Gravesend, Brooklyn: Ciccio's Pizza
Words by Luke Weiss, Special to Slice | The first time I went to Ciccio's was about seven years ago. My father had told me about a place he had been to in the '80s that served only slicesno calzones, no heroes, nothing but slices. I took the F down to Avenue U hoping to discover this gem. I walked up and down Avenue U, marking each pizza place I passed. I couldn't find the joint he had mentioned, and, realizing I had to choose, settled on the diminutive storefront of Ciccio's Pizza for my lunch needs.
Bensonhurst is a sparkling neighborhood, the lights from the nail salons glow up and down avenue U, and there always seems to be some sort of street decorations stretching between the light fixtures. It smells incredible as you pass the Italian delis and sausage markets, but it is the pizza places of the neighborhood that have a truly special feeling. You are likely to see grandma (she makes the sauce) sitting in a corner huddled over a cane, occasionally spitting some rebuke in Italian at her misbegotten nephews who run the counter.
The first thing I heard upon walking into Ciccio's was the counter guys arguing, in Italian, of course. I walked to the back, next to a tiny refrigerator filled only with Manhattan Specials, and looked at the offerings. I ordered a slice and was rewarded with a fresh one, no reheating necessary. The slices at Ciccio's are pretty standard. They don't do the fancy fresh-mozzarella thing. No pretension, just a New York slice. The one thing that makes a Ciccio's slice unique is the sesame seeds sprinkled on the crust. An aspect of the ingredients that I was not entirely sure about at the time.
I think it was about halfway through the second slice that I realized I was eating the best pizza I had ever tasted. The consistency of the layers was perfectno drooping, but not too thick, either. The sauce was light, not overly sweet, and was rich in flavor. The dough was baked into a thin and just barely crusty state. The sesame seeds were a brilliant finishing touch. They seemed to wrap the tastes and textures together neatly, always present but not overpowering. The result is a slice that had no loose ends, no flavors come out of the texture; all is balanced in this delicious slice.
I have been back several times over the years, and never has Ciccio's disappointed me. It is the best slice pizza I have had. Placing the word best with any place but Di Fara is difficult. Though Di Fara has unparalleled fresh pies and beautiful ingredients, Ciccio's, unlike Di Fara, maintains quite a bit of flavor if you tuck a slice away for later.
Address: 207 Avenue U, Brooklyn NY 11223 [map]
Hours: M-Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays
Oven: Gas-fired, steel-deck