Louie & Ernie's Pizza
1300 Crosby Avenue, Bronx NY 10461 (at Waterbury Ave.; map); 718-829-6230
Getting there: Closest train is the 6 at Buhre/Crosby aves; from there, it's a 15-minute walk south along Crosby
Pizza style: New York
Oven type: Gas oven
The skinny: ZOMG. You need to get the sausage or sausage-and-onion pie. It will become an obsession
When I posted my Top 8 Pizzas of 2009, there was one that didn't make the list. Not because it wasn't worthy but because I published that rundown just days before I visited Louie & Ernie's in The Bronx's Pelham Bay neighborhood. (Sure, I'd been before—but not in 2009, so even though I knew it deserved mention, I couldn't add it in good conscience.)
That list, if you recall, wasn't "the best," it was a list of pizzas that haunt my dreams. Louie & Ernie's sausage pizza surely qualifies as hauntingly flavorful. To wit, I'd only had it once before.
In early 2004.
That I could still recall the awesomeness of that pizza nearly four years later says something, right? I wondered if it was as good as I'd remembered. It was. Full blabbage, after the jump.
The place has a true local vibe. Regulars from the neighborhood know the owners—brothers Cosimo or Johnny Tiso, who bought the place from Ernie Ottuso in 1987 and who are the only ones who make the pizza ("Our 'secret' is consistency. That's my belief," Cosimo Tiso says). Patrons relax and shoot the breeze while waiting for their pies. The TV plays whatever might be of interest that day—when I visited, it was the Giants-Carolina blowout.
In other words, this is not the place for brussels sprouts, pancetta, asparagus, or eggs on your pizza (though Tiso says he's added toppings like chicken and olives in the last couple of years as the tastes of the neighborhood change). This is also not the place for anything other than the crusty, saucy, cheesy stuff. As Cosimo Tiso says, "We just make pizza. We don't make sandwiches, we don't make salads. ... And we don't deliver."
"We don't have leftovers," he continues. "And we're proud of that. If someone calls at 8, we've got nothing left for them to order. We've used it all up. We don't hold over anything for the next day."
On Chowhound people were saying that the thing to get at L&E's was the white pie.
I had my heart set on a sausage (or sausage-and-onion) pie, and figured that if it took me four years to get here again, we might as well try both. Good thing I had cajoled a friend into serving as a second taster.
The white pie was great. I'm usually not a fan of them. I like sauce. I don't like a lot of hot, messy ricotta dripping all over. If New York–style pizza is meant to be eaten out of hand, a white pie goes a long way toward countering this notion. Here, at Louie & Ernie's, the ricotta is slathered on maybe a bit too much, but it's not entirely sloppy. Plus, there's enough mozzarella on a L&E white pie, baked to just this side of crispness, to counter the creaminess of the ricotta. A little black pepper gives it some additional flavor.
I'm not sure this would be my thing to order at Louie & Ernie's, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed. As Cosimo Tiso says, "You either grew up eating white pies or you didn't. If you didn't, it's not your thing. That said, it's our third-best-seller." (The No. 1 request there is the plain round pie; No. 2 is a round pie with any combination of sausage on it.)
As with many white pies, it's heavy; eat a couple slices of it, and you might as well call it a day and take a nap.
But we couldn't nap. We had more eatin'-work to do, because after we sampled some of the white pie, our half sausage–half sausage-and-onion pie hit the table.
The sausage pie was just as good as I'd remembered it—phenomenal. The sausage comes from S&D Pork Store,* just up a few blocks up Crosby Avenue from the pizzeria. It's applied in large, juicy, fennel-spiked chunks just barely held in place by the melted cheese around them. This is the sausage pizza of dreams.
The crust is typical for that of a traditional New York–style pizzeria, golden-brown, crisp on the outside, chewy and a little spongey like focaccia on the inside. It's a little thicker than some places but just enough to stand up to the heavy ricotta on the white pie or the heftiness of the sausage.
The long-anticipated return visit was well worth it. I was happy to find that my 2004 perception had not been colored by the fact that Louie & Ernie's offered a warm, dry haven on a cold, rainy night.
After blabbing here, I'm feeling the urge to visit again. This time I'll do it well before another four years passes. And so should you.
*When I asked Tiso for the name of the place, he offered the phone number, too, so I could talk to S&D's owner. He rattled it off from memory. I love that!