Weekend Pizza Report: Bacon Pizza at Famous Original Ray's; Bar Tano in Gowanus
Editor's note: The place I wanted to visit for this week's review wasn't open, so I'm going to give you a run-down on my weekend in pizza instead, along with a makeshift review on an unexpected place. —The Mgmt.
The Most Insane Pizza I Have Ever Seen
On Saturday I was supposed to meet Girl Slice at an undisclosed location on the Upper East Side at 3 p.m. She must have called while I was on the subway in from Brooklyn because when I popped up in Manhattan, I had a message: "Meet me at 3:30 instead."
Lucky for me I can always kill time by sampling a slice here and there or by taking photos of pizzeria exteriors to add to my growing collection. Anyway, I hadn't eaten lunch yet and I was starving, and so it was that rare occasion when quality mattered less to me than convenience. And so, after about ten minutes of walking around, I found myself at Little Slice of Italy on Second Avenue and 61st Street. I have to say, for 3:05 p.m. on a Saturday, this block was downright deserted. And with its door propped open to the elements and only one almost-listless patron inside, Little Slice of Italy felt like an Old West saloon whose drinkers have fled in advance of the showdown that's about to take place there.
I ordered a plain slice, to stay, and the less said, the better. I didn't even bother taking a photo. It was a plain ol' generic greasy grilled-cheese-tasting slice. I finished not even half of it before tossing it.
So I walk back toward where I was supposed to meet Girl Slice, and find out that if I would have just gone the opposite direction of where I started out, I would have run into a Famous Original Ray's on the corner of Lexington and 62nd. That option would have cut about nine minutes off my search time and would have given me time to try the craziest-looking slice I've ever, ever, ever seen. You see, I almost would have missed it, were it not for some high school–age kids who burst in and then started makin' a ruckus over it.
"That's gotta be the most non-Jewish pizza that ever could be," one of them said. Yes, it was ... THE BACON PIZZA (see main photo, above).
Crap if I didn't get to try it. I had just finished a plain slice from this Ray's and was shooting the picture above when my phone rang. It was Girl Slice. The Bacon Slice would have to wait.
OK. So I really wanted to try this crazy-ass Brick Oven Bar Be Cue place on Third Avenue and 6th Street in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood. It's a short five-minute walk from my house, so I put it off till Sunday for lunch. Turns out the place is either not open on Sundays or is closed for good. I couldn't tell, because there was a sign on the building that said "For sale or lease." Who knows.
Though the place is billed as a 'cue joint, word is that the guy who runs it, Emmanuel Maropakis, was supposed to start doing pizza there at some point. I figured it was about time to see if he'd reached that point. Plus, my neighbor Johnny (Hi, Johnny!) was asking me what I thought about the pizza there (he knows I'm the Slice guy), and I looked like an idiot for not remembering it was there. I wanted to be ready with some intel the next time I saw Johnny.
Anyway, as I said, the place was closed, so Girl Slice and I headed a couple blocks up to Bar Tano, on the corner of Third Avenue and 9th Street. The place is kinda schizo. It looks like a French brasserie in the Keith McNally–Balthazar mold, but it's got an Italian bent to it. Surprisingly—or not surprisingly—enough, the place had pizza on the brunch menu. I figured what the hell.
The menu leads you to believe that the pizzas here are likely to be Neapolitan-ish—that is, enough for one hungry person or a bar snack to be shared by two or more people. (Telltale signs of Neapolitan pizza on a menu are usually that there's a Margherita pie in the mix, along with several other pizzas with Italian names. Price is typically a good indication of pie size as well; here, the Margherita was $8, so I figured it was a smaller pie.) What you get—and I'm not complaining, just warning you—is a smallish pizza that's almost a bit too much for one person to finish comfortably. As I said, I'm not complaining; who doesn't like to get more pizza than bargained for?
One reason the pizza may be a bit much for one is that it's got a lot of cheese, ladies and gents. Unlike a typical Neapolitan-style pie, it's pretty much blanketed in cheese, and, in this case it's a covering of regular mozzarella (as opposed to the more typically Neapolitan fresh) with, I'd dare say, a hint of cheddar thrown in, which would explain the yellow splotches on the pie and some of the sharpness in taste. It's not an altogether unpleasant taste, and was actually just what the pie doctor ordered for brunch.
Pizzas are grilled here, as they are at Bar Toto, Tano's sister establishment a hop-skip away on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street in Park Slope. Doneness on the crust was a bit uneven, as some of the slices had nice color from the grill while others were a bit pale and doughy. The crust alone was a bit bland and could have used some more salt. The nearest analog I could dredge up in my mental pizza files was the crust at Mitchel London Pizza. The sauce was zesty enough, tasting as if it started life as a can of good Italian tomatoes cooked down with the addition of some herbs and such. Again a bit of a departure from the Neapolitan-style pie in that those pies often feature a sauce that's barely much more than tomatoes themselves.
It's a good pizza here, and I'd like to make my way through the others on the menu, especially the Salsiccia (tomato sauce, sausage, caramelized onion, smoked mozz, and basil) and the Prosciutto e Rucola (tomato sauce, prosciutto, and argula). Good thing the place is a short walk away—if not, I think there are other places I'd hit for pizza first.
457 Third Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215 (Gowanus; map)