A DISPATCH FROM SLICE PIZZA CLUB NO. 3
On the beautiful day that was last Saturday, Slice Pizza Club No. 3 convened at Sac's Place Pizza in Astoria. Five people sat down to lunch that afternoon, including this reporter, who also served as the lone representative of this publication. This is the story of what they ate.
The club sat down to a white-tablecloth bedecked table in the restaurant's east-facing atrium. Moments later, our enthusiastic waiter appeared with Sac's Place's literally hefty menus. After a quick perusal of said menu and a short tally of no-can-do items, the club decided on its first piebut not before the waiter tried to upsell the group a few times on bottles of wine, salads, appetizers, etc. Following a final attempt at getting them to part with their drinking money (was it mentioned that he was enthusiastic?), the Club told him simply but firmly, "We're just here for the pizza. We'll have a large mushroom-and-pepperoni pie, please."
Indeed, the Club was just there for the pie because Sac's Place boasts one thing that only a handful of pizzerias in this fair city can claim: A coal-fired oven (pictured left in a photo graciously lent to this journal by Tien, who was in attendance).
The pizza that arrived at table (above) looked and smelled fantastic. It was not drowned in a uniform sea of cheese, as are most pizzas in this city. Instead, creamy-looking whorls of mozzarella seemed to eddy about in a slightly-pulpy bright-red sauce. As for the toppings, Sac's menu states, "We don't sprinkle the toppings, we load it up." This gasconade had the group worried it would be presented an unbalanced sloppy mess, but this was not the case. Though the pepperoni and mushrooms were in good supply, they did not overpower the other toppings, as feared.
This balance is achieved, Club members found, through a crust that is thicker than the typical coal-oven crust and through the liberal laying-on of sauce and cheesea trait that was easier to discern in the plain pie (right) that was ordered next.
Though thicker than what you'd find at, say, Totonno's or Patsy's (East Harlem), Sac's crust is surprisingly airy and lightand yet somehow stands up crisply to the copious amount of topping material. Though substantial tip sag was in evidence with the first pie (most likely due to the presence of mushrooms), it was possible, by concavely bowing the outer crust between thumb and middle finger, to maneuver the slice from plate to mouth in an entirely horizontal orientation. After sitting on the pizza pan absorbing moisture, however, no amount of trickery would alleviate the tip sag that often occurs in most pizza crusts after time. Disappointing, though, was that the otherwise crispy golden-brown crust exhibited none of the charring (or distinct but indescribable taste) that is a hallmark of the coal-fired oven.
The cheese and sauce were good, the former tasting especially fresh (the menu says "...all our pizza pies are made with homemade mozzarella...") while the latter had a kind of spicy richness to it. Though this pizzeria somehow manages to balance out the thicker crust with plenty of sauce and cheese, at times there's often so much of both that eating a Sac's slice gets quite messy. And on the three occasions that this reporter has been to Sac's, the distribution of cheese was inconsistent on two of the five pies sampled, with too much gooey goodness amassing on some slices, leaving the others drowning in a surfeit of sauce.
Besides its almost-secret coal-oven status, another interesting thing about Sac's is that it has a regular gas-fired oven as well (which you can make out at far left in the photo of the coal oven above). When Slice metro editor Seltzerboy checked the place out last month, he noted that this oven served the more casual walk-in slice side of the restaurant. He reported that, while the pies sold by the slice were initially cooked in the coal oven, they were reheated in the gas oven.
This reporter has sampled only the whole pies available and therefore cannot comment on Sac's by-the-slice pizza. As the meeting adjourned to the Bohemian Beer Garden, however, he was left with the feeling that, while Sac's Place is not in the "elite flite" of coal-oven pizzerias, every neighborhood in the city would be so lucky as to have a pie shop like it.
Thanks to all who showed up: Christina, Christiona, Janelle, Shannan, and Tien.
SAC'S PLACE PIZZA
Location: 25-41 Broadway, Astoria, Queens
Prices: See menu below
Payment accepted: Cash, Visa, MasterCard
Getting there: Take the N/W to the Broadway stop in Astoria. Walk a couple blocks west along Broadway until you find Sac's.
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SAC'S EXCURSION
ABOVE, FROM LEFT: A string of cheese oozes from pizza to plate, making sure to spread its tastiness to the rim of a diner's glass of Coca-Cola along the way. Tien and TRJ are two of Slice's most faithful readers; we're glad they could attend. BELOW, FROM LEFT: Sac's Place's take-out menu. (We only scanned the front and back, as the two interior pages do not contain pizza-related material.) Adam K., in a photograph by Tien.
Sac's Place Pizza
Address: 2541 Broadway, Astoria NY 11106