Category Archives: Pizza

Razza

A wild hybrid that marries the best of both classic Neapolitan pizza and old school NYC/Brooklyn pizza, Razza in Jersey City is the kind of place where you just can’t stop eating.

The dough is bubble-charred, puffy and light, like Neapolitan pizza. But the formal requirements of noted Neapolitan rigor are quickly dispensed with and cast aside (San Marzano tomatoes, wheat flour, bufala mozz, etc).

Instead, chef/owner Dan Richer, who has been honing his pizza skills for 15 years, pulls ingredients from high quality local produce purveyors and makes a great deal of his own shit right there on site. “I’m not even close to being done,” he says of perfecting his craft.

If this is only the rising action in the first act, then I can’t wait for the denouement.

The tomatoes are bright, and left largely unadulterated. The cheese is fresh, smooth and creamy. The dough is airy yet crisp from crust to point, showing some backbone on the bottom: Like it’s New York neighbor, it doesn’t flop in the center. This magically allows the toppings to seem as if they’re suspended atop a pillow of edible air.

The crust also takes on a unique grey coloring from being allowed to cook a bit longer at a slightly cooler wood oven temperature than its motherland-cousin from Naples.

Neapolitan pies get real hot real fast. This allows a yeasty aroma to linger in the resulting khaki-colored, leopard-spotted crust, retaining a somewhat more chewy and more dense texture. Could that be called medium rare dough? Perhaps. Anyway the difference here may be slight in execution, but it is noticeable in appearance and flavor.

There’s also none of that soupy sauce or pooled melted cheese that can sometimes weigh heavy both in the center of a Neapolitan pie and in your belly after you eat it. To the contrary I felt light even after eating an entire pie’s worth of pizza all by myself. I could’ve easily had two more, but there was a steak dinner to be had nearby at Liberty Prime. I had to conserve stomach space.

In any case three of us each ate a third of three pies (two slices of each, each). We started with the Margherita, had a mid course of Fungi, and then a dessert of Burrata. I’m hard pressed to choose a favorite among these, but I think that last one left me floating. That deliciously silky burrata with tomato, olive oil and sliced garlic…

I’m fairly certain this is my new favorite pizza joint, possibly squeaking just ahead of the Coney Island stronghold Totonno’s. You really need to get over here to try this shit. But if my words and images don’t convince you to make the trip out here for this pizza, maybe Phil Rosenthal will. It was featured on  the Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Check it out:

RAZZA
275 Grove Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Scarr’s

This category two pizza joint (individual slices available) on the lower east side has gotten some big hype for being a great spot. I was in the area for dinner, so I had to check it out and grab a slice for dessert.

Most people clamor for the pepperoni slice – probably after seeing ‘roni cups on Instagram – but I’m more of a traditional guy. So traditional, in fact, that I generally prefer the Margherita style slice to the plain slice. This consists of fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil.

This was a great slice. The sauce was bright, sweet yet savory, and nicely seasoned. The cheese was delicious and evenly melted. The basil was fresh (just roasted). The crust was puffy and light, while also being crisp and stiff enough to fold. A winner all around. The only down side was the $4.25 price tag for a single slice.

SCARR’S
22 Orchard St
New York, NY 10002

Covina

My wife and I went to Covina with another couple and tried a bunch of things from the menu. Check it out:

First, huge and great selections of cocktails. Definitely imbibe when you go here.

We started with the pork belly, which was nicely braised and tender.

The shrimp and polenta was a perfectly cooked and really tasty dish.

This pappardelle pasta was slightly overcooked for my liking, but the pork and veal “white bolognese” was incredible.

Next up, pizza! We did both the spicy honey pie and the fontina with Brussels spouts pie.

The spicy honey pie was miles ahead of the competition. I could eat three.

We also tried their famous Big Mac style burger.

The bun was a little hard, perhaps heading towards dry or stale, but the burger itself was masterful. I really enjoyed it.

On the side we had truffle fries and charred broccolini. Both were good, although there was really no char to the broccolini.

For dessert, we did the bread pudding and the pumpkin mousse. Here, the mousse was better. It was awesome!

COVINA
127 E 27th St
New York, NY 10016

Pizza Loves Emily

Quick review here. My wife and I finally tried this hyped up spot after a few drinks nearby. First we tried Nguyen’s’ Hot Wings (Korean flavors with a Vietnamese name):

These were pretty good. Crisp outside, tender inside, and I like the fact that they serve you the whole wing. The sauce was nice too.

We also tried the colony pie, which has mozz, tomato sauce, pickled jalapeños, pepperoni and honey.

This was really flavorful. Overpriced for a small pie at $22, but the dough was thin, crisp and cooked nicely. I bet their square version “Detroit” style is better at their other locations.

