Or, 'A Plain Slice Review of Pizza 33, Mike's Pizza, Andiamo Pizzeria, Pizzanini, Ben's Pizzeria, and DeMarco's'


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20070814bubblesbug.jpgThis past Sunday, like so many of mine, was all about the pie. I started with a noon jaunt down to Luzzo's to reconfirm my love for the Naples-born Margherita DOC. However, as I was coming from uptown, I stumbled first upon good ol' Vinny Vincenz, as it's only one block north of Luzzo's on First Avenue. I had to at least stop in and grab one of Vin's excellent Sicilian slices, just to use it as a base case! Besides, Vinny has always been a friend of Slice's, and they even have E-Rock's classic review of the joint taped to their window—if other pie joints could only be so savvy! Of course, if I were Vezzo or L'Asso, I don't know if that would be such a good idea.

Anyway, Luzzo's was terrific (although you have to order their Margheritas with extra mozz, since they're awfully stingy with that), and Vincenzo was on point, Sicilian-style, and I went home satisfied. As a quick aside, I will say that Luzzo's crust is on par with Isabella's (on a good night, of course). The best indication that Luzzo's is on point has to be that it sits a half block from Una Pizza Napoletana and still draws comparable crowds on Friday nights.

At dinner time, I realized I hadn't been on a slice walk in some time. A slice walk is a pilgrimage to pie that I make every so often, typically on Sunday nights, where I have dinner by means of trying 3 or 4 slices from different Manhattan pizzerias. A slice walk is how I've tried, by my own modest estimate, approximately 200-plus pizzerias in Manhattan alone. These walks will never be all inclusive—I'm not eating pizza from a "deli" where I can also buy Rolos, and I'll never buy a slice from a joint after walking in and looking down at a monstrosity of a slice pie (trust me, you can tell when a slice is gonna be downright bad after going on enough of these, or so I thought).

I set out to do a downtown loop starting with the East Side and finishing in the West Village. On my way downtown, I couldn't help but set this walk up, properlike, with a very solid "base case." One of this borough's best aged-mozz slices is, undoubtedly, Pizza 33. Despite its delivery pies being a little up and down, you can always go into that place and pay $2.25 for a true example of a great New York slice. Crisp crust, sweet sauce, high-quality Grändé mozz but, more important, a perfect balance of all three—no one ingredient dominates the others. It proved to be the best slice of the night.

As I made my way into the 20s, I crossed over to Second Avenue and stopped off at a brightly lit slice joint that I'd walked past plenty of times but never dived in. Mike's Pizza, on the corner of 24th and Second, makes a pretty good pie. At $2, a cost that is actually decent these days, they deliver a solid New York slice. It's big, its crust is crisp, and its cheese and sauce are of above-average quality. No surprises here; you're getting a solid slice, and you could do much worse—you'll see what I mean....

A couple blocks below Mike's was a place I'd forgone on a number of prior slice walks for good reason. Andiamo Pizzeria's slice pies have never really seemed that great—the cheese always looked like it had a layer of thin, shiny plastic covering it. That just turned out to be a lot of grease. This slice had no redeeming qualities—the crust was stale, and the sauce was thick and tasteless. Please avoid at all costs. I was surprised to find a decent crowd in here on a Sunday at 10 p.m.

I continued on down to the East Village, that last bastion of true grit and character in New York. Not quite. While this neighborhood was certainly hopping for a Sunday night, it was mostly tourists and B&Ters. Pizzanini, a hopeful looking joint on the corner of St. Mark's and Second Avenue, was starting to close, but I noticed it still had a couple of slice pies up that it was trying to sell off. Certainly not the worst slice I had all night (that honor, of course, belongs to Andiamo), but it was forgettable. While I actually housed their slice because I had to throw out my last piece of pie from you-know-who, it was nothing more than mediocre ingredients coming out of a standard Baker's Pride oven. If you want something with a little more kick, shuffle over one block east to St. M's and First Ave., where—I forget the name of the place—but they stay open later and offer a slice with a higher quality mozz and sauce. But Pizzanini? Bubbles don't play dat!

Walking past a street artist selling his sketches on St. Mark's, I felt a sense of admiration for his dedication to his craft. It made me reflect on my own life. What was it that lit my fire, kept me going, made life worth living? Then it hit me: walking my fat ass all over Manhattan to eat more pizza! Too sweet!

All ruminating aside, it was time to get serious. I knew I needed to head west late on a Sunday night to get some real slice relief. I had just had Joe's last week so I decided to put Ben's back in my rotation—for tonight, anyways. What a mistake. Ben's on 3rd and MacDougal (not the one in SoHo) actually has the potential to be one of the village's best slices, but it's too damn greasy to be anything more than drunk hungry food. I wasn't drunk, and, to be honest, I wasn't that hungry anymore. This fifth slice was really for the love of the game—the slice game, yo! I had set a new personal record, and that is always something to be proud of! At any rate, Ben's has a nice sauce and crisp crust but, come on, way too much of that mozz just weighed its slice down and greased it up. If I wanted that, I could've stayed closer to home and thrown out another Andiamo slice!

The actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Third Rock From the Sun, Brick, 10 Things I Hate About You—yeah you love it!), was in front of me in line for my last slice at DeMarco's on the corner of Houston and MacDougal. This was the second time in two months that I have run into the thespian—and for the second time in two months, he was approached by a young hipstress complementing him on his "acting chops." Unbelievable.

DeMarco's is co-owned and operated by the son and daughter of Di Fara legend Dom DeMarco. DeMarco's is not Di Fara. No pizzeria will ever be Di Fara, no matter how close the familial ties run. Di Fara is the pinnacle of a New York slice. DeMarco's makes one that is better than average. I prefer its Sicilian to its plain pie, actually. At any rate, DeMarco's plain slice lacks a certain balance that Di Fara has always been able to maintain. For one, there is way too much cheese on its slices, despite the fact that I like its Di Fara–based blend of fresh mozz, aged mozz, and grana padano—nice soft-sharp contrast. Although Dom's progeny also uses a standard gas-fired steel-deck oven, they just don't have the crust down yet. Their slice is expendable in my all-star rotation, whereas Dom's never is—whether it's my first slice or my sixth.

Slice readers, you counted right—I housed six slices over the course of one evening after having pizza for lunch. No rest for the DJ, I'll tell you that. As I was walking home up Seventh Avenue, I stopped in at Bleecker Street Pizza, who Food Network recently bestowed as New York's best pie. If Bleecker Street makes the best pie in New York, then I'm food critic Jed Levine. It does make a good slice, but tonight its slice pie looked like something eerily familiar—you remember my last article about a place called Vezzo? A thin, crisp crust with a sauce like Spaghetti-O's and burnt cheese? I decided that I'd cut my losses and walk home without number seven, save myself the added heartburn, and maybe even net out the calories burned with the calories consumed. With six slices in one night, though, I didn't stand a chance. Let's just say I had to loosen up the belt a little Monday morning.

Until next time…..

BUBBLES OUT!

More Dispatches from the Bubbster

DJ Bubbles Wishes You a Happy New Year
Vezzo, the DJ Bubbles Drive-By
Isabella's Oven, The DJ Bubbles Drive-By
The Best Grandma Slice in New York?
The Syracuse Pizza Manifesto
From the Mailbag: 'The Definitive Top 10 List'

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