Backyard Pies Go Public at Brooklyn's Wheated
905 Church Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11218
(Map); (347) 240-2813; WheatedBrooklyn.com
The Skinny:Some of the best tasting dough around and an extensive menu (with an unusual number of white pie options) make this a welcome addition to Ditmas Park.
Price:$10-$15 for personal pies, $9 appetizers
One of the most recent additions to the Ditmas Park food scene is Wheated, the new pizzeria from husband and wife team David Sheridan and Kim McAdam. First time restaurateur David is probably familiar to some of you—Adam interviewed him back in 2010 about the WFO he built in his backyard, and he's worked at Paulie Gee's.
My two friends and I walked up on an unseasonably warm October night (they're only open for dinner). Wheated sits on Church Avenue, right between a motorcycle store and what I think is a car service. The storefront—big, inviting windows and a clean, white sign—is eye-catchingly streamlined. The interior is beautifully textured: Navy patterned walls back the gorgeous bar, reclaimed wooden doors form the divider between the front and back rooms, and a kind of warm sheen permeates the rest, the deep wooden banquettes and tables and back wall absorbing light from the somewhat industrial fixtures.
There was a healthy dinner crowd, but no long lines; the hostess seated us in the middle of the restaurant, with views of both the bar and partially open kitchen. Our friendly waitress was intensely attentive, giving us a rundown of Wheated's menu, which features 14 pies but is relatively straightforward: pizza, two appetizers, and an extensive cocktail and drinks list. We each ordered a cocktail. Mine was the night's special, a Bacon Old Fashioned ($8). Made with Weller "bacon" bourbon, maple syrup, and angostura bitters, it was rich, warm, and eminently sippable, with a little extra smokiness.
There were two salads being offered as appetizers, and we picked the second: Sugar snap peas, corn, barley, arugula, queso fresco, lemon mint dressing, toasted pistachio, sea salt, and black pepper ($9). The portion was large, perfectly capable of being split three ways, and overall a good dish, if a little awkwardly overstuffed. The toasted pistachios were the star.
Then, the pizza arrived. The pies here are a slightly sturdier variant of Neapolitan-style, cooked in high powered Moretti Forni electric ovens, run in the 750°F range. On the smaller side, and with a thin, tender crust (more about that later), these pizzas are easy to pack away, so I'd recommend a pie per person if you show up with any kind of appetite.
The Bensonhurst ($13) came first—tomato sauce, fresh and aged mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano, olive oil, and fresh basil. At first glance, it was clear this would be a good pie, the cheese floating on the surface in that perfect hot-meets-congealed state. The sauce was clean and bright, a little sweet, but with a nice, acidic tomato tang. One thing I was pleasantly surprised by was how completely the basil flavor had managed to permeate the pie, from just a few leaves.
The Sunset Park ($15) came out next: Berkshire hot sopressata, tomato sauce, fresh and aged mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The structural integrity here was about the same as the Bensonhurst, though a little soupier in the middle, no doubt thanks to the oil increase from the salami. And that salami was excellent, cut thin so it crisped, with a distinct spiciness. A fan of heat, I'm often disappointed by the muddled or muted "spicy" meats you can order as toppings; luckily, that was most definitely not the case here. Once again, a solid ratio of crust-sauce-cheese kept the pie feeling light, despite the heavier toppings.
There are an unusually large number of white pies on Wheated's menu; we opted for the East Williamsburg ($15). It's topped with fresh and aged mozzarella, olive oil, truffle salt, and cremini mushrooms. The flavor here was decent, but not as intensely earthy as I'd look for in a mushroom pie—no darkness, none of the loamy herbaceous-ness cooked mushrooms can take on. Nor did the truffle salt particularly come through for me, although this is by no means a bad thing (I doubt I'm alone in feeling that heavier hands with truffle seasoning have overwhelmed my taste buds in the past). My main complaint here was that there was something a little strange about the texture of the mushrooms—thinly sliced and thickly layered, they remained a little taut after their spin in the oven, a little squeaky to bite through.
But those crusts. All of the pizzas were good, but all of the crusts were great. Thin, tender, and firm, the crusts held their shape across the board. Your teeth encounter a satisfying crispness that immediately turns into a savory chew. All three had wonderful char and that signature spotting—the end crust wasn't particularly puffy or overlarge, maintaining the balance of the pie. Even more than the texture, I was won over by the taste—the housemade sourdough gives it a discernible tang, and there's a saltiness to it that left me happily munching on the flavorful bones when the rest of the pie was long gone.
There are no desserts on the menu at Wheated, which was fine by me—I still had the last few sweetly languid sips of my Old Fashioned to savor. In that best of digestive states—full but not stuffed—we finished our drinks and paid the bill. I happened to notice the song that was playing on the way out, that 80's classic, Don't You (Forget About Me), and couldn't help but think it appropriate—I doubt I'll be forgetting about Wheated any time soon.
I spoke to David later. "We've been open 3 months now," he said, "and just being here, doing this, is fantastic, despite the trouble we've had along the way. We ended up deciding to open here because finally it made the most sense, but I was a little worried at the time that maybe we'd made the wrong choice. Back then, when we were first looking, there wasn't a lot in this neighborhood, but now it's clear that something's happening here—places like Dogwood, Lark, The Farm—and we couldn't be happier. Things just worked out the way they were supposed to."