Showing posts with label Inwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Inwood. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pizza Palace: "A Spike Lee Joint"

It was getting a little later as we left Nova and headed over to and like most summer nights in the city, the teenage boys were out in droves puffing out their chests and doing their elaborate homosocial courtship rituals. I looked across the street at our destination and there's a 19 year old Dominican kid with Bone-Thugz pigtails giving dap to a 30-something Italian guy who looks like John Turtorro, looked up and noticed that the awning of the place read "Pizza Heroes." The extraneous E in the word "Heros" didn't escape Sweet Tooth or myself because we turned to each other as we crossed the road and both said, "Those guys are my Pizza Heroes."

We walked into the damn place, and it was so alive compared to all the empty shitholes I had been in all evening (barring Grandpas). It reminded me of when I was a kid. Three generations of Italian dudes, from old-guy, to 30-something, to greasy-teen, standing behind a counter serving at least as many generations of the multi-ethnic clientelle that have been haunting pizza establishments since Bill and Ted brought the first ever pizza to the first ever Time Travel Olympics on Pangea, and ate it with Shaka Zulu, Ghengis Khan and Arnold Schwartzenegger, which technically happens after now, but in a time before now. WRAP YOUR BRAIN AROUND THAT ONE, SMARTASS!

Oh, but anyway, the slice. I ordered a slice. It was a tidy $2.25. The 30-something took my order while the greasy-teen took my money. I handed him a crisp $10 bill and said, "Hold on, I got a quarter," while digging in my pockets for the coin I knew I had. He started to count me out change when John Turturro, overhearing that I had a quarter and then overhearing that the kid's counting coins shouts, "'E SAYS 'E'S GOT A KWATA!" and slaps the kid in the back of the head, real mean-friendly and hands me my slice without even putting it in the oven.

So, they are obviously confident their pizza is good because that thing looks sloppy as fuck, AND they didn't even reheat it. This slice had thicker dough and more cheese than I generally prefer in a slice, but they were perfectly balanced so that every bite was a delight. And the dough, while thicker, was airy and fluffy, not dense and horrid. This really comes through in the crust, which, though it was thick and pale, two signs that it might be undercooked and crappy, it had a nice crispness to it, and the inside was fluffy enough that it never felt overwhelming or heavy.

As I was eating the slice I remarked to Tooth, "I like this place because I'm afraid to criticize the pizza out loud while we're sitting here. Like, I'm actually scared someone that works here will get offended and try to kick my ass. And you know what that tells me, these people take pride their pizza." Sweet Tooth, always astute, simply said, "Sometimes fear is a key ingredient in a perfect slice."

Pizza Palace
121 Dyckman Street
New York, NY 10034

Pizza Nova: "I can't think of anything"

With my whole demeanor revitalized by the presence of one of my favorite dudes, I asked Mr. Tooth if he would be down to help me check out a couple of more places. So we strolled down Dyckman and hit up .

I was initially turned off by the shape of the crust. It looked like a narrow wall someone had made with their thumb after pushing out the dough purely by hand or with a roller. It looked like the crust on the pizza they have at ice skating rinks, or the kind of pizza they have in crappy places outside New York like Albany. But I am a man on a mission, so I paid my $2.25 and was pleasantly surprised by the size of the slice. At least I was getting my money's worth, right? Keep in mind that the lighting in this place, though it seemed white, coupled with the crappy camera on my iphone, seemed to be in collusion to make every picture I tried to take of this pizza come out in weird, psychedelic colors:

The first thing that Toof and me noticed was how much this pizza looked and smelled like the plain slice at the Turkish pizza places in Berlin. Sweet Tooth talked about stifling a sneeze while reading 's diary at a museum in Boston while I thoughfully chewed the tentative first bites of this slice. There were a million things wrong with it, in fact it was so wrong that it was almost good in its own right. But something was fundamentally wrong, in my book, and I couldn't figure out what it was until I took a sip of water and had another bite. It was too sweet. The dough was sweet, the sauce had waaaay too much fennel seed, even the cheese seemed somehow sweet. If that's your thing, I bet you'd love this slice, and it was a lot of food for the $2.25 it cost, but I just wasn't totally into it. Sweet T and Me both agree that the bread was too doughy, too.

