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[Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Little did I know, more than 10 years ago, that the late-night slices I was eating from Pizza Wagon in Bay Ridge were better than average. Far better than average, in fact. With their not too greasy slick of surface oil; their thinner-than-average, crisp-pliant crust; and their bright-orange well-balanced mix of cheese and sauce, these slices flew out of the oven and into my mouth, day after day and, perhaps more accurately, night after night.

No, at the time, in the summer of 2000, I was just happy to be eating any old New York City slice and I was hardly discriminating in my pizza tastes. I had just moved to the Big Apple,* had settled in an affordable and spacious Bay Ridge one-bedroom,** and had the crazy notion that any pizza was good pizza. After wandering the desert, I was now living in what I considered to be pizza mecca, and I ate a slice pretty much every day for the first six months I lived here.

At the six-month mark something happened: I started to get tired of slice pizza. And I realized that not all New York slices were created equal. These two things may or may not be related — I still haven't figured that out.

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Still, I found myself visiting Pizza Wagon even after I had my initial pizza burnout. At first because it was open late — till 1 a.m. on weeknights, an hour when the rest of sleepy Bay Ridge is in bed. And second, because my budding Pizza Radar told me it was good stuff.

I visited recently to see if the place held up in reality to the memory I had constructed. It did.

The cheese is good-quality aged mozzarella that's buttery tasting and pulls away in hot, melty strings. The sauce is subtly seasoned with the usual pizza-herb mix, but I like to shake on a little red pepper for added effect.

It's at Pizza Wagon, which is often crowded, that I learned how to order a New York slice and not get lost in the throng of hungry eaters clamoring for food.

If you don't live in the Ridge, Pizza Wagon may not be worth the trip alone, but I know a lot of folks shop at Century 21 around the corner on 86th Street. If that's you, treat yourself to a slice ($2.25) or two — you won't be disappointed.

Also in Bay Ridge: Elegante Pizzeria »

Pizza Wagon (Bay Ridge)

8610 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11209 (near 86th Street; map)
718-836-5725

* Yes, Seriousb, I called it "the Big Apple." ;)

** I'm still shocked by how little I paid and how awesome that apartment was.

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