617 Piety St. New Orleans, LA 70117 (Map); 504-676-8482; Pizzadelicious.com
Pizza type: New York-style with local inspiration
Oven type: Marsal Gas Deck
The Skinny: Well executed slices, flavorful specialty pies, craft beer and Italian wine. Eye-catching salads, pastas, and desserts are must-tries.
Price: Slices $2-$3; Whole Pies $13-$20
When Pizza Delicious was a two-day-per-week pop-up, patrons were ordering hours ahead to ensure receipt of their Sunday and Thursday pies. The advance planning and clamor suggested that something special was happening there. Some people raved about toppings like peppadews and cauliflower, while others praised the quality of the plain pie.
New Orleans is no stranger to individual slices, but there was a huge void for lovers of New York-style pizza. Filling it simply took two college students from New York, a few friends, and once-a-week access to a commercial kitchen in the Bywater neighborhood. Armed with dedication, and little initial pizza-making knowledge, owners Michael Friedman and Greg Augarten learned to faithfully reproduce the flavors of home. In early 2010, they began selling take-out only pizzas on Sundays.
Grass roots popularity quickly ensued and a second day was added. The following year, careful plans for expansion were in the works. After a Kickstarter campaign, benefit concert, and support from the community, a permanent location blocks away from the pop-up became a reality. Now located in a converted warehouse near the levee, Pizza Delicious is serving their once exclusive pies six days a week.
The Bywater, home to the prestigious NOCCA, has a thriving arts scene. Gentrification isn't looming, and counterculture thrives. The customers aren't just intellectual twenty somethings; the busy dining room is filled with young and old from all walks of life.
The menu boards mounted by the counter look hand painted, and daily specials are mounted magnetically for easy rotation. The sunlit dining area reveals a comfortable contrast of vibrant color to the concrete block of the original building. Lacquered wooden tables lend an organic, hand-built feel. Three engraved pizza peels hang by the entrance, graciously thanking their supporters by name. The large open kitchen window provides a view of the kitchen and the racks of plentiful stacks of pies for sale by the slice.
My first try last year was the best local plain slice I'd had in years. For this visit, I got my hands on three intriguing specialty slices I'd been hankering to try, along with a whole Margherita.
All the slices had a crisp, slightly spotted undercarriage, the right amount of chew, and a fairly tight-crumbed end crust. The Pepperoni ($3) had the natural sweetness of whole roasted garlic cloves and caramelized onion, providing a pleasant juxtaposition to the salty meat. Flecks of fresh parsley also added a touch of color. I almost always pass over pepperoni in favor of a plain pie; this slice is a solid exception.
Roasted red peppers, thin, fresh onion slices, and dollops of spinach topped the Vegan ($3) slice, which delivered a bit of red pepper heat in spots. Chopped pine nuts and garlic are cleverly cooked with the spinach pre-bake, adding the richness of protein and eliminating the need for aftermarket Parmesan.
The sometimes controversial combination of anchovies, capers, and green and black olives on the Puttanesca ($3) was a totally new experience. It looked like a plain slice with olives, a few capers, and minced parsley—the anchovies were surreptitiously blended into the tomato sauce, the olives applied judiciously. The resulting flavor wasn't overwhelmingly pungent or briny, and this could easily be a potential gateway pie for anyone on the fence.
The whole Margherita (18" for $17) arrived with a plentiful bright tomato sauce (a house secret), and supple pools of Grande fresh mozzarella. Long grates of Parmigiano-Reggiano added a sweet-sharp bite, and a post-bake chiffonade of basil delivered even flavor to every bite. The bottom of the pizza didn't have as much browning as the slices, but, in all fairness, the mighty deck was probably struggling slightly during the busy lunch. This style is a sort of New York style-Neapolitan hybrid, and their version is a best of breed.
New specialty pizza ideas are constantly hitting the menu, and the array of simple, elegant salads, pastas, and desserts are also enticing. NOLA Brewing and Brooklyn Brewery are heavily weighted in the beer selection. The wine is Italian and reasonably priced.
The quality of the pizza is the result of a new generation's devotion to an old craft and they're easily a worthy counterpart to the best new slice talent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The choice of slice combinations can lead to indulgence—anything new that hits the menu will be a must try for future visits.