When I walked by Ciccio's Pizza in Gravesend, Brooklyn, last week there was a large group of men loitering outside, a couple of them sitting in chairs, the rest standing around, some smoking cigarettes, all of them shooting the breeze. This, I've found, is often a good sign. It means it's where the locals go, and if the locals like a place, you want to believe it's because the joint serves good food.
That turned out to be the case at Ciccio's, which is of the sesame-seed-crust school of pizza. The slices here are thin but not thin enough to droop. Almost uniformly crisp throughout, there's still enough give and flexibility to fold your slice.
The crust-to-sauce-to-cheese ratio is good. It's a cheesy slice, but not overwhelmingly so. The crust has a slightly nutty flavor to it, even before you get to the sesame seeds, toasted by the oven, on the edge of the slice. The sauce is slightly sweet (but not crazily sweet) and spiked with the typical assortment of old-school NYC-style seasonings.
About as good as the pizza is the atmosphere there. This is an Italian-American place. Signs behind the cashier read "Old Italians never die, they just pasta away" or "Italians, like wine, get better with age." Regulars come in and out, comment about whatever the staff or hangers-on are reading in the Daily News, or complain about their landlords. You get the feeling everyone knows everyone else here. (And that a dude whipping out a camera to take a picture of his slice is not a common occurrence.)
An interesting thing to note, too, is the unique set-up of the joint. It's long and narrow, with the actual pizzamaking area sort of lofted in the back of the place about a quarter story up. It's almost like a little hidden stage where the pizzaman can do his thing relatively uninterrupted by the guys on the sidewalk, the regulars shuffling in and out, or a pizza blogger who figured it'd be better not to whip out a camera and start shooting.
And a final interesting note: Gravesend is the neighborhood where the bank robbery that inspired Dog Day Afternoon happened. And if you remember that film, you may also remember that robber Sonny Wartzik (played by Al Pacino) ordered pizza in the middle of the ordeal for the hostages. Did it come from Ciccio's? We don't know that, but it's nice to imagine.
207 Avenue U, Brooklyn NY 11223 (at West 5th Street; map) 718-372-9695
See also: Ciccio's Pizza (11/13/2006) »