Posts tagged nypizzaproject
We were all geared up for a big Queens pizza trip this Saturday, but car trouble, crappy weather, traffic, and fate all had other ideas. We eventually made it out to Howard Beach, but the folks at New Park wouldn’t let us shoot photos and asked us to come back another time. Same with the staff at Alfie’s in Richmond Hill. Both places serve up solid slices, and are worth checking out.
Lucky for us, we saved the best for last: Dani’s Pizza in Kew Gardens, Queens.
Dani’s is unassuming. It’s signage is more 80’s Miami nightclub than old school Queens pizzeria. Inside we were greeted by some of the friendliest, most jovial pizzamakers around. Yes, they said, take all the photos you want.
One of the pizzamakers, Cesar, has been making pizza for 12 years. It only took him two days to learn how though.
I started washing dishes, watching all those guys make pizza. Then they told me to start, and I think that’s why I learned so quickly. I was watching, and when it comes to make it, I make it.
Also, notice all that beer behind Cesar!
We have all the beers. Some times, around October, we have 70 or 80 different beers.
The owner don’t drink, he just like to have the customers have it. The customers come, they just love it…pizza and beer, pizza and beer.
There’s a bar on the corner over here, they close around 1 o’clock, so they’re drunk, they come over here to eat pizza and drink beer.
Also, this happened:
Customer: ‘I’ll have a Wittenberger’
Cesar: ‘Amigo, get this guy a cheeseburger and a Corona’
Basit, a local kid who moved to Flushing after growing up a few blocks from Dani’s, has seen the neighborhood around Dani’s develop.
I used to live right up the street when I was young, and this used to be the spot to get pizza. The neighborhood keeps developing, and it’s like new people come in, usually people from other countries, fresh, come to this area..it’s good for people who are not familiar with America…
I’ve seen buildings that were never here, now they’re here. They’ve refurbished old buildings and stuff. This place hasn’t really changed that much. A lot of the stuff around here, yeah, but not this place. They like to keep it original…that’s what they do.
There’s more pizza spots around here too. They got one across the street, but that’s not really, it’s not the same as a real pizzeria. People love pizza for the originality… you just get a slice…they make it by hand…I dunno. A lot of companies comin’ out with pizza…Little Cesar’s Pizza and all this, it’s not the same as New York pizza. New York pizza is the best.
I should also mention that Dani’s Pizza hosts a pizza eating competition in the summer. Three Saturdays in a row, from July 27 - August 8. According to Cesar, last year’s winner took down 14 slices in ten minutes.
Tucked in to the bottom floor of a row house on Crosby Avenue in the Bronx, Louie & Ernie’s Pizza has been serving up superlative slices since 1959 (math math math…that’s 53 years). According to Cosmo, who has been running the place with his brother John for the last 25 years Louie and Ernie were just two pizza makin’ brothers.
They are two brothers, the original owners. They started in Harlem on First Avenue, right down the block from Patsys. I don’t know why they came up here. But only one brother started up the business, that was Ernie. And then, he just ran with it. They tried selling it a couple of times over the years, but it never really panned out, they always took it back. Ernie is gone now. He died in ’91. That was my lucky break. He got sick, and someone else’s misfortune became a lucky thing for me and my brother. Other than that? They were just pizza men. That was their trade.
And now Cosmo and his brother John are continuing that trade.
We’re just a pizzeria. We’re one of the last of the Mohicans. No fried mozzarella sticks. What you see is what you get. You won’t find many places like this left. Most places out there nowadays have to play to the crowd.
Originally, it was just a neighborhood thing. It still has a neighborhood following. You get a lot of people who moved out coming back for a slice. We got a big cemetery up the block. After a funeral, they’ll pop in because they are in town. A family come in this morning. Their son is in the military. Their first stop when he got back from duty was to come in and get a slice.
Cosmo and John are lucky enough to have their family around at Louie & Ernie’s. We got the chance to talk to their other brother, Ettori and his two pizza lovin’ kids Matthew and Nicholas, who had stopped by for lunch because “the price is right.” Ettori dropped some Louie & Ernie’s history on us, but it was his kids who spoke truth to power.
The pizza has changed from good to better, and better to great, and then great to awesome, and awesome to excellent, and then to perfect, and I could keep going…
Daddy, I feel like I’m in pizza heaven right now.
Nestled along the LIE service road in Flushing, Queens, Brother’s Pizza has been slingin’ slices to neighborhood folks for the past 50 years.
Our pizza team recently got the chance to spend some time at Brother’s, where we spoke with Dennis, the owner, and Joe, who has been Brother’s pizzaman for 40 years.
“Joe knows me from when I was born. My mother used to bring me here in the stroller.”
“I bought the store about 3 years ago, and I worked here about 14 years prior to that. I started work here the day I got my drivers license. I always told the owner, ‘when you’re ready to go old man, I want in.’” -Dennis, Owner
Joe started making pizza here 40 years ago.
“I remember they were looking for a pizza maker, I called them up, and I came to their place, I came over here, and I’m still here.” - Joe, Maker
For Joe, making pizza is good work. He admits that “working in a place like this for 30 years is like working somewhere else for 50,” but he still loves his job. “For me, right now, I don’t wanna do nothing else except this.”
