyrenees, with a population of just under 200, you’re going to have to ride the day out with—or try to capitalize on—all the apocalypse tourists and doomsday cultists who believe the prophecy that this little town, beneath the alien “spaceship garage” in the Pic de Bugarach mountain, is the only one that will survive the 21st. The townsfolk are selling stones from the face of the mountain, and for €15a pop, water from its spring. But the most unusual offering is that of an intimate dinner at the site of our potential doomsday, with apocalyptic pizza and ‘End of the World’ vintage wine. It’s like Doomsday Disneyland up in here. And doomsday tourism, when you think about it, is kind of gross, in the same way that the nuclear test sites in New Mexico draw tourists or the “disaster tourism” epidemic that plagued New Orleans. Capitalizing on fear is really pretty gross. And, the Mayans are kind of pissed off about all the negative attention and doomsday voyeurism and representations of their culture, so uh, maybe knock it off?

Pizza and wine sound like a good last meal and all, but why bother with the traveling? Just get a slice down the street and some booze (maybe the Fin du Monde Belgian ale?), a couple close friends, put a movie on (maybe the cute, underrated Seeking A Friend for the End of the World) and just wait it out until Saturday. That might be your best option. 

Unemployment, Day 56: Worrying About The Right Stuff

There are plenty of concerns you should have when unemployed. Where you will get the money with which to pay rent. When you might next eat food. How you can possibly get a job in Obama’s second term, WHICH IS CLEARLY A FAILURE, or clearly will be upon its actually beginning. But that’s not what concerns me.

No, I’ve been thinking about the really important stuff. Such as how many seconds I can balance a dictionary on my head (not many). Or the precipitous drop in my pizza consumption. There was a tremendously good pizza place near my old office, and they ruined me for other pizza, I swear. I tried a new place in my neighborhood the other week and practically wept, in part because the pizza was so bad and in part because I had optimistically ordered two slices and knew I would finish them both.

Or, like: I probably should get a tattoo. What’s the dumbest tattoo I could get? Wouldn’t want that, but maybe something one notch less dumb than that. Hey! Is it snowing outside? Yes it is! Maybe my psychotic super will die of a heart attack trying to shovel it, and I’ll see it happen and not call for help. That’s murder, right? Christ, I’m plotting murder when I could be trying to land a job. I think it’s that I don’t have good enough ties. Well, that’s it: tomorrow is tie-shopping day. Assuming I sort this pizza thing out today. 

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

New York Openings: Vicolo, Williamsburg Pizza, Brooklyn Central

There may be nothing new under the wood-burning oven, but Brooklyn’s latest pizza arrivals are carving out some space of their own. Thursday night, Bay Ridge welcomed Vicolo, with the only individually-sized Neapolitan pies available in the whole neighborhood. The pizzaiolo is Luigi Olivella, who has something of a cult following thanks to his stints with L’Asso and OliO Pizza e Più. His wood-fired brick oven was specially made in Naples and it’s put to good use here, turning out a mix of rosse and bianche options. Pizza is only the beginning, as a chef from Puglia oversees a full array of antipasti, primi, and secondi possibilities. The focus is Southern Italian classics, with tomatoes, salumi, and cheeses among the ingredients brought in fresh from the Old Country. The dining room works for date nights, an elegant "alley" with white tablecloths, earth-toned accents, and timbered beams overhead. 

On a more casual note, Williamsburg Pizza is a recent addition to the south side mix. A retro striped awning in front calls back to parlors of yore, with brick, tile, and chalkboard on the homey interior. There’s a smattering of tables for hunkering down over large-size pies with your choice of Brooklyn, Margherita, or Grandma crusts. The focus is on high-quality ingredients, although the “Fresh!” sign in front may have already alerted you to that. Toppings are modern enough to range from classic fresh-mozzarella Caprese to a vegan pie with spinach and caramelized onions. The San Marzano tomato sauce is made in-house, as are the cheeses, when they don’t come direct from Italy.
Between those two poles of Kings County stands Brooklyn Central. Park Slope’s latest pizza destination brings killer Neapolitan pies from pizzaolos who did time at The Spotted Pig and I Trulli. The menu divides into Old World classics and New World creativity, tied together by Brooklyn sourcing. Mozzarella and charcuterie are made in-house, and fresh ingredients fill out both the pizza toppings and seasonal salads. Park Slope’s favorite meal, brunch, launches Saturday. A couple of ringers are joining the regular pizza rotation. Ham and eggs meet gruyere and truffle for A.M. gourmets. If you’re shading more sweet than savory, check out the Banana Stonecake, a pancake-inspired combo of bananas, pecans, and syrup. Ladies and gentlemen, start your strollers.

