Artichoke, a Crisis of Conscience, and Some Tough Questions

On Friday I posted an entry with the emailed text of two tipsters eager to hip Slice to Artichoke, a new pizzeria in the East Village. Later, in the comments of that post and on Eater, people raised concerns that we had guerrilla marketers in our midst. I'd like to address that.

Are They Shills?

Are they? I don't think so. In email exchanges I've had with both guys since publication of that post, they've seemed aboveboard.

If I'm being fooled, however, then I will admit that in my rush to "break news" about a potentially hot new pizzeria, I didn't read those emails with the amount of skepticism that I'd like to think has kept Slice free of shills over the years I've been publishing.

With Friday's post, I lost sight of one of Slice's founding principles—that only verfied and trusted voices come through in the blog posts. Over the years that I've edited Slice, I've always been careful to run only information from trusted sources—either from friends whose pizza judgment I trusted or from Slice readers who I'd come to know and trust either through email, exchanges in the comments section, or via their own blogs. You might not have always agreed with these sources, but you could always trust their sincerity.

Though I do trust the two sources today, that wasn't the case on Friday afternoon as I rushed to publish. I didn't do my due diligence before publication, and for that, I'm sorry.

So What Happened?

I wanted to be first.

So many people blogging about restaurants in New York or posting to various forums clamor to break the first word of a new restaurant. To post pictures of it under construction. To bum rush it in previews or on opening night—only to run back to their computers and be the first to hit "Publish" and watch the traffic pour in through links. That's a crazy game, one that takes something that should pleasurable and fun—eating pizza and blabbing about it—and turns it into a race to get anything up, regardless of whether it's informative or not.

I've done it myself and often feel a tremendous pressure to do so—all in the name of keeping Slice relevant to Slice readers. If you as a reader can get the first report from John Q. Werty, what's the point my blogging about it here on Slice?

But that mindset, on Friday, defeated itself. That post, now that it's being questioned, has been rendered irrelevant to Slice readers.

If I haven't lost your trust completely, all I can promise from now on is a renewed vigilance in the hot-tips department and a return to the careful meditation on New York pizza that I founded this site to chronicle. After all, when I started this jalopy rolling, the point wasn't to get there first but to enjoy the journey.

So, Did You Visit? How Was It?

Artichoke (by Slice)

Artichoke Sicilian Upskirt (by Slice)Enough soul-searching. So, yeah. I pretty much had to get down there myself. So on the way to see the Steve Malkmus rock show last night, I ducked in to try a single piece of each of their slice pies—a regular, a Sicilian, and the specialty artichoke-spinach slice.

I grabbed the slices to go, wanting to get out from under the owners' eyes while I attended to snapping photos of the goods and upskirting the slices. Heading down Second Avenue, I ducked into the Chase ATM lobby on 10th Street, pulled some drinkin' money out, and made use of the brightly lit space to snap some pix. Unfortunately, my damn camera picked that moment to run out of batteries, so I only got the two you see here.

As I chowed down in the bank, I discovered a pretty damn good slice or two out of the trio. I think my personal favorite was the Sicilian slice, with a light, springy crust that was just a tad oily but otherwise very good. Plenty of garlic and a fresh-tasting sauce, topped by a blend of Polly-o regular mozzarella, fresh mozzarella from a mozzarella-maker out on Staten Island, and pecorino Romano reggiano. And a little bit of basil. Folks in the comments of the original post complained of burned bottoms on the square slices. No such deal here (right; click for larger image). Just an even dark-brown color.

The regular slice itself does have some similarities to Di Fara (and, OMG, I hate making this effing comparison because that's always going to be the one that crops up). As at Dom's place, the pies at Artichoke have a sort of handmade irregularity to them and a similar appearance as far as cheese and sauce distribution go. And the ample dose of the dry, aged Romano cheese really goes a long way toward reinforcing the comparison.

But I'm going to have to say that my man Ed Levine was right when he said the crust had too much "crisp" and not enough "chew." I found the crust a little dry, as well—at least on the regular slice. The square had enough oil—I'm guessing to keep it from sticking to the pan—to give it some satisfying moisture.

The special artichoke-spinach slice is topped with a thick layer of sauce studded with bits of roasted artichokes and spinach. It's tasty, creamy, very interesting, very filling, and, in the end, for me, more a novelty I'll likely pass up in favor of a square or regular. When Ed says it tastes like a dip at a college party, he's dead on. I used to go nuts for the Hot Artichoke Dip at Free State when I attended KU. And this otherwise addictive and delicious dip tasted remarkably similar. I used to devour the stuff—in small doses—at Free State, but I think I'd have a hard time finishing an entire slice of it. So, yeah: tasty, good, but too rich and filling for my blood.

Conclusion: It's a great addition to the neighborhood, and it looks like it's shaping up to give nearby slice joints a run for their money.