So where does a guy go in Manhattan to meet up with a hot Margherita for some delicious Slice action? For starters, I wanted to kick things off at a place that some posers think is the city's best Neapolitan pie, Il Brigante. Il Brigante's pizza Margherita? She's cute, not hot. I remember someone saying that Il Brigante's Margherita would overtake Una Pizza Napoletana as the city's best when it first opened. Who was that? The dude from the Village Voice? Robert Seltzerbuns or something? Didn't Frank Bruni check his ass for coming so weak? I love it.
To say Il Brigante's Margherita is better than UPN's (or even La Pizza Fresca, for that matter) is bunk to the Nth degree. Take a look at the pics and bear witness to the fact that IB uses a lame fior di latte that hardens up after barely cooling and is completely devoid of any flavor, let alone the tangy, buttery goodness that you taste in the fresh bufala Anthony Mangieri uses to top his pies. The top of the pie (not the crust) is too blistered. And there's an astounding lack of basil on their cute little Margherita. The crust has the aftertaste of a Manischevitz cracker—kinda bland, kinda dull, and kind of wafer quality to it. Again, to take a page out of UPN's book, a dash of sea salt never hurt anyone, right? The crust was crisp and had a little chew to the interior, but it was up to par, not above it (or below, for you golfmeisters out there). I will give props to their sauce—it was smooth, and not overpowering. But I think that's the problem with IB's Margherita—none of the ingredients stood out. She's no fun. And neither is the nearby South Street Seaport, for that matter. I'm outta here. I'm going uptown! Il Brigante: 214 Front Street, New York NY 10038 (b/n Beekman Street and Peck Slip; map); 212-285-0222. Slice intel »
Ahhh, treading back to a more familiar neighborhood, Da Village, I decide to hit one of my familiar slice joints, Pizza Box. I have been such a fan of Da Box since I tried it one fateful Saturday afternoon this past spring, and they have always come correct since then. As I was there this past visit, I stared down their wares in the pizza display box before me—nonna slices, plain slices, and, OOOH, there she was, a fresh Margherita.
A Margherita slice pie had just come out of the oven, thus eliminating the need for a reheat (which can really kill the mood—and the roof of my mouth), so I was down to experiment a little. I ordered up a plain slice and a Marg for good measure, and, once again, the old PB didn't disappoint. Why is it that Joe's is less than two blocks away and always has a line for slices but PB is barely occupied every time I go in? There's no real difference in quality. If anything, I'd give the edge to PB at this point.
Pizza Box doesn't have that top-quality mozz that practically glows in the dark à la Una Pizza Napoletana's excellent bufala mozzarella (that Columbian…err, Campanian home-grown good sheeeit), but it is so solid for a street slice of the M! Good fresh mozz, great tangy sauce, and a solid crust to back it all up. Few can do better in this city for a Margherita slice. And you can quote me on that. Trust your Uncle Bubbles, New York, just trust him. Pizza Box: 176 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10012 (Greenwich Village; map); 212-979-0823. Slice intel »
But wouldn't you know it, there's a new sheriff in town round these here Village parts—one that has been a mainstay in Chelsea and Murray Hill for quite some time. I'd have to say they're doing their part to make things interesting in the quest for a delicious slice of Margherita.
That's right, Pizza 33's Margherita slice is nipping at the heels of Joe's and Pizza Box, and it has already left Bleecker Street Pizza in the dust. Then again, who hasn't? OK, maybe Ray's, but that's my final answer!
Thirty-three packs a punch because they use a chunky San Marzano blend for their Margherita's sauce, and it's tangy and sweet all at the same time. I'd say it is the top Margherita slice sauce in the city at the moment. While their mozz isn't the Village's best, they add more basil than so many of their competitors—always a good thing to me—and when you grab that dame right out the oven, you're in good company, friends. I'm a Parmesan-and-garlic guy with my slices, so you'll see that on my slice in the picture, but that is by no means necessary here. When you're in love, your girl doesn't need to leave the house all dolled up; you'll take her any way you can get her, right? And sliceheads, to this day, I'm in love with a girl named Margherita—Parmesan or no. Pizza 33: 527 Sixth Avenue, New York NY 10011 (at 14th Street; map); 212-255-6333. Slice intel »
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date tonight with someone very special. Una Pizza Napoletana is open again after vacation and that can only mean one thing: A. W. Mangieri is gonna be serving up some pretty pies! I smell soulmate!
Bubbles Bradshaw signing off for now. Keep it movin!