Austin Opening: Cherry St.

Having returned from a stint at Tuscany’s exalted, Michelin-starred Il Falconiere (which you may remember as Signorina Lane’s stomping grounds in Under The Tuscan Sun), chef Jason Dodge was inspired to open Cherry St., a 20-seat, brick-walled charmer.

Cherry St. has all the unfussy allure of a Toscana local, with the emphasis on the simplicity of the cuisine; pizzas, panini and pasta dishes are all focused squarely on the fresh and classical. Cocktails like the Licentious and The Goddess inspire the romantics.

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Los Angeles Openings: Coffee + Food, The Phoenix, PizzaRev

One doesn’t normally boast about Australian food; it’s usually a boring blend of ‘80s American and British dishes that include a lot of ‘chips,’ and other overpriced menu items. But here’s one thing about Oz: their coffee is twice as good as that organic swill you’re French-pressing every morning. They always use espresso beans, and they use them well. At the new Coffee + Food over on Melrose, stop in for a flat white or a long black or just a cappuccino, and you’ll really feel what the buzz is all about. As for the ‘+ Food’ part, there’s a nice selection of paninis, salads, pastries, and more.

The rustic and game-friendly Phoenix bar rose in Beverly Hills a bit ago, offering old fashioneds, sazeracs, craft beer, and one food item: steak frites and salad.

And in Studio City, PizzaRev brings a Chipotle-style ‘build-your-own’ food to artisan pizza. No matter the amount of toppings, it’ll be under $8.

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There’s A Museum of Pizza Now in Philadelphia

What’s most surprising about the opening of Pizza Brain, a restaurant-meets-world’s-first-pizza museum that opened over the weekend in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, is that it wasn’t already a thing. America has museums dedicated to all sorts of foodstuffs, from that most American of comestibles, Spam (in Austin, Minnesota) to Kentucky Fried Chicken (at the O.G. location in Corbin, Kentucky). But sure enough, the creation of art show organizer and pizza enthusiast Brian Dwyer, designer Ryan Anderson, chef Joseph Hunter and business manager Michael Carter is the sole, Kickstarter-supported establishment of its kind, where intrepid diners can learn more about the history and cultural significance of their favorite arrangement of flat bread and various toppings.

Pizza Brain celebrates the significance of pizza in modern cultural works, from Do The Right Thing to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Star Trek (one of their favorite pieces of memorabilia in the museum is a pizza cutter shaped like the starship Enterprise). In addition to toys, recipes and historical artifacts, Pizza Brain sports a rather impressive collection of pizza-themed albums (some released by the big pizza chains themselves) by ‘80s rap icons the Fat Boys and others. But if the nostalgia doesn’t whet your appetite, there are the inventive pizzas themselves, from the meatloaf featuring Kobe beef to the just-introduced “Charlie Mayfer,” which sports sweet potato, honey, goat cheese and brown sugar. Mmmm.

Watch their Kickstarter video below.

New York Openings: Don Antonio, Numero 28 Pizza Napoletana e Ristorante, L’asso

Don Antonio (Hell’s Kitchen) – Vesuvio on the walls, volcanic rock in the wood-burning oven at this Neapolitan pie palace.

Numero 28 Pizza Napoletana e Ristorante (Upper East Side) – Village-spawned chainlet adds a trattoria menu to supplement oven-fresh ‘za.

L’asso (East Village) – "Ace" of pies: Neapolitan cooking in modern EV surrounds.