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Wild Rise: Bar Pizza Made by Neapolitan-Inspired Science Geeks

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[Photographs: Adam Kuban]

Wild Rise

68 Jay Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 (at Water; map); no phone; wildrise.com
Pizza style: Neapolitan-inspired
Oven type: Custom-made electric craziness!
The skinny: For a tiny operation out of the back of a smallish bar in DUMBO, Wild Rise is making some surprisingly great Neapolitan-inspired pizza. It's a pop-up, only open Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings
Price: 7" Margherita, $11; 10" pie, $16

In the not-so-exact science of pizza taxonomy, there's bar pizza and then there's pizza that's served in bars.

Wild Rise makes the latter. It's a Neapolitan-inspired pop-up pizzeria that just happens to do its thing from the back of a dimly lit barrel-vaulted room in a nondescript watering hole on the cobblestone streets of DUMBO.

The place has gotten some play on the blogs lately, much of the coverage noting its custom-made electric pizza oven, an almost steampunkian contraption whose counterweighted heat chamber glides down smoothly over an elevated baking stone and cooks the pizzas in less than 60 seconds.

What you get is a moderately puffy pizza with a chewy, tender crust whose flavor is wonderfully complex. That's due to the naturally leavened dough, which makes use of a starter culture from Italy that the Wild Rise team maintains in a special incubator. Yes, incubator. If that sounds a little geeky, you should know that the owner, Steven (who declined to give his last name), has a degree in microbiology, which explains the the more technical information on the pizzeria's blog as well as the statement that "Wild Rise is about combining science and origin to elicit the passion and soul of authentic Neapolitan pizza while elevating what good pizza can be to a new level."

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It's on that blog that you learn the especially creamy cheese is buffalo mozzarella (applied not too sparingly, but not too heavily) and that the tomatoes are San Marzanos, de rigueur for a Neapolitan-leaning joint. (While we don't necessarily think that San Marzanos are the end-all be-all, Wild Rise is using a nicely balanced tomato—sweet, bright, and fresh tasting.)

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Pizzas come in two sizes—small 7-inch pies and the slightly larger 10-inch pies that you're probably used to from Neapolitan pizzerias.

You could easily munch through one 10-incher on your own or two 7-inchers. If you like variety, try a couple of the smaller pies — though, fair warning, they're a bit pricey at $11 for a Margherita and $13 for a topped pie. The 10-inch Margherita is $16, a bit more in line with competitors.

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There are three pizzas on the menu as of now. The aforementioned Margherita, a cremini and pepperoni (above), and a shiitake and hardneck garlic pie. The Margherita and cremini-pepperoni pies that I tried were both well-balanced. As Steven told me:

It took years of trying different candidates and testing with hundreds of tasters to come up with the four toppings we offer now. We found these to sing in harmony with the other elements of the pizza. It will probably be a while before additional toppings make the cut, though we're always looking.

I thought the pepperoni-mushroom pizza was great—a sort of hybrid of the classic American pizza parlor topping combination and Old World Neapolitan technique. Both the fungi and the meat are sliced ultra thin, and the pepperoni crisps up and blackens and curls a bit around the edges, becoming a little oily but not that much—"It's a special lower-fat pepperoni from Ohio," Steven says. (Hmm ... Ohio? I don't know, but could that be Ezzo pepperoni, perhaps Supreme Special?)

I haven't yet tried the shiitake and garlic pie, but it's on my to do list. And with pizza this good, that's not a daunting list to stare at.

Wild Rise: What to Know Before You Go

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This is a pop-up pizzeria, meaning that as of this posting, it's only open Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings.

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It's in the back room of 68 Jay Street Bar, an all but unmarked joint on the corner of Jay and Water streets in DUMBO.

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There's a small peephole in the oven wall so the pizzamaker can check on the pies' progress.

The ordering protocol is this: Order from the Wild Rise host in the room behind the bar. You'll get a receipt, which you'll need to take to the bar to pay. Then find a seat. Or try to.

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The oven, closed.

There's little real seating here. If you don't grab a bar seat or one of the small cocktail tables, you'll have to make do balancing in your lap the wood peels that the pizza is served on.

But, you know, I kinda like that. Wild Rise is making what so far seems to be really promising pizza. Really tasty pizza. All in a laid-back atmosphere. It almost seems an afterthought, something you'd order while drinking. That it is, of course, but it's also pizza worth seeking out on its own.

[Hat tip to Hideyoshi of DUMBO NYC for hipping me to this place right after it opened a little more than two weeks ago.]

About the author: Adam Kuban is the founder of Slice, where he has been blogging about pizza since before you were a twinkle in your daddy's eye. You can follow him as @akuban on Twitter.

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