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Best Pizza Review Ever

“It’s a little on the chewy side. But, I mean, I did microwave it.”

“So yeah, I recommend getting the … cheese things. They’re the Elia’s … Ellie … Eelia’s or whatever. So yeah, pretty good.”

Thanks to Meghan M. for the link.

Pulino’s: an early impression

I’ve gradually moved away from writing reviews on Pizza Rules! because I find that many pizzerias have been sufficiently covered already. Over the past few months, the site has grown to focus more on pizza-related cultural topics, specifically those that exist in the realm of the artistic and/or weird. However, I will continue to write up various pizza reviews when I think there is something to be said that hasn’t been already.

Such is the case with Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria, which just opened in Manhattan, on the corner of Bowery and Houston. I kicked off my month-long pizza-only diet at Pulino’s last week and thought I would share my experience for those who are still seeking opinions.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

I was definitely excited when I first heard about Pulino’s because it’s a project of Keith McNally. I don’t personally know McNally or really anything about him, but one of his other restaurants, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, is one of my favorite brunch spots in the city (their french toast is so good!). The Schiller’s connection is definitely felt in the interior of Pulino’s; in fact, many of the same exact architectural elements have been brought over (bottles on the wall, tiled and mirrored pillars, same doors, same lights, etc).

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

Given my enthusiasm for lettering and typography, I’m somewhat biased, but one thing I must admit I was disappointed about with the design of Pulino’s is their “famous exterior” signage. They almost got it right with a classic format of fabricated three-dimensional neon lettering, but the choice of Helvetica as the typeface in which to render the name seems so default and unispired. I might not usually mention such a point, but it’s so disappointing when considering the lovely lettering styles at Schiller’s, which are much more closely connected to the traditional styles of architectural lettering in New York that give the city its distinct flavor. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that goes a long way for exuding a sense of authenticity (which seems to be a goal for Pulino’s).

Photo by Mattron on Flickr

Photo by JesC on Flickr

When I got to Pulino’s at around 1:00 last Thursday, it was rather busy but we were seated right away. The overall atmosphere inside was a bit hectic. It almost seemed that there were too many servers, and the relatively tight seating arrangement didn’t help (my menu was knocked off the table multiple times by passing waitstaff). We were also asked to order multiple times by different servers, furthering the impression of disorder. Of course this isn’t surprising for a new establishment that is still settling in to its groove.

But enough about the extraneous details; let’s move on to what really matters – the pizza. Most descriptions I’ve read of the pizza so far are pretty accurate… it’s somewhere between New Haven pizza and Midwest bar pizza: super-thin crispy crust with a decidedly dark shade of reddish orange. We got a plain margherita pie and a marinara pie which we had sprinkled with some grated parmesan (I forget if “margherita” and “marinara” are the names they use on their menu, but they generally match those styles). The crust was almost brittle at first, but as the oil and sauce settled in it became a bit more chewy in the center.

Pizza Month 2010, day 1: Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

I really enjoyed most of the pizza; the sauce/cheese/crust ratio worked well and even the sparse simplicity of the cheeseless marinara pie was delicious with the ingredients they used.

I do have some gripes though. First of all, our marinara pie had a huge scorch mark that went straight through (see photo below). I’m all for the typical charring of any pizza that is cooked in a really hot oven like this one, and actually prefer a little spotting; but this was a huge solid chunk of pure carbon that, instead of accenting the flavor, made that slice basically like biting in to a solid piece of carbon.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

Note: orange-ish pool in above photo isn’t pizza grease, but chili oil which I poured on to the pan for dipping.

My second gripe is related to the end-crust (or “cornicione”). Eating the wet part of the pie was so good, but when you got down to the “bones”, as my friend Lister calls them, the crispness that was a benefit in the middle of the pie made it become a chore to eat at the edges. Instead of complementing a crispy outer shell with softer dough inside, these end-crusts were hard all the way through, which made eating them feel like chewing on twigs. I think one of the servers even noticed me struggling with the task because they suggested the chili oil that was on the table. While the chili oil was indeed good, it was almost irrelevant for “bone”-dipping because the crust was too hard to soak any of it up.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