PIZZA LOVES EMILY
919 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Massoni

Eight dollar cocktails at happy hour was a great way to start this meal.

Followed by half price apps, like this heirloom tomato and watermelon salad. happy hour goes until 7pm too, which is great.

I couldn’t resist ordering this double patty Italian style burger, with fontina cheese, spinach & arugula, crispy pancetta and pickled cherry peppers on a potato bun. Awesome!

But the pizza stole the show. This one was topped with pepperoni, cherry peppers and honey. This crust was amazing too, Detroit style.

I highly recommend this spot for the burger and pizza.

MASSONI
11 E 31st St
New York, NY 10016

Lou Malnati’s

This is one of the most famous deep dish Chicago pizza joints. There is contention over which is the best between Pequod’s, Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s. We decided to hit this place because I just heard more positive things about it.

We went with the Malnati’s classic, which has tomato, sausage and mozzarella in it. But I also added pepperoni and black olives for good measure.

As you can see, it’s pretty thick, and generally one needs a fork and knife to eat it, unlike NYC style pizza (unless you’re an asshole like the Mayor).

I really did like it. It’s a bit heavy, but tasty as hell. However, I always say this: Chicago has the best hot dogs, but NYC has the best pizza. I hesitate to even call this pizza, as Chicago style is literally a pie. A tomato pie with a butter crust, cheese inside and other stuff. A lawyer’s argument would be that Chicago pizza is not actually pizza at all. It’s a savory pie.

LOU MALNATI’S
439 N Wells St
Chicago, IL 60654

Bonci USA

Bonci is one of the best pizza joints I’ve ever eaten at in my life.

My wife and I first encountered this place in Rome, at their flagship location behind the Vatican. Then I heard they opened up shop in Chicago. This was one of the primary reasons I decided to book the trip to Chicago. yes. Pizza. Not so much the steak. Anyway, this place is just as good as the Rome location.

With the added benefit of free sparkling water on tap!

For those that don’t know, Roman style pizza is the shit. It’s a square pie, more like focaccia bread almost, but with pizza toppings. Crispy, light, fluffy, thick, airy, puffy. All that good shit. Well risen.

You order by weight at these places, so they will cut it up as thick or thin as you like. I went for sicilian slice sizes of four different styles, and the price came to about $33 for nearly a full pie’s worth.

That’s traditional margherita, nduja and potato, spicy sausage, and soppressata and potato – all with varying amounts of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, tomato etc. Fucking amazing.

The only place that comes close is PQR in Manhattan. If you want this experience closer to home without having to travel to Rome or Chicago, then go there. They do great work.

BONCI USA
161 N Sangamon St
Chicago, IL 60607

Di Fara Pizza

Di Fara Pizza is known for being one of NYC’s (specifically Brooklyn’s) best pizza joints.

It’s been around for a long time (since 1965), and the man running the show, Dom, has been making pizza there since it opened.

Get used to this view for two or three hours when you come here…

The menu is pretty extensive for such a busy spot. Lines can get pretty long, and you might find yourself waiting two hours or more, even for just a few slices.

My wife and I stopped in on our way down to Coney Island for a concert. We ordered two square slices and two regular slices. I was actually surprised that this place was serving pizza by the slice given how long the lines can get. Usually when that happens, pizza joints will start doing pies only just for ease of operation.

They told us it would take about 25 minutes; that was at about 2:30pm. They clearly don’t know how to estimate the timing on this racket, even after 53 years. You’d think that would sort itself out after a few months of intense demand. But we didn’t really mind since our show didn’t start until 7pm, and we expected a bit of a wait.

We ended up standing around for about three hours waiting for our four slices though. Was it worth it? Yes and no. See below…

The first two slices to be ready were the regular slices. They were just okay. My wife even said that I made better pizza at home with respect to these. I agree. The crust was too hard, dense and dry in the back, and I needed to add some of their oil-soaked peppers to liven up the crust toward the end.

My favorite was the square pie. It was thick, saucy and packed with flavor, though still a bit too crisp/hard on the dough. These came out to us about 15 minutes after the two regular slices were ready. Again, poor timing. Everything should be served together.

See that black crust on the bottom of the corner slice there up above? Remember that…

One trick I learned toward the end of our wait was that if you walk in and take a peek over the counter to see if any straggler slices are just sitting around, you can ask if they’re unclaimed. Usually they’re not claimed, which means they’ll serve you right away and you won’t have to wait around like a sucka-ass tourist.

We did that as our two square slices were coming up, so we grabbed those two white slices on the left to go with our other four. The white slice was my least favorite of the three.