Pizza Nova
150 Dyckman St
New York, NY 10040

PJ's Famous Pizzeria / Tony's Pizza and Gyro: "More Like BJ's Famous / Blow-Me's"

Well, after the total debacle that was Pizza Delia, I set my box of misbegotten photocopies I'd be hauling around on the curb, rolled a cigarette and debated real hard whether or not it was worth it to keep it up, or pack it in for the night. Because by now my mood was soured, but time was of the essence, because without Sweet Tooth sharing slices with me, I ran the risk of becoming full if I sat still too long. I checked my list, and there were two more pizzerias in between where I stood and the Dyckman A train stop, meaning that if I could stomach two more slices, next week I could start at Dyckman and not have to backtrack. With my resolve firmly in place, I resaddled my burden (is that even a phrase, to saddle one's burden? Because it was more like I was the pack mule in this case), and trooped down Broadway. In a moment of questionable luck, one of the places on my list seemed to have vanished without a trace. And as I approached the next place, (be careful about the loud ass music on this ridiculous and amazing website), which beamed like a ray of sunshine look at this place:

That isn't an incorrect picture, we have yet another instance of awning/phonebook discrepancy. I was thrilled at the sight of this shithole. Then I walk in on this:

Except there's some old dude standing by himself behind the counter wearing a greasy Guitar Hero promotional baseball cap. I seriously thought I was in . They were playing Light FM! Every good pizzeria has the shittiest music. Always. So you can imagine I was pretty thrilled to get my pizza. I even didn't care that my slice was $2.50 because it was kind of on the big side. Here it is:

And boy, what a dispointment it was. Where to begin? This pizza had horrible ratios. Too much cheese, next to no sauce, too much dough. And the dough had fucking CORNMEAL all over the bottom, and because it was so overcooked, the cornmeal had all burned into this horrible textured, horrible tasting teutonic plate at the bottom of my slice. When I folded the crust this fucking thing snapped in half. Have you ever had a slice in the freezer, and you put it in the oven at 350 to defrost all slow-like, so it reheats evenly, and then you forget about it for like, 40 minutes instead of forgetting about it for 20 minutes? That's basically what happened to this pizza. It's inexscusable. The lack of sauce led to the whole slice being really dry, and the copious amounts of grease did not really help that situation, though grease is technically a liquid.

The only good thing about my experience eating this slice of pizza was that while I was doing it Sweet Tooth walked into the place blinking like a moleman, told me he lost his glasses in the ocean so he's been walking around half-blind, and that he just got off a subway train that was stopped in the tunnel filled with smoke so he thought there was a terrorist attack or something, and then he had been wandering around Inwood sticking his head into every pizza shop and giving people a description of me to see if I'd been there. And since that part of the experience was totally incidental and had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the pizza I was eating, I will give this slice 50 thumbs down. BOOOO!

Tony's Pizza & Gyro
4771 Broadway
New York, NY 10034

Pizza Delia: "Fuck This Place."

Leaving Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp. (I can't stop saying that awkward name, I love it), I was excited to stop into , because it looked somewhat comforting and familiar.

I should have turned right around when I saw that woman's beleaguered expression. I thought perhaps her day had been so bad that even pizza couldn't make it better, but my 20-20 hindsight is telling me that her day totally ruled and was the raddest but then she took one bite of the shit pizza they sling in this craphole and the burdens of the world fell upon her shoulders like a curse.

When I got to the counter, the first thing I noticed was that they kept all the spices in the bottles they use for ketchup or garlic aioli or whatever in restaurant kitchens. This was an unnecessary but small hassle for me when preparing my slice later on. The pepper and garlic powder poured out in torrents, while the red pepper and oregano nearly refused to arrive at all.

During all this thinking, I realized what this place reminded me of--that pizzeria on the corner of Delancy and Essex. The one with the totally shitty pizza. Me and Juan used to go there back when we went to ABC No Rio all the time because it was around the corner and their slices were only $1, whereas our favorite place, St. Marks Pizza (RIP) was like, ten blocks away and cost $1.50. A couple years ago I was in that neighborhood, right after $2 replace $1.50 as the standard price for a slice, and I decided to stop in there and retry the place, figuring they were at least maybe still $1.50. I ordered my slice, it was the same sub-par bullshit, but they had decided, when everyone else in the neighborhood upped the prices to $2 to just shoot straight to $2.25. I feel like a penny pincher kvetching over quarters like this, but it's just a really big deal, and if you love pizza, you understand. But back to Pizza Delia's shitty slice:

Looks good, right? But it's not. It's terrible. Majorly undercooked, this slice hung like a limp dick when I folded it. The dough and the sauce were both WAY too sweet, and the slice itself was really unpleasantly heavy. I could tell with each bite that it was gonna weigh in my gut like a brick. I really started to bemoan the fact that Sweet Tooth wasn't around to help me finish it, because I can't stand to waste food. I begrudgingly got to the crust, which was totally awful-- undercooked, but dense. When I left I actually kicked a telephone pole and muttered "fuck that place" under my breath.

Pizza Delia
582 W 207th St
New York, NY 10034-2603
(212) 544-9453

Telwin Pizzeria And Pastas Corp. / D'Junior's Pizza: "Don't Judge A Slice By Its Toppings"

I left Grandpa's feeling a little bit excited and still very hungry, headed back South on Broadway and took a West on 207th, down to , the very unfortunately awninged establishment on 207th and Post Ave.

