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Sneak Peek: Anselmo's Coal Oven Pizzeria, Red Hook

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Anselmo's Coal Oven Pizzeria

354 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn NY 11231 (at Sullivan Street, Red Hook; map); 718-775-5386; anselmosbakery.com
Getting There: The B61 and B77 buses are your closest public transit options
Pizza Style: New York–Neapolitan Oven Type: Coal-fired
The Skinny: Too soon to really say
Price: TK

Another day, another sneak peek at a soon-to-open pizzeria. This time, Anselmo's Coal Oven Pizzeria.

We've been following the progress of this place since June of last year, when it announced a July 4 open date. These things don't always go according to schedule (see Co./Company, Ignazio's, etc.), but it looks like coal-fired pies will finally be a reality in Red Hook. The official target date was to have been today, March 28, but partner Jack Stella said it would be more like Monday or Tuesday now.

The folks behind Anselmo's were having an oven test-fire last night that was open to friends, family, the neighborhood, and whomever was walking by and his uncle. I stopped in on the way home from work and managed to get some shots and talk briefly with the partners. [More photos and intel after the jump.]

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There's an interesting story behind this place. Stella, one of the joint's three partners, runs a chemical business down the street. He and his colleagues in that business originally bought the building that would house Anselmo's as a sort of clubhouse where they could take smoke breaks. While gutting it, he discovered the coal oven, and realizing he had the proverbial diamond in the rough, made plans to turn it into a pizzeria. Their loss of a smokers' lounge is our gain as coal-oven aficionados.

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The partners (Anselmo Garcia and his brother-in-law Roger Fischer round out the trio) made some minor changes to the old coalie, moving its mouth to the opposite side for better accessibility and putting in a new flue. Apart from that, it looks as if it's been there, for ages, hulking no-nonsense box of bricks that looks like it means business.

It's too early to really review this pizza, of course, but the test-fire pie I tasted shows real promise. Partner, pizzaiolo, and namesake Garcia is at the helm when it comes to pies. He tells me that he'll be the sole pizza-maker at the place. If there's no Anselmo, there's no pizza. Not to worry, though, as he says he'll be there seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"No day off, Anselmo?" I asked.

"That's my daughter over there," he said, pointing to the friendly young woman who was helping out behind the counter. "I ask her for vacation days—I'm putting her through college on this."

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Garcia has been baking for 25 years, and has worked in several restaurants and bakeries in the city (listed here) and was most recently at the SoNo Baking Company in South Norwalk, Connecticut.

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For now, he'll be making pies and calzones (although no calzones were made during this trial run). All pies last night were plain, though assorted toppings will be available. (I'll follow up and find out what they're planning to offer.) Stella said they're going all-DOP on the pies, importing the tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella from Italy. Like Kesté Pizza & Vino, which I visited on Thursday, Anselmo's receives shipments of flash-frozen buffalo mozzarella that they defrost overnight in a cold-water bath. The melted cheese seems to suffer little from the process, remaining creamy and stringy on the hot pies.

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The sauce was well seasoned, with a hint of roasted garlic as well as oregano, black pepper, and a nice amount of salt. The crust was crisp-chewy and just tender enough—it wasn't the lightest, most airy crust I've had, but it wasn't that tough-chewy kind that wears your jaw out after a couple slices. (And, again, this was a test night, so this may all change. As Stella noted, "We're not there yet, but we're working on it.")

No word yet on prices. I'll follow up and relay that intel to you as soon as I get it.

This seems like a friendly little place, and with relatively few pizza options in Red Hook, it's nice to see the neighborhood get its due with a promising coaler.

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