Toby's Public House, a Familiar Pizza in New, Laid-Back Surroundings

Toby's Public House

686 Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (at 21st Street; map); 718-788-1186;
Oven Type: Wood-burning
Pie Style: Neapolitan
The Skinny: A relaxing, laid-back pub whose name belies the fact that there are some great little Neapolitan-style pizzas coming out of the rustic wood-burning oven here. Small, 12-inch, well-balanced pies are crisp at the edges but do exhibit some tip sag

You could be excused for overlooking the great little pies being served at Toby's Public House. The exterior looks more like something I'd imagine you'd see in small-town England, and the name doesn't exactly scream pizza. But step inside, glance to the back, and you'll find a rustic-looking wood-burning oven with a couple no-nonsense-looking pizzaioli going at it with the dough.

What's more, on our initial visit there last week, we spotted a familiar face—Nicola Bertolotti, who once worked as the lead pizzaiolo at Fornino in Williamsburg. I've always liked the pizza at Fornino, so I Bertolotti's presence seemed to go a long way in backing up the praise-laden emails and IMs I'd been getting about the place since it opened in March.

Pizzas here are Neapolitan-style, about 12 inches in diameter, and come out of the oven crisp, chewy and foldable. Crispness consistency seems to vary from pie to pie. Our sausage and onion pie (top) was near perfect on the crisp-chewy scale, but our Buffalina (above; a Margherita topped with buffalo mozzarella) had some major tip sag on half the slices while the other half of the pie was crisp enough to present a proud upskirt (right).

When we sent a second round of Slice correspondents out for another go (I had been spotted and wanted an unvarnished sampling), the pies were reportedly crisper. We might conclude that, like many pizzerias with temperamental wood- or coal-burning ovens, the consistency may vary here.

What seems pretty certain though is the nice balance of crust, sauce, and cheese. I thought the sauce was pretty standout. While many Neapolitan places feature a barely-cooked (or not-cooked-at-all sauce), this one was thick and rich and had a pleasant enough herby flavor.

For me, the jury's still out on Toby's until I can visit it enough to see if it holds up. But it's a great addition to this part of whatever neighborhood it's in—Park Slope? Windsor Terrace? "Greenwood Heights"? And it's good enough to draw me the 20-minute walk from my North Slope home.

Bonus Coverage: Dessert Calzone


Photograph by Raphael

I won't go too much into this thing, but Toby's also offers a unique (at least to me) dessert in its nutella-ricotta calzone. It seems like a weird combo, but it works. Paired with a glass of Fra Angelico, as suggested by the staff, and you're golden. More on this item at Serious Eats New York »