And as you might have guessed, making pizza for 40 years can really build up the ol’ “pizza muscles.”
Dennis: “When he takes off and goes on vacation, and I make the pizza, my shoulders hurt, and my hands hurt…”
Joe: “Maybe when you start, but to me, it doesn’t bother me. I make 20 pies, or I make 200 in a day, I feel the same.”
Brother’s is a straightforward New York pizza place that serves up a legit slice and not much else. But while customers come for the food, it’s the people that make it more than just a pizzeria.
“80% of the people who walk in that door know our names. Which goes a long way because they’re happy for you. So many people when I took the store over, were happy and proud of me, that they come back here because of that, because they saw me grow up, they saw me come here and start delivering a week before I got my drivers license, and they’ve known me now for 15 years and are glad.” - Dennis, Owner
Last but not least, Brother’s has some serious NYC celeb cred.
“We have Alec Baldwin come here all the time. He was here last week. Now he lost weight, so he can’t eat here that much anymore…his wife won’t let him.” - Joe, Maker
Popped into Pizza Suprema for an Upside Down slice this afternoon and noticed these cards next to the name plaques for each of their pies. According to the pizzaman, the cards are a response to a Department of Health regulation that requires pizzerias to record the time each pie was taken out of the oven, the temperature of the pie at that time, and to note when the pie will have to be discarded (4 hours after it was initially made). Initially I thought this was some sort of “freshness gimmick,” like a Born-On Date for a slice, but apparently Pizza Suprema has had these cards up for a over a year now, and a bit of research revelaed that this DOH regulation is at least a couple of years old.
If you’re as worried about the fate of the uneaten pizza as I was, don’t be. The pizzaman, gesturing towards the street-facing window that looks out on the southwest corner of Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, assured me that they don’t throw out very much pizza. “We got a good pizza, and we got a great location.”
“I know the people working here. I know the owner. It’s a nice business. It’s one of the few places still around since I was little. There’s been so much change around Chelsea. Mom and Pop shops are closing down left and right. This is one of the few places that was the same when I was little.”
Anthony, Eater - New York Pizza Suprema, Midtown, Manhattan.
This past Saturday we met up at the Brooklyn Library at Grand Army Plaza and biked out to Bay Ridge. For those that don’t know, Bay Ridge is located in the southwest corner of Brooklyn, and sports a lovely view of the Verazano bridge as well as some excellent slices of pizza.
We got to Pizza Wagon (5th Avenue and 86th st) at around 1:30 in the afternoon, the place was packed.
Pizza Wagon, 8610 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
We were immediately greeted with a loud “NEXT” after stepping inside. We ordered “three round” and found seats in a recently vacated booth.
The counter at Pizza Wagon
After sampling the goods, a thin-crust slice with a sweet sauce, quite good, we found Vito, the Wagon’s welcoming co-owner, who proudly explained to us that Pizza Wagon is just a “pizza and soda” place (no hero or salads, and only a limited number toppings).
Vito, Co-Owner of Pizza Wagon
Vito’s father-in-law Nunzio bought the Pizza Wagon in 1985 from his wife’s brother Philip, who opened the shop in 1966. It is now co-owned by Vito and Anthony (Nunzio’s son). The place has been selling the same round and square pies ever since. One couple we spoke to told us that they travel over an hour a few times a week to grab a couple of slices and icees from the Wagon.
Women in the Workforce: As Vito told us, ”ever since we started, there has been a girl behind the counter.” It started with Vito’s wife’s cousins and aunt back in the 70’s, then Vito’s wife and Mother-in_Law in the 80’s and continues today with his daughter, Leonarda. To find a woman working behind the counter of a pizza place is unique, and Pizza Wagon boasts that a woman’s presence in the shop is one of their proudest traditions.
Leonarda, Daughter of Vito
A Pizza Romance for the Ages: I should probably also mention that Vito and his wife met behind that very same counter. Vito started working at the Wagon when he was 17, where he immediately fell for his future wife…the boss’ daughter.
Customers at the Wagon told us that Nino’s on 92nd street and 3rd avenue was another spot we had to try, particularly the Grandmama slice (not your typical grandma slice, its actually called “grandmama,” like old school Larry Johnson, only thinner and with less cheese). The Grandmama ranks up there with the top slices we’ve had so far, and certainly worth a pizza-lovers trip out to Bay Ridge. As an added bonus, the owner blessed us with some Spumoni from L&B’s for dessert.
Bennie Cerva, Owner of Nino’s Pizza, 9110 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Outside Elegante Pizzeria, 6922 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Elegante was another spot that came highly recommended by both locals and the pizza inclined. Its on 69th street and 5th avenue, which was just a short bike ride away from Nino’s. Elegante has been there for 70 years - making it one of the oldest places we have been to. Tony, the sincere and soft-spoken owner, and his brother bought the shop about 30 years ago when Tony was just 17 (pause to consider what you were doing at 17). Elegante’s operation is rather austere, with just Tony and his brother alternating days running the shop, and Tony’s son lending a hand on the weekends.
Tony Varvara, Owner of Elegante Pizzeria