Alec Baldwin's Favorite Pizzeria: Brother's in Fresh Meadows, Queens
The 30 Rock star went on a question-answering binge on Twitter earlier this week, during which he dropped this tip.
"@TSNSorkin64: @AlecBaldwin Best pizza in NYC?" Brothers in Fresh Meadows, Queens
185-04 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows NY 11365 (just off Exit 25 on the LIE; map); 718-445-7888
Getting there: Probably best if you're in a car. It's a series of buses to get here otherwise
Pizza style: New York–style
Oven type: Gas-fired deck oven
The skinny: Is this the best pizza in New York City, as Alec Baldwin claims? It didn't blow my mind, but it's a very good classic slice. It's definitely worth detouring a bit off the expressway a bit if you're passing through on the LIE
Price: Regular slices, $2.25; large pies, $13
This isn't the first time Mr. Baldwin has talked up Brother's. He's consistent in touting it any time someone asks him about New York pizza. See this interview in Departures, this story in Edible East End, or this video (scrub ahead to 1:50).
Sometimes you get a good tip from the most unlikely sources. But how did Mr. Baldwin, who grew up nowhere near Fresh Meadows, find out about Brother's?
"My guess is he just saw it from the LIE one day," says Brother's owner Dennis Koines. "A lot of people find out about us just driving by on the expressway—especially when traffic is bad. When I see the LIE start to back up, I know business is going to pick up."
What awaits anyone who stops in is a great classic New York slice, thinner than most and well-balanced. Dark red sauce peeks from under just enough cheese—regular mozzarella, shredded coarsely, it's creamy and pulls away in hot strands that threaten to snap and make a mess of your chin.
Overall it's a salty slice—just this side of being almost too salty, which is to say perfectly salty. They're crisp, light slices. One won't be enough. Two might fill you up, but it's likely you could eat three, maybe four, in a sitting.
Be forewarned: These plain pies are seasoned aggressively with oregano, which is how it's always been done, says Koines. "Nothing's changed," he says, since he bought the 48-year-old pizzeria one year ago after having worked there for 15 years. The original founding brothers are gone, "but the guy who usually makes the pizza has been here 37 years." (That gentleman was off the night I visited — but the pizza sure wasn't.)
When you order a whole pie, as I did after eating a couple slices, they might ask you how you want it done. Koines says he goes for a well-done pizza. "When we forget about a pie in there, and it's almost burned, that's how I like it. Where the cheese ... just melds with the sauce."
That's how I like it, too, and, did it ever make for some good eating on the drive home, as I housed a couple slices between Fresh Meadows and Astoria — the cheese mottled with brown, crisp yet almost chewy spots.
I imagined Mr. Baldwin doing the same, since he mentions stopping in on the way home from JFK airport in the article hanging on the wall. But it turns out that he often eats at the L-shape counter when he visits.
Koines says Baldwin often gets an eggplant Parm hero and has a couple of slices while waiting for the sandwich.
"He was in here one time," says Brother's delivery guy Mike, "and he sat at the counter. There was one other guy in here, talking to him about pizza, just real natural. I don't think he knew who he [Baldwin] was."
Which brings me to this: You don't need a somebody like Alec Baldwin to tell you what anybody could taste for himself: Brother's makes a fantastic classic New York pizza. But sometimes it's helpful when someone throws a spotlight on.