The draw: Strong word-of-mouth recommendations to the DJ, "Thin Crust Pizza," two sister pizzerias (Gruppo and Posto) that are also doing very well, a brick-oven, cash only (often indicative of high quality, e.g., Patsy's of East Harlem, Una Pizza Napoletana), and an exceptional Zagat rating for Gruppo (26 for qualityVezzo makes the same pie, trust me).
The facts: Wow, it's Sunday night and it's been a busy weekend. Kinda want to just stay on the couch, maybe order in. A dinner jaunt doesn't sound good right now, not even for a pie. I know, pretty pathetic. I had been seeing some big crowds while walking past Vezzo lately and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. And, although you know that I don't like to rate a joint's delivery pie, in this instance, it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. A trip to Vezzo for a fresh made pie would not undermine any of the DJ's conclusions contained in this article.
A delivered pizza typically has a softer crust and cools everything down. But the crust was actually the best part, I looked forward to getting to the end of the slice, where I devoured the pie's border crust that had a hard-to-find "snap" when you bit into it. In fact, after my first slice of a large plain pie, I could tell that the pizzaiolo who made my pie knew his way around a brick oventhe crust, one of the thinnest in town, had a nice char and a great upskirt (right).
But for all the attention this pie man must've paid to the pie's underbelly, he failed to realize that he burned the top! I know, pure sacrilege, and I even like my pies a little crisped up. The aged mozz was adequate in terms of quality but again, it was burnt, and the melted yellow was interrupted with patches of brown char:
The sauce was a dark orange paste that had basil and oregano mixed in and kind of melded with the cheese. It reminded me of the sauce in SpaghettiO's (uh oh)something I've tried hard to forget. The thing is, this pizza wasn't flat out bad, and the body of the slice had a chewiness to it that served as a nice yin to the border crust's crisp yang. But this is New York, man. The reputation that preceded this place was too strong for it to deliver only a decent pie.
The diagnosis: The The Vezzo-Gruppo-Posto trio is overrated, and it's about time somebody said as much (cue the Bubbster's entrance music). More pointedly, how is it still open given its proximity to Pizza 33 and Totonno's?
Last, I would be remiss if I failed to say something about Gruppo's inflated quality rating of 26 in the 2007 edition of Zagat. In light of the fact that it is ranked higher than every pizzeria in the city except Grimaldi's and Di Fara, (the three of them are tied for firsta rating that is laughable), I have been left with little choice but to draft (and hopefully publish) the Definitive Manhattan Pizza guide. Friends, don't worry, it's already well under way. Haters and bootleg pizza joints on the Isle of Manahatta, you can run but you can't hide!
PSRandom notes, went out to the Jersey shore last month to kick back and relax. For better or worse, my group ended up on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. After a night of guido-watching, I needed some slice relief. My tour guide, Sir Adnar P. Grapeleaves, suggested the Saw Mill down at the south end of the boardwalk. They were closing just as we came to their entrance. Sir Grapeleaves told the pizzeria's bouncer (only on the NJ Boardwalk!) that I was a SliceNY correspondent and wanted to try their pie and give it some press on the website. He wasn't impressed. I guess Vezzo isn't the only joint on my No Slice list at the moment!
And one last bite to chew on, I had a plain slice at Joe's this past Friday; very comparable ingredients and quality to Pizza 33, albeit a bit thinnerit didn't take 33 long to get it right, huh?
More Dispatches from the Bubbster
DJ Bubbles Wishes You a Happy New Year
A Sunday Night Slice Walk
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'