Louie & Ernie's
Location: 1300 Crosby Avenue, The Bronx NY 10461 (Pelham Bay; map)
Getting There: 6 train to Buhre Ave.; walk south along Crosby Ave. to 1300. It's a 10- to 15-minute walk
Payment: Cash only
The Skinny: Creamy, somewhat-sparingly applied mozzarella plus plenty of piquant Parmigiano and an ever-so-salty crust make this one of the best noncoal oven/nonartisanal pies I've had. Readily accessible only to those who live nearby in the Bronx's Pelham Bay neighborhoodand even those lucky stiffs have to make the trek there because Louie & Ernie's doesn't do delivery.
I was beginning to doubt my own sense of pizza judgment until I met a number of slices at Louie & Ernie's last Saturday night. It's easy to judge the merits of one coal-oven place to the next or among the pies of the growing legion of Neapolitan-style places popping up in the city. But when it comes to a good, honest down-home slice joint, things get dicey. They all seem to pile on the cheese, use the same boring sauce, and prepare their crust according to some tired, doughy formula they copied out of Passionless Pizza Recipes
Louie & Ernie's manages to avoid these faults, all the while restoring my faith that I can actually tell a good regular slice when I come across it. Louie & Ernie's also gives me hope that there are more places like it in New York Citypreferably ones closer to my home and office.
Noted pizza critic Ed Levine, in his book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, calls a Louie & Ernie's slice a "diminutive triangle of pizza pleasure in which grated cheese and full-cream mozzarella sparingly cover a thin-enough crust." That sums up what I experienced, though the cheese may have been laid on a bit thicker than when Mr. Levine visited and also a bit thicker than the delicious-slice I sampled at The Battle of the Boroughs Pizza Contest held by Life magazine in November of last year. Still, the overall color of a plain slice here is more orange than yellow, telling me that the underlying sauce is being given a chance to breathe. It's a hint that the crust-sauce-cheese ratio just may be in balance. The first few bites comfirmed this.
True to Mr. Levine's words, the mozzarella was exceedingly creamy, and the grated Parmigiano gave the slice a nice piquant edge. The crust was thinner than most, with the essential crisp-chewy dynamic. For some reason (the Louie & Ernie's employee sitting a couple tables behind me might be that reason), I didn't feel bold enough to take the usual pizza upskirt crust shot that longtime Slice readers have come to expect. Just know that it was a golden-brown color consistent with the crispness experienced.
I ordered half the pie topped with sausage. They use the chunk-style sausage, which I'm fond of, rather than the sliced style. My small pie was $12.75; plain smalls are $11. Large plains are $12.50. Slices (plain) are $2.
The only thing that put a damper on my trip had nothing to do with the pizza. The weather sucked an egg. Saturday, if you'll recall was rainy, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, and the directions HopStop gave me were wack, putting me on the 5 train to Pelham Parkway and then the Bx8 bus. Ugh. It's best to take the 6 to the Buhre Avenue station and either hop the Bx8 on Crosby Avenue or walk. HopStop is all wet, and as a result, so was I (right).