My third and final gripe is one which I’m almost certain will be a major topic of discussion in the future in relation to Pulino’s: the cutting of the pizza into square slices instead of normal triangular ones. I get the conceptual link to this cutting style that is used for so many pizzas in the Midwest, especially in bars. It even makes sense for “party” pizzas that are too big or hefty to otherwise divide in to triangular slices. But these pizzas are neither big nor hefty, so square slices are just not practical. With this cut style, the middle “slice” is left without any natural grip area, forcing you to either resort to fork usage or sloppy grease-hands. And, as my friend Yvonne points out, the square-peg-in-a-round-hole approach just isn’t fair: if you’re splitting the pie between any number of people, there are bound to be huge inconsistencies in what each person gets from each slice. In the case of this pie, where the wet portions are notably delicious and chewy but the end-crusts are hard and comparatively low in flavor, such uneven distribution could mean the difference between perceiving the pizza as amazingly good or unpleasantly bad.

Don’t get me wrong: overall I am in favor of Pulino’s, if for no other reason than that they tried – even invented – a new style of pizza. It’s definitely worth checking out for yourself to see if it matches your style, because I can’t reasonably say “if you like this other pizzeria, you will like Pulino’s”; it’s its own thing, and I value that. Plus, any pizzeria whose chef gets arrested for carrying a knife has to be bad-ass, right?

I will be going back for a return visit as soon as tomorrow, and definitely after a few months when any early quirks will hopefully be worked out of the system. After all, this is a new venture, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge it otherwise.

Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria
pulinosny.com
282 Bowery (at Houston); New York, NY 10012 [map]
212-226-1966

Bostonist on Boston Pizza

Bostone Pizza on Bostonist

Pam Aghababian reviews Bostone Pizza‘s sicilian slice for Bostonist‘s Cheap Eats series:

While many pizzas serve as vehicles for cheese delivery, the dough is the real star of the show in this case. The edges are buttery and crispy, not at all dry. The bottom of the crust is also very crispy, and yet the top is soft and pillowy, a perfect bed for the toppings. And with 4 or 5 different topping options available at any one time, including a Slice of the Day, there’s always something delicious to go with that beautiful dough.

I made a trip to Bostone during this year’s Pizza Month challenge, but didn’t try their sicilian, so this is good to hear.

Bostone Pizza
225 Newbury St, Boston, MA 02116
617-536-9451
www.bostonepizza.com

Brick Oven Pizza 33

Brick Oven Pizza 33

After getting lost buying sheets in the giant Bed Bath & Beyond on 6th Ave in Manhattan the other day, I stopped at Brick Oven Pizza 33, right outside the 6th Ave L train stop on the corner of 14th St.

Brick Oven Pizza 33

This is another place that has a ton of slice pies on display to choose from. It’s quite appetizing actually.

Brick Oven Pizza 33

I actually like this kind of set-up a lot because you don’t even have to know what the pizza is; you can just point and say “one of those”.

Brick Oven Pizza 33

All of the outer walls open up to create this kinda patio-esque seating. I’m sure there’s a technical term for that, but I don’t know it. When I was there it got a little crowded, so I ended up sharing my table with some random thug dudes who were talking about their rap careers. It was pretty entertaining… I considered trying to get a photo of them, but decided against it (the photo below was before they joined me).

Brick Oven Pizza 33

One of the things I thought was interesting was that they have both margherita slices (with fresh mozz’ and basil) AND lower quality “plain cheese” slices. Most places will have one or the other and, more often than not for a slice joint like this, it will just be the plain cheese. So that was impressive. I went for one of each.

Brick Oven Pizza 33

Brick Oven Pizza 33

Brick Oven Pizza 33

The pizza itself was great. Not surprisingly, the margherita was preferable. It seemed a little salty for some reason, and still had a bit of the heaviness I usually associate with “plain cheese” slices more than margheritas; but tasty nonetheless.

The other slices they had all looked great too. The thugs I was sitting with were all eating some kind of fried chicken slices, which they said were super spicy but delicious. I’d put the plain cheese slice I got in a pretty typical category of quality (not amazingly memorable or anything), but generally speaking, this place goes a step beyond the expected quality of a quick slice shop. Be prepared to pay for it though; a plain cheese slice will set you back $2.75, and a margherita $3.75. Some of the other slices go up as high as $4.25.

Apparently there are a few other shops under this name, the original of which is on 33rd St (hence the 33 in the name).

