Pauline & Sharon's
597 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215 (17th/18th streets; map); 718-788-7333; paulineandsharons.com
Getting there: R train to Prospect Avenue
Pizza style: New York–style
Oven type: Gas-fuel deck oven
The skinny: Exemplary New York–style pizza with a flavorful crust, a robust sauce, and a scattering of fresh oregano — a nice touch. If the place looks familiar, that's because new owner T. J. O'Connor took over the spot that used to be Peppe's Pizza & Panini
Price: $2 a slice; $10 for a 12-inch pizza; $14 for 18-inch pie
One of the most gratifying things to a slice-snooper is finding a "hidden gem" of a place. That's been nearly impossible, though, ever since Jim Leff founded Chowhound way back whenever that was. (Could that possibly have been 1997?!?) And with Twitter, and Facebook, and whatever else, forget it. The days of finding some place nobody had heard of and then spreading the news have been long gone.
But what about Pauline & Sharon's? Open now since November 2010, it seems to have cruised silently beneath the digital waves, making hardly a ripple. Could it be that rarest of things, a true hidden gem?
Alas, no. Word has trickled out. It's got five reviews (as of this posting date) on Yelp — all overwhelmingly positive. And you know what, based on what I have observed and eaten, the place deserves it. Slices here are exactly what you want your classic New York pizza to be like. The crust is crisp, just the ideal thickness (we're talkin' Goldilocks here*), with a satisfying chewiness and the kind of flavor that only comes with a 2-plus-day dough-fermentation process. Bubbles of slightly charred crust and browned cheese form at the edges of the pies. The sauce is a robust, simmered-down, herb-spiked concoction. Cheese is decent quality pizza cheese — not too much, not too greasy. In all, a stand-up slice and well worth your time to seek out or order from.
One caveat on this "review": I have thus far sampled only two plain slices. (More on that later.)
If the place looks familiar to you South Slopers, that's because Pauline & Sharon's owner T. J. O'Connor took over the space that used to be Peppe's Pizza & Panini. In fact, the old Peppe's awning is still there, leaving you to wonder, as I did, whether the "Pauline & Sharon" neon sign in the window hinted at some sort of meta pizzeria-within-a-pizzeria concept.
Peppe's, if you might remember, started out the gate strong back in 2007, but problems there took a toll on the place's reputation to the point where owner Peppe Salvitti eventually sold to O'Connor.
O'Connor, a former sous chef at Belcourt, uses a slow-fermentation method on his dough, allowing it to develop the slightly tangy flavor that you'd never get in a same-day dough. Such attention to detail is seen in other areas — the slow-simmered sauce, the fresh-pulled mozzarella and house-made fennel sausage, even the little bits of fresh oregano scattered across the slice pies in the case. My only complaint might be that the slices I had were a hair too salty and that there was a bit too much bench flour on the bottom of the pizza. But, like I said, this was all from one pizza — too small a sample size to judge by.
I'm just going to admit it — this is not a thorough review. I had actually gone to the neighborhood to check out another pizzeria** for today's blabbage but was so enamored of P&S's that I decided to review it instead. But when I went back yesterday for daylight photos and more sampling, the place was shuttered for St. Paddy's.
No, this is more an "impression," an IOU, if you will. I just felt so strongly about this place that I wanted to get the word out. So far, this place seems like a winner. I'll revisit ASAP and bring you a full report after I eat my way through the goods there. (I'm especially excited about the chunky house-made sausage.) In the meantime, if you live in the neighborhood, don't let Peppe's poor reputation turn you off. Ignore the old awning and focus only on the Pauline & Sharon's sign. Get in here, try a slice, order a pizza for delivery.
I think this place is doing good things. Recommended, so far ...
* Not too thin, not too thick — just right. ** I'll let you guess which one it was.