Adam Kuban and I first encountered Williamsburg Pizza pizzaiolo Nino Coniglio at his first owned and occupied place, Pizzeria del Corso. If you click through to that old post, you'll see that we both thought the pizza there was very good, on the cusp of being great.
Coniglio went on to close his Marine Park location 2 1/2 years later, and consulted on numerous pizzerias in Manhattan and Brooklyn before opening Williamsburg Pizza in the Southern, not-yet-fully-gentrified area of that 'hood—I had no excuse not to go. What I found was crazy good nuevo retro pizza, but my path to this fine pie was littered with impediments.
I decided to try Williamsburg Pizza on the way to our pie and wine event at Brooklyn Winery. I arrived there at 11:45. The awning was still down. I called on my cell phone, and got a vague commitment that they would be open by 12:15. I went to a Dominican steam table place around the corner to bide my time, consumed some pretty tasty roast pork and beef stew, and showed up at the pizzeria shortly after noon. The awning was still down, but I peered in through the peephole and got their attention by telling them their bread for sandwiches was sitting outside the restaurant in a steady drizzle in a brown paper bag. Apparently my bread delivery message did the trick, because the awning came up and I was able to order a couple of slices inside, getting out of the drizzle.
The pizza was really good: housemade or Grande mozz on the slices, sweet canned San Marzanos strained as the sauce, and an old school NYC slice crust that had a crisp veneer and tender insides, with plenty of color and bubbles to boot. I took my slices with me and headed to our pie and wine event. Was it a little weird showing up for that event with a couple of slices of pizza? Sure, but when Kenji and Erin tasted the slices, they certainly didn't seem to mind.
After the event Kenji and I drove back to Williamsburg Pizza to sample more of its wares. We had a grandma slice, a regular slice, a slice with apples, gorgonzola, and a rectangular slice with mushrooms and fresh rosemary. None were less than very good, and it's clear that Coniglio has the chops and the desire to make terrific slices pizza born out of NYC slice tradition at its finest.
After we tasted, we talked to Coniglio and quickly learned he's a meticulous, passionate, pizza-obsessive, and a little nutty in the way all great NYC pie-men are. He talked to Kenji about growing his own wheat and milling his own flour on two acres of land he bought in the Poconos. While we were not convinced his wheat knowledge equalled his pizza smarts, it was clear that he is obsessed with both the quality of the ingredients and the over-all quality of his pizza.
How good is Williamsburg Pizza? The slices that come out of the Vera Forno oven are already top-five-in-NYC quality. There are precious few top notch slice shops left in NYC, so when a new one does open it is cause for celebration. Long live Williamsburg Pizza! I hope Nino stays put, and if he does want to open another one, may I suggest either our work neighborhood, Little Italy/Chinatown, or my home 'hood of the Upper West Side.
265 Union Ave at S. 3rd Street, Brooklyn, NY (map)