Brick Oven Pizza 33
527 6th Ave (corner of 14th St), New York, NY
(212) 255-6333
www.pizza33.net

NYC Food Film Fest (Pizza Night) / Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

NYC Film Food Fest, Pizza Night

I attended the previously mentioned NYC Food Film Fest‘s Pizza Night in the parking lot next to Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn the other night. It was great to be around a bunch of other pizza fanatics directly under the Brooklyn Bridge.

While I was waiting around for the show to start, I had the pleasure of finally meeting the mastermind behind the amazing Slice pizza blog, Adam Kuban, in person. He told me some interesting stuff about his life as a full-time pizza blogger, but that’s a whole other story…

After a couple short speeches from the Food Film Fest crew and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, they screened 3 short films: Pure & Simple, which is a view in to the daily life of hardcore pizzeria Una Pizza Napoletana (I’ve never been, but I definitely intend to check it out soon); Brooklyn Pizza which showed what Adam Kuban described as “pizza porn” — the pizza-making process at 3 different Brooklyn pizzerias (Di Fara, Totonno’s, and Grimaldi’s); and finally In Pignata: Calabrian Fireside Cooking, which wasn’t really about pizza at all, but followed around an aging traditional Italian farmer as she prepped food from her own harvests.

NYC Film Food Fest, Pizza Night

NYC Film Food Fest, Pizza Night

Grimaldi’s sent out a couple rounds of sampling pies for the salivating crowd throughout the night. Much appreciated, but after the event I decided to wait in line to get a proper dose. Nothing has changed about Grimaldi’s pie since I first had it: it’s still one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten. So good.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant

It being the first day of my summer in Brooklyn, I decided to check out the closest pizza shop to where I’m staying, as it’s quality has a major impact on my time here. That shop is Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant in Williamsburg.

I’m pleasant to report that it’s a good slice.

They have a pretty good selection of Italian-esque food on the menu but, despite the almost-fancy seating area and the “& Italian Restaurant” part of the name, this is definitely a slice shop. They have a ton of different slice pies waiting for you right when you walk in, including some sicilian slices. There’s also something on the menu called an “upside down pizza”; I have no idea what that is, but I’m sure I’ll check it out in due time.

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant

The pie itself has a good balance between cheese, sauce, and crust, resulting in an ALMOST chewy chomp factor (though some of the chewiness from my slice might be related to the fact that it was reheated before they gave it to me). It’s not exactly a slice that will make you jump for, but it’s solid; I’m pretty happy to have it be the closest pie to me for the summer.

Not that I’ll ever need it, but they offer free delivery too. Only obvious downside is a lack of Coke (Pepsi products only).

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant

Driggs Pizza & Italian Restaurant
558 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-782-4826
www.driggspizza.com (printed on their menu and in their window, but the site seems to be down)

Figs

Figs

Nice day in Boston

It was nice out in Boston the other day so I went for a walk around Beacon Hill in Boston. I almost never walk around Beacon Hill because — other than checking out new pizza — I never have any reason to go there.

Beacon Hill is funny because it’s like this picturesque area of Boston that has the kind of look and feel to it that I imagine is conjured in the mind of non-Bostonians when they think of “Boston”: quaint old historic brick houses on small streets with brick sidewalks and olde time-y faux-gas lamp posts, etc.

Ironically enough, Beacon Hill is way too expensive for most Bostonians, so unless they work for rich people, they hardly ever go there. At least that’s my relationship with Beacon Hill. But enough about that.

My main reason for going to Beacon Hill this time was to check out the pizza at this place called Figs. The first impression I got of Figs when walking in was that it looked a little fancy. This wasn’t really a surprise, with it being on Beacon Hill and all. It’s kind of a small spot, which I actually like; it didn’t seem crowded or anything (at least not at lunch time on a Wednesday). As for music though, they were playing some kind of weird techno fusion, which isn’t exactly my taste.

Figs

Before I start talking about the actual pizza… a warning: when I took a sip of the Coke I ordered, it seemed obvious that the waitress had mistakenly given me Diet Coke. I had my friend Meryn confirm this fact just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. I don’t usually care much about getting wrong stuff from restaurants, but I really just can’t hang with Diet Coke. So I got a replacement. It turns out that the problem wasn’t an error on the part of the waitress though… their fountain Coke mixture was just really bad. Either that or, contrary to their menu, they were serving Pepsi.

But enough about that.

