Brick Oven Pizza 33
Multiple locations throughout New York City (map); pizza33midtowneast.com
Pizza style: Classic New York slice joint
Oven type: Brick oven
The skinny: Flawed slices don't live up to the restaurant's pleasant atmosphere.
Price: $2.75 for a plain slice
We headed to Brick Oven Pizza 33 on 23rd St. near 8th Ave. with high hopes. The modest but attractive brick oven advertised on the awning was clearly visible in the afternoon sunlight, and the slices it produced looked like refined, tasty versions of New York classics. Seeing them arranged on our open air table definitely fired up my appetite. There's no doubt that this restaurant is a pleasant place to eat when the weather is good.
Closer inspection of the plain slice we had ordered revealed a disappointingly blond undercarriage, though the grandma slice and Sicilian slice were nicely browned. The Sicilian had a very thick crust--par for the course, I suppose--so I knew the dough would have to be lightly constructed and expertly baked to avoid a bready slice.
Unfortunately, neither the plain slice nor the Sicilian overcame the problems suggested by their appearance. The plain slice was bland and, surprisingly given the brick oven, soft and borderline-undercooked. Its flavor and texture didn't leave much of an impression. The Sicilian slice was bready and dense with a surfeit of mediocre cheese. Both slices could have been hotter.
The grandma slice, by contrast, was crisp and flavorful, though most of its taste was derived from abundant garlic and sauce.
It's possible that we caught Pizza 33 on a bad day, but I think it more likely that this restaurant needs to source better cheese, more thoroughly season its pizza dough, and add more fuel to the oven to fully exploit its brick construction.
You can't really knock a crisp, garlicky grandma slice on a beautiful day though.