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Pizza at the Fairway Cafe: The Original Market Pizza

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Much has been made of Eataly, the Italian megamarket in Manhattan's Flatiron District that opened last summer — we've even reviewed it a couple of times on Slice. Consensus is that it's large and insanely crowded but totally worth a visit. And, bonus? You can get awesome ingredients and either fill up before or after you shop in one of the cafes there.

Hmmm, now what does that sound like? Kinda like the original Fairway on the Upper West Side, right?

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The entryway to the cafe is a bit hidden. It's in the middle of the block. Look for the neon sign above the door that's to the right of 2121 Broadway.

It's often been said that shopping there is a full-contact sport. But when you want to sit on the sidelines, you can head upstairs to the Fairway Market Café & Steakhouse, grab a table, and choose a dish from a menu created by the cafe's chef de cuisine, Mitchel London.

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Above the madness is a nice, airy space to have lunch — if you can get a table. Prime lunchtime is often pretty crowded but off hours are usually fine.

The menu is deceptively simple looking. At lunch (which is when I visited most recently), it's all standard American fare, even dineresque — burgers, soups, sandwiches — but it's prepared with excellent ingredients from the market downstairs and with small touches that elevate it well beyond what you'd get at a typical greasy spoon. (Just read Ed Levine's 2009 review of the dinner menu for an idea.)

But we're here to talk about pizza. So, without further ado...

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A slice from the Margherita half of my pizza.

There are five pizzas on the menu at the Fairway Café, and they are Neapolitan-inspired — small, 12-inch pies, minimally topped, with a puffy edge that shows blistering and charring.

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And there's the upskirt.

They're not as well-done in those departments as some of their wood-oven brethren (the cafe uses a Wood Stone gas-powered, brick-lined oven), but they're close enough — especially if you're someone who doesn't like quite as much carbon on the cornicione.

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Peep the hole structure.

Still, there's enough heat in this oven (the flames are fierce and crankin') to give the crust some nice oven spring. The result is a just-crisp-enough foundation that's also soft and tender and slightly chewy. While not overwhelmingly flavorful, the crust is good enough that you're prompted to sop up any sauce on your plate and finish the "pizza bones."

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A slice from the red pepper–and-sausage half of my pizza.

Fairway Market Cafe

2127 Broadway, New York NY 10023 (74th Street; map); 877-535-CAFE
Pizza style: Neapolitan-inspired
Oven type: Gas-fired, brick-lined oven
The skinny: People often ask about Neapolitan pizza on the UWS. We've often labeled the area a wasteland for this style. But we seem to have forgotten the respectable Neapolitan-inspired pizzas at the Fairway Cafe, a great little place to eat whether you're grocery shopping there or not.
Price: $13 for 12-inch pizzas that serve one

Despite having had a number of these little guys in the past, I had forgotten that the Fairway Cafe turns out a pretty decent Neapolitan-inspired pie, and now I feel a little bad that in recent months (or maybe years) I've dismissed the UWS as being dearth of this style of pizza.

On my recent visit I tried a half-and-half pie: Margherita and roasted red pepper with sausage. This is one of those rare occasions where my sausage bias is turned on its head — I actually prefer the unadorned Margherita here. It allows the constituent components to shine. The sauce is salty almost tangy, more spiced than most Neapolitan pies are. And the cheese is amazingly creaming, strings of melted mozzarella following the slice as you snatch it away from its family. In contrast, the sausage, though fine, is not mindblowing and does more to mask the underlying quality of the other ingredients than complement them.

It's interesting that the pizza here is so much better than the pale pies that the now-defunct Mitchel London Pizza was making — especially given the fact that pizza is just one of many things Fairway Cafe does (and does well). For me, the Fairway Cafe is a destination in and of itself, as much as it is a pitstop while picking up groceries.

About the author: Adam Kuban is the founder of Slice. You can follow him as @akuban on Twitter.

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