This slice, however, had a slightly better rise to it at the point. A little thicker, puffier, more airy, a better crisp – like a crunchy pillow – at that end. So that was a plus. I also liked the ricotta, but I again found myself gravitating toward the oil-soaked peppers in order to get down on the dry and hard crust toward the back end.

Which is really odd to say, because they drench the shit out of their pies with olive oil both before and after they come out of the oven. Shit was making puddles on the regular slices.

I did love the abundance of fresh basil on each pizza, but these fuckers were burning pies left and right all day long. I’m talking pitch black crusts! I usually like a little bit of that on a pie, spotty, just for texture and flavor, but some of these things were nearly destroyed entirely. Hard. Brittle. Dry. Black. And they were still selling them. The balls on these animals! We lucked out, though, and the six slices that we ate were okay, for the most part. Only one corner of one square slice was ruined and burned (I noted it above). Not bad.

So six slices, a glass bottle of Pepsi and a can of Schweppes seltzer ran us $38 and took up three hours of our lives. Was it worth it? Not for the food, no fucking way. Totonno’s is so much better, in my opinion, and you won’t have to wait that long to eat it. This place could really use a dedicated worker to man the ovens at all times so that nothing gets burnt. The commotion was too overbearing at times back there.

Taste and business commentary aside, I wouldn’t trade the experience we had for those three hours and a nice Totonno’s pie. I made sure to stay cognizant of the fact that we had the opportunity to watch Dom make pizza before it’s too late. The man deserves our respect, even if we don’t love every slice that comes out of the oven.

And he may be old, but fuck, man… the dude was pulling hot pies out of the oven with his bare hands! It was worth the three hour wait just to watch him do that.

DI FARA PIZZA
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230

I Love NY Pizza

This pizza joint up in Schenectady is fairly good. I was expecting something rancid and offensive, so far from NYC. But the crust was nice – airy but crisp, with just the right amount of chew and dough bounce. I went with a mozzarella, ricotta, tomato and broccoli slice. I enjoyed it. If you find yourself in the area, this is a decent shop.

I LOVE NY PIZZA – YOU WILL TOO
1705 Union St
Schenectady, NY 12309

Harolds Meat + Three

Last night I tried a ton of really great American, and specifically NY/NJ, comfort food here at Harold’s Meat + Three. There’s a lot to discuss, so I might as well get right down to it.

WINGS

Brined, smoked and grilled, these are some of the best, most deeply flavorful wings I’ve ever had. They have a great charcoal, wood-fired flavor to them.

PIZZA

We sampled two wood fired flatbread pizzas. The first, an arugula, cheese and ham:

The second, egg, cheese and Taylor ham. Amazing. Off the menu, but you can ask for it at brunch time.

BURGERS & SANDWICHES

Breakfast burger with sunny side egg, taylor ham and American. This tasted like a great white castle slider mixed with a classic deli style egg sandwich.

The South Jersey Soul Crusher: five thick cut, griddled slices of Taylor ham (or pork roll, depending on which part of Jersey you’re in), on an everything bagel. Perfect hangover food.

Egg sandwich with American cheese, salt, pepper and ketchup. A classic, but on a potato bun, and with some pork roll added for good measure. So tasty.

The award winning burger. This baby is simple and delicious. Two smash patties, lots of american, pickles, and a smear of ketchup and mustard, all on a potato bun. Perfect.

BLT. Perfectly executed with Harold Moore’s smoked bacon and crispy Taylor ham bits.

Speaking of smoked bacon, we had a plate of that as well. Incredible.

CHOPS

The rib eye steak.

This is wet aged and simply grilled to a perfect medium rare. Served with an array of veggies so you feel good about yourself.

The lamb blade chop.

I love when places offer interesting and less common cuts of meat. Harold nails it with a citrus marinade, Italian herbs and crushed red pepper. A squeeze from the grilled lemon really made this do backflips on my tastebuds. Check out the perfect cook temp inside:

PASTA (sweet potato tortellini)

There’s smoked ricotta, sage and brown butter in those beauties.

TRIPE STEW

That’s garlic bread on the side there with it. Super tender, great sauce with aji panca chili.

BISCUITS

This biscuit with pork roll bits inside was incredible. Great way to start the meal (sorry I’m adding it here so late).

DESSERT

Miniature soft serve vanilla ice cream cones. My favorite kind of ice cream. I’m a simple man.

Chocolate cake with ice cream on top. Gotta have the rainbow sprinkles on the frosting too.

Not one bad bite in the bunch. I really suggest you get down here and try this place ASAP. So good, and currently still somewhat “under the radar” of people who like to line up like assholes for food. Not for long though. This place is amazing.

HAROLD’S MEAT + THREE
2 Renwick St
New York NY 10013