I walked into Artichoke, the latest pizzeria to be deemed the "new Di Fara" around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Of course it seems to me that being deemed the new Di Fara is the food equivalent of being deemed "the new Dylan" in singer-songwriter circles. But I digress. The place was abuzz with activity, but there was nary a slice in sight.
I was told to come back in 30 minutes. After an unscheduled appetizer of fried chicken at Momofuku, I circled back to Artichoke. There were four people in the place. I sidled up to the counter and watched the three men behind the counter scurrying around cooking broccoli rabe and artichokes. There was a pile of irregularly shaped house-baked loaves of bread on the customer side of the counter. I eyed them longingly but no one encouraged me to take one.
There was a lot of activity, but no one seemed particularly interested in taking my order. "My Sharona" was blasting. Finally someone took my order. I asked for a Diet Coke. One of the Artichokers told me they were on the floor next to me and suggested I get one myself. I squeezed between the two counters to do that and retrieved a lukewarm soda with schmutz on the top of the can.
The Knack was belting out the chorus: "M, m, m, my Sharona." Dom DeMarco occasionally has opera playing in Di Fara, but nowhere near this loud.
My three slices came out of the oven and were put in a box. They were crazy hot, obviously having been left in the conventional pizza oven too long. The regular slice had a combination of mozzarella and pecorino Romano. It was sort of Di Faralike, but the crust was all crunch and no tenderness. The Sicilian slice was almost completely black on the bottom. The spinach and artichoke slice was a little odd and tasted more than a little like a dip you'd be served at a college party, but in the end I decided it was reasonably tasty. It did have way too much topping.
Note to Artichokers: To quote Otis Redding, "Try a little tenderness." Pizza crust needs a little bit of interior tenderness to qualify as great.
Just like all the new Dylans have done, the guys at Artichoke need to find their own nonDi Fara voice. Their heart is in the right place. They clearly have the passion, the perfect-slice-of-pizza-fever. Now their skill and dedication have to catch up with their enthusiasm before they become the new Di Fara, or better yet, the best Artichoke they can be.
Address: 328 East 14th Street, New York NY 10003