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Restaurants & Bars 18

New York Pizza

Harry V. | Dec 21, 200112:02 PM

The name of a place, “New York Pizza,” not the style – although the New York style of pie is admirably represented here. First of all I must thank Dunlop for calling Chowhound’s attention to the existence of this place (link below), on the north side of Lawrence Avenue just west of Damen. I believe it is in the former location of something known as Bubba’s Pizza. Per Dunlop’s mention my companion and I stopped by to try it last night.

New York Pizza is terrific. It is miles better than Gigio’s, not to mention countless nondescript by-the-slice joints dotting this city. (Although I must admit I’ve had only a single slice at Gigio’s, not a whole fresh-baked pie. Gigio’s is, frankly, a scary place with surly service, and I’m delighted to have found a superior alternative.)

I was only in New York once several years ago for a too-short week, but I remember the style of pizza there with fondness (although not necessarily with preference to my equally beloved Chicago style). New York Pizza’s pizza might be a hair thinner than I remember from Ray’s and John’s, but is otherwise a more-than-respectable facsimile. Their pies are cut into classic, and huge, wedge slices, not the Chicago-style criss-cross (each cut has its virtues to my mind). The crust is thin but not crisp, quite buttery, pliable and (of course) foldable. It has no shortage of shortening or salt, and is quite delicious.

All the usual toppings are available. I had one slice of pepperoni and one of sausage, plus an unconscionably large bite of my companion’s cheese slice. The cheese is quite fine, not bland at all as so many underseasoned pizzas are. I imagine some garlic salt gets thrown on before baking, but I can deal with that – the result works.

The pepperoni was excellent, although I could have done with a little less authenticity in the guise of the copious reddish pepperoni grease pooling on top of the slice. The pepperonis were placed atop the pie, the way I like it, and thus got properly cooked and ever-so-slightly crispy, and tasted great. (Why do some pizza places put the toppings under the cheese, thus denying them a chance to get cooked?)

The sausage tasted OK, but was not quite as impressive. Sausage at NYP comes in the form of small identically-sized and shaped gray little balls that are extremely reminiscent of what rabbits leave behind after a hearty meal (which my companion remarked BEFORE I took a bite – thanks again babe!) I will grant that Gigio’s does have much better sausage than NYP. Gigio’s is the classic Chicago Italian sausage, well seasoned including fennel seeds, etc.

The pies were not overcooked; some might call them undercooked. In every slice we had, the cheese was still yellow, with no browned spots, and the crust was mostly whitish-yellow-golden with some browned spots. Possibly this approach is taken so that slices, which can be made to order, can be reheated without being overcooked.

As mentioned, slices at NYP can be made to order. They bake up cheese slices, then will put any other toppings you want onto them and zip the slice back into the oven for a minute, a system that seems to work fine. The only thing on the menu other than pizza are three different types of cheesecake.

The place has some style and attitude, in a good way. For one thing, they sell whole pies of only one size – large – and do they mean LARGE: 20 inches. The pizza is thin enough that 20 inches of it isn’t too mind or stomach-boggling, but parties of one or two might be better off ordering slices. They also have the expected NYC-themed humorous names for specialty pies – the Martin Scorsese, the Miles Davis, etc. I laughed at the warning on the John Gotti pizza: “MUST BE 18 OR OLDER TO ORDER.”

The place is extremely small, the customer area is about the size of three telephone booths. Obviously they expect most of their business to be takeout/delivery, but there is a tiny bench in the window with three tiny stools if you want to eat there. If you’re not friends with the people you sit down with, you will be by the time you get up – that’s how close together the stools are. There’s also a glass-door refrigerator with cans of soda pop. There is no place even to wash your hands, which is something you will want to do if you have a slice or two on site. The place was impressively spotless. Customers are able to see into the prep area and the ovens, and everything looks clean as a whistle. Quality control is notable. I noticed in the prep area that the cheese was weighed on a scale before being spread over the pie, presumably to guarantee that every pie gets the correct amount and balance of ingredients. Bravi. The owners were friendly, in an agreeable but not-overly-effusive NYC way, and obviously proud of their product. They’re open until midnight every night, 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights.

After writing this long review I might as well tell you where I’m coming from, pizzawise. I love all types of pizza: thin-thin, thick-thin, pan, deep-dish and stuffed; Chicago, New York, New Haven, California, Naples, you name it, I’ll try it and probably like it. Of course I am often disappointed by execution, but I like every known style of pizza. My favorite thin in Chicago has been Pat’s, with its crisp but flaky, wafer-thin crust and zesty seasonings. I enjoyed the pizza at Piece but found it a little bland, and also quite variable in quality from one visit to the next. Home Run Inn makes a nice substantial thin-crust pizza with excellent sausage, but the crust was a mite too doughy for my taste and the seasonings were a little mild. Vito and Nick’s was superb in every way (Rene G’s description was right-on), except that it was blandly seasoned. If the crust were a little saltier, the sauce a little zippier, or if fresh garlic were available as a topping, then Vito and Nick’s might take the thin-crust palm. But no, alas.

Therefore, my two choices for thin crust pizza in Chicago are Pat’s and now New York Pizza. Aficionados of the New York style will be likely to put the latter near the tops of their lists, too, I think. Give it a try; it is obviously a shoestring operation at this point and might disappear in a month or two.

Now I am going to have to tell you that I have already misplaced the menu for this place and I cannot give you its phone number or exact address. Unfortunately the place seems to be so new that I cannot find it on any of the Internet directories. Perhaps some helpful soul can chime in with this information?

Harry V.


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