The crowd outside here is not, in fact, waiting to sit in an airconditionless, musicless pizza purgatory, they are in line for the Pay-O-Matic check cashing place, whose logo looks like someone frowning and shedding a single tear, a fact that has always bothered me.

I pushed my way through the folks waiting in line to cash their checks and into the pizzeria. The woman behind the counter had been looking forlornly out the window at all the non-customers and really perked up when I came in. "A slice to stay? Anything else?!" When I told her no thanks, she seemed a little disapointed but that's life, huh? I paid my $2.25, spiced up, and headed to a table with a slice I was not looking forward to eating.

This picture doesn't quite do the slice the injustice that the lighting in the pizza place did, but the slice I held in my hands looked washed out and undercooked. However, when I folded it in half, I heard, thanks to the horrible silence permeating the place, that perfect crunch of a perfect slice cracking down the middle. And when I bit down, that first bite was perfect. I pulled the slice away from my mouth in total shock. It didn't look amazing, but this slice was incredible. Upon further bites I decided that the dough could've used a little more salt and the sauce could've been a touch less sweet, but that was really just me being nitpicky.

As I got further towards the crust, where the dough thickens, the slice got less good. I couldn't believe it. I was right initially, the slice was undercooked. But it was undercooked at such a goddamn high temperature that it cooked through perfectly up until the very edges. The crust was a haggard mess that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, but man, three quarters of that slice was heaven.

Oh, and as for the slashes in the name the sign says Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp. and the menus read D'Junior's Pizzeria. What do you make of that?

Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp.
522 W 207th St
New York, NY 10034-2646
(212) 304-0990

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grandpa's Brick Oven Pizza: "Two Thumbs Halfway Up"

I woke up really startled and sweaty in Union Square Park at 5:36 this afternoon because I had gotten a text message from Good Kid Paulie that succeeded at what the alarm going off for 6 minutes at that point had failed to do, probably much to the chagrin of everyone around me in the park. I was sleeping leaned up against a giant Staples box full of zine copies I had been making in preparation for the coming up this weekend. After three and a half hours in Staples looking over my shoulder every time an employee walked by because I was scared they might notice that the copy count wasn't moving on the display and that my card value had read $0.25 since I'd gotten there, I packed everything up and went out to the park to read a little bit before heading up to Inwood to meet Sweet Tooth and begin the journey. It was definitely a good day for it, I had worked up quite an appetite by the time that I woke up and immediately hustled onto the train.

I got out of the 207th St A train Station onto the corner of 207th and Broadway at exactly 6:31, one minute after I was supposed to meet Sweet T. I sat around and read and smoked a cigarette for a while, because no one actually shows up on time, waiting for him, and eventually I had to piss so bad I was like, 'Fuck This,' and walked over to the pizza place I could see from the corner, Pizza Haven. I had been staring at it's crappy old looking sign and tri-color awning salivating for like, half an hour. That is the awning of a proper pizzeria. A bus had been obscuring the front of the place, and I was really excited to see if it looked equally perfect inside. And I couldn't wait to try the damn slice. So you can imagine my surprise when I the idling bus left and I was confronted by this sad reality:

That's right. The place was closed. At 6:50. Which led me to wonder if it's ever open. I kind of hope not because later on when I finally did meet Tooth, he told me he'd eaten there before with Andy, Chris and DPG and it's really nothing special.

So I picked up my giant box of spuriously obtained copies and shlepped north on Broadway two blocks to 211th street, to go try out , the northern-most pizzeria in Manhattan:

The place was decently crowded and that was good, but then again, it's right outside the 211th St. exit for the 207 stop, so who knows if those people are just spillover from our city's fine and moderately priced public transit system. But there were two stoned construction workers on line in front of me and they seemed excited, so I was excited, too. I paid my $2.50, got my slice, put my usual assortment of spices on it (black pepper, red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, all in moderation, and a touch of parmigiana, if available), and walked it over to a table in the ample seating area.

Good looking slice, huh? Well, it was perfect, taste-wise. The dough and crust were incredible, just salty enough, the cheese was gooey but firm, the sauce was perfect-slightly sweet, slightly tangy. And it had that smell. The smell that used to make me and my dad stop and split a slice of pizza walking down the street, despite the fact that we were full of the giant cheeseburgers we'd just consumed moments before, because we couldn't resist the aroma. The problem with this slice was that it was totally unsubstantial. The ratios of everything were perfect in context, but all told, there just wasn't enough of any of it. The dough was so thin it couldn't hold the weight of all that delicious cheese and grease, so it flopped over flaccidly when I folded the slice in half. I ended up accidentally stuffing almost half the slice in my mouth trying to take my first bite, and my mouth wasn't even terribly full of food. I'd have to eat three of these slices to get anywhere near full, and at $2.50 each, that is not suitable for a broke asshole like me.

Grandpas Pizza
4973 Broadway
New York, NY 10034-1651
(212) 304-1185
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