The pizza itself was interesting. It was really long and cut in to squares, and they served it on an upside-down cookie sheet. It was much bigger than I expected, which made the $14 price tag more acceptable. Despite the semi-fancy setting and presentation though, the pizza wasn’t what I could describe as fancy.

Figs

Actually, other than the fact that it was cooked in a brick oven, the pizza was something you might expect to get from a regular slice joint. There wasn’t much basil to speak of, and the cheese was a pretty standard non-fresh mozzarella. It was even on the greasy side (not oil, but that kind of dark reddish grease that comes from shredded mozzarella). It wasn’t bad pizza by any means, but I was more impressed with their location and atmosphere.

Apparently, the restaurant is associated with a chef named Todd English. Unsurprisingly, I’ve never heard of him though, so that doesn’t really change my feelings about the pizza one way or the other.

I didn’t spend too much time looking over the rest of the menu, but they seemed to have some good stuff on there. This is probably a good place to go on a date if you want something a little fancy, but not ridiculous.

Figs

Figs

Figs
42 Charles St, Boston, MA
617-742-3447
http://www.toddenglish.com/

Pizza Month, day 10: New York Pizza

Pizza Month, day 10: New York Pizza

Despite its name, my stop for day 10 of Pizza Month is located in Boston.

I’d file this pie under college pizza. It’s almost exactly what you’d expect from a pizza shop that’s right next to Emerson College. It’s quick and dirty, but fills the void; almost the exact opposite of Teatro, which is right up the street. It could definitely be waaaay worse and still stay in business, especially considering the relative lack of many competitors in the immediate area.

It’s a good slice if you’re hungry, and don’t have lofty expectations or mind dining in the company of Emerson students.

New York Pizza

New York Pizza

http://www.newyorkpizzaplace.com

Pizza Month, day 9: Bostone Pizza

Pizza Month, day 9: Bostone Pizza

For day 9 of Pizza Month, I checked out Bostone Pizza on Newbury St in Boston. There are actually way less pizza spots on Newbury and the surrounding area than you might think, and Bostone is one of the few non-chain options.

One of the unique aspects here is that they’re one of only a few pie shops in Boston that I know of who offer sicilian slices all the time. That doesn’t really sway me one way or the other because I’m not too into sicilian, but I’m sure it’s a bonus for some people.

Bostone Pizza

Another thing that stuck in my head about Bostone is that they are obviously huge Red Sox fans. There were Red Sox balloons outside, some other decorations inside, and they had multiple TVs playing the game that was on at the time.

Bostone Pizza

The general decoration motif was slightly on the fancier side, but nothing crazy. I’m guessing nitty-gritty slice shop probably wouldn’t do too well on Newbury St.

Bostone Pizza

The pizza itself wasn’t especially memorable. It wasn’t bad at all, but not worth really getting too excited about. The bottom crust was on the crispy side, but the slice wasn’t super light and thin the way it often is with a crispy crust.

Bostone Pizza

Minus points for lack of Coke. Root beer available however.

Pinnochio’s

Pinnochio's

The day after pizza month ended, I continued with my pizza eating out of pure habit. Stopped at Pinnochio’s in Harvard Square which has always been a solid pizza option in that area. There are a few good pie spots in that part of Cambridge, but Pinnochio’s probably holds claim to the best quick ’n’ dirty slice joint within a few miles.

Pinnochio’s is one of only several places I know in Boston that have sicilian slices available regularly. Subsequently, if you want non-sicilian slices you might want to specify as such when ordering (I was once handed a piece of sicilian after asking simply “Can I have a slice?”).

I’m not a huge sicilian pizza fan, so I won’t bother commenting on that. However, I will say the thin slices are super good though. Unlike so many slice-joint-esque pizzas out there (ie, not fancy schmancy sit-down restaurant pizza), this pizza has a sane amount of cheese on it, which prevents it from drooling all over your face and/or getting a wet soggy bottom crust.

The inside is pretty small, so it’s almost always packed around lunch time, but there’s a nice park across JFK Street that makes for a good pizza-scarfing area as well.

I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the outside; it’s in this old brick building, kinda hidden down a side street. The general small-ness and hidden-ness makes it seem all the more legit for some reason… like you’re in on some exclusive secret or something. I guess I’m compromising that by posting this online.

Oh well.

PS: No Cokes, but plenty of bottled root beer.

Pinnochio's

Pinnochio's

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