Photographs by Nick Solares
60 Greenpoint Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11222; 347-987-3747; pauliegee.com
Pizza Style: Neapolitan-style pizza
Oven Type: Wood-fired oven
The Skinny: As much as a labor of love as any pizzeria out there, Paulie Gee's creates a warm, inviting mood and serves wonderful pies patterned on the Neapolitan model but with a local slant
Price: Individual pies, $11 to $17
Notes: Liquor license coming next week
If Paulie Gee ever runs out of fuel for his oven, he could probably scuttle his restaurant's interior, which is decked out floor to ceiling in wood, and keep making pizzas for several weeks. It wouldn't be the first time the wood has been reused. The entire decor at Paul "Paulie Gee" Giannone's eponymous pizzeria is made from salvaged and surplus building materials supplied by Build It Green NYC. It satisfies Williamsburg's Bohemian ethos and creates a warm, homey feeling—sort of like eating in a candlelit barn. You've heard of haute barnyard cuisine? This is a haute barnyard pizzeria. Predictably, considering that "Napoli" is tattooed on to the face of his custom-built, wood-fired oven, Paulie Gee serves Neapolitan-style style pizzas. Wood-burning oven, Neapolitan-style pizza, an eclectic, bohemian decor. Sound familiar?
If you are noticing some similarities between Paulie Gee's and Roberta's in Bushwick they are not entirely unintentional. "I love Roberta's" states Giannone unequivocally. When his chef called in sick for the crucial friends and family opening Chris Parachini of Roberta's sent over some of his workers to help out. I think Giannone would be flattered to hear that his place has a similar vibe to Roberta's.
I think he would be equally flattered to know that his pizza is in the same league as Roberta's and indeed many of the other New York City pizzerias—Motorino, and Kesté, for example—to which he shows such reverence.
Take the beautifully constructed Regina—the cornicione puffy and light, mottled with black blisters it comes slathered in a vibrant fresh tomato sauce, blanketed in small, glistening pools of fior di latte and a smattering of basil. Giannone worries that his sauce it too sweet. "Some people complain," he says with a sigh. I think it tastes like fresh tomatoes, which are inherently sweet, which is how it should taste. In fact, I think the flavor and synthesis of the pie as a whole is spot on—the creamy cheese, tangy sauce perfumed with basil, a hint of salt to bring it all out.
While the form of the pie is undeniably Neapolitan, the execution skews toward more local tastes. The pies that come from Paulie Gee's oven are crisper and more well done than your average pizzeria in Naples. The watery center and complete tip sag are not apparent here; you don't even really need a knife and fork. Especially because the pizza here is apportioned in six slices rather than four (or none, as I had in Naples). When I return I will be sure to ask for a soft pie.
I also tried the Bacon Marmalade Picante, which is a pizza as it might be envisioned by David Chang of Momofuku. A white pie comes layered with thin slivers of red onion and dollops of a smoky, salty bacon concoction. It is a wonderful albeit nontraditional pie, and it made me want to return to try some of Giannone's other creations.
If there were ever an ambassador of pizza goodwill, it would be Giannone. His passion for pie is evident. I can't think of a pizzeria since Una Pizza Napoletana that is as much a labor of love than the restaurant Giannone has crafted on the edge of the Brooklyn.