Sometimes maybe I’m just wrong and the rest of the world is right. For instance, I never liked The Sixth Sense. I just didn’t think it was a good movie and I saw through all its smoke and mirrors. My eclectic tastes and smug opinions have often been controversial among my friends. So this is your warning to not trust anything I write in this blog.
The reason I doubt myself now is because of Artichoke Basille’s Pizza. Artichoke, as it is commonly known, has been highly acclaimed in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Out, the list goes on. And all the other food blogs are acting as if the Pizza Messiah has just arrived. Also, the presence of an interminable line down 14th Street proves that the pizza is incredibly popular around the city.
Two cousins from Staten Island opened Artichoke a little over a year ago in a tiny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it storefront close to Stuyvesant Town. They only sell four pizza options with two beers on tap. There’s no place to sit inside, but if you’re lucky enough to score a seat on the benches outside, you won’t have to stand at the cramped bar area. But let’s be honest, a good slice is eaten on the go anyway.
I had my first (and I thought my last) Artichoke experience a few months ago when I came in to try their namesake slice. It was a pretty large slice for the price and it featured a homemade artichoke dip on a thin crust. It definitely had some flavor, but it reminded me of an artichoke dip you’d get at a T.G.I. Friday’s type restaurant. I finished the slice, but felt like I was about to have a heart attack. It was so greasy and rich that I don’t think I was able to eat for days (or, at least, a few hours). It really turned me off to the possibility of trying Artichoke again.
Well, now that I have officially begun my search for the best pizza, I felt like I should give Artichoke a second chance. And this time I would try their popular Sicilian slice.
I went at an off hour, but was still amazed that there was no line. I had forgotten about the blaring Bon Jovi music. Could they really play Bon Jovi on a loop at all times? I thought Jersey was on the other side of the river.
I realized I was definitely still in New York, when I looked at the prices. My Sicilian slice cost me $3.50 and was smaller than I had remembered. It was cut to order and I was sent on my way with my pizza and my paper plate.
If that plate had not been there to soak up some of the grease, I may not have had an artery left unclogged. The pizza was just as greasy and heavy as I had remembered. In addition to the mozzarella, there was a surprising amount of grated Parmesan (I’m guessing from one of those green Kraft containers) and the soggiest fresh basil I have ever encountered.
This pizza is messy, cheap (not in price) and over the top. The grease is truly overwhelming and the excess of cheese pulls off with each bite leaving very little by the heart stopping finish. The basil is either not terribly fresh or just overcooked. But it too gets lost because it slides right off the pizza as you start in. Everything gets lost in the first few bites that you’re left with nothing except the tomato sauce and a bit of parmesan cheese. And for this I paid $3.50!?!
I did enjoy their crust. It was very crunchy and almost burnt. But it felt as if it had been fried because I could tell that if the cheese and oil didn’t kill me, then the crust would do the trick. The whole experience reminded me of the cheap, probably microwaved pizza I would get at the bowling alley or roller rink when I was a teenager.
I think Artichoke is perfect for an inebriated (you’d have to be drunk to do this to your body) late night snack (they’re opened until 3am most nights). I could definitely see how this pizza would do the job of soaking up a night of debauchery. But for a grown-up palate or somebody looking for fresh and authentic pizza pies, I would recommend an alternative. But after all, this is the East Village and dirty and hip are all the rage – which is great for a bar or a club, but not what I’m interested in when it comes to my food. I guess I just don’t get it. I must be wrong.
Is Artichoke Basille’s the best pizza in NY? As is evidenced by all the hype, I suppose it depends who you ask. In my humble opinion, the grease and oil are just way too much and the ingredients not fresh enough to balance that out. I give it a 4 out of 10, but again, I very well could be wrong.