WORDS BY SELTZERBOY
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Adam K.
"Everything has to end eventually," Enofrio Gaudioso was telling us the other day, in between folding calzones and sharing yarns about pizza past. "It's time."
For Mr. Gaudioso, that time arrives in less than two weeks, when he turns off the oven at his Red Hook pizzeria, the House of Pizza and Calzone, for the final time, passing the pizza peel to a new owner. It will be the first time in forty-six years when pizza won't be on his mind.
In New York, a pizza shop shuttering is almost akin to a hack running a red light. Most of the time, it hardly merits attention. That's because pizza always seems to resurface somewhere. In this instance, the countertop cases at 132 Union Street will soon display the work of another proprietor. What's lost is the personality behind the pie, the soul behind the sauce. To be sure, we like the wares at House of Pizza and Calzone. But we like what it embodies even more.
Mr. Gaudioso is one of those hangers-on we hear about on occasion but don't encounter often enough: a little gruff on the outside but warm and giving on the inside. Dedicated to his craft but even more to his customers. "I'll miss the people," he says. "But that's it."
Slice has been frequenting House of Pizza and Calzone recently, and Friday found the Slice czar and I indulging in some, well, pizza and calzone. Mr. Gaudioso serves a proud pie without being pompous. Nothing artisanal, and no hard-to-find ingredientsevidence that care often counts most in producing a perfect pizza. The reheated slices look unassuming, but have a strong sauce atop a neatly charred (if somewhat thick) crust; they sell for $1.75 apiece. Then, the calzones. Pockets of pizza dough stuffed with a ricotta-and-mozzarella mixture and small chunks of ham before being deep-fried for several minutes. (Ham is not available in the calzones on Fridays, and these are what we sampled.) One could suffice as a meal by itself, making its $4 price tag a bargain.
NAMESAKES A plain pie that E-Rock and Adam K. ordered two Saturdays ago (left) and a deep-fried calzone (yes, deep-fried) fresh out of the hot oil (right). You can see Mr. Gaudioso removing the pockets from the fryer above. Below right is a barely discernable depiction of cheese oozing from a hot calzone; Seltzerboy and the shop's pizzaioli can be seen in reflection.
After dining, we swapped a few words with Mr. Gaudioso. In his quiet, raspy voice he chewed the fat with us on a number of subjects: life in South Brooklyn before Robert Moses plowed through (the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is one block east); the contendas from the docks who were common customers; a hot-dog stand nearby a half cenutry ago; and, oddly enough, competitive eating. (The House of Pizza and Calzone records, attained at separate times, are thirteen slices and five calzones. "Fughetaboutit," Mr. Gaudioso says.)
We asked a few more questions, reminisced over some old pictures, and perused some yellowed newspaper clippings on the wallamong the few things still remaining on the nearly bare walls. Mr. Gaudioso then treated us to a few zepoles topped with a smattering of confectioners' sugar.
House of Pizza and Calzone is pizza without the complications. Before New York pizza became an overhyped destination food, purveyors without pretension were the standard. House of Pizza and Calzonepizza without the complicationsis one of the few that remains. The neighborhood characters who wander in and out, including the employees, are the only toppings needed for these pies, and there's no extra charge. It's one of those places many use as their extended living room. When you go, enjoy it all. Just be sure to do it soon.
HOUSE OF PIZZA AND CALZONE
Hours: Sporadic. Closed Sundays. Open from noon to 7:30-ish
Payment: Cash only
Getting there: F train to Carroll Street. Exit station; walk north to Union (2 blocks at most). Head west on Union about 4.5 blocks. House is just across the BQE on the south side of the street.
Recommended: The slices are good, but the deep-fried calzone's the thing