If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.
60. SICILIAN SLICE at ROSE & JOE’S ITALIAN BAKERY
The first bite of this Sicilian Slice (ordered at the back counter of a small bakery in Astoria) was nothing special. The tomato sauce was flavorful, but I wish it had been a bit more significant. The cheese was more prominent than on most Sicilian slices and it was fine but didn’t really stand out.
But on the next few bites, the world sort of opened up. I got into the buttery crust (especially those amazing burnt edges) and I literally said “Yum” out loud. I’m not one to make exclamations to myself and I can’t remember the last time I seriously used the word “Yum.”
The special crust here is much thicker and doughier than the popular grandma slices, but at the ends is this crisp char that is just a few notches away from being burnt, and it’s absolutely delicious. Anybody who understands the pleasure of crunching on well-done (but not burnt) cheese and bread will understand this great experience. It turned the pizza from being just an ordinary slice into something truly special.
|ROSE & JOE’S ITALIAN BAKERY|
|22-40 31st Street (between 23rd Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard)
59. RED SLICE at SALUGGI’S
One place that the pizza celebrities of New York haven’t yet fully exploited is Saluggi’s. I think it still has yet to be truly discovered, but fortunately I got to discover it and I fell in love.
They’re one of the few really quality pizzerias that will actually sell you just a slice. And the one to get is their Red slice.
It’s a large and beautiful slice without much of a true crust. But the tomato sauce, cheese (both mozzarella and parmesan), and fresh basil go all the way out the edge. It’s soft, tender and crunchy becoming more crisp as you reach the brink.
And they make their own mozzarella cheese, which is incredibly fresh and awesomely stretchy. Each bite almost felt like I was blowing a piece of bubble gum, but in reverse. And cheese flavored bubble gum. Take that Hubba Bubba!
|325 Church Street (between Canal Street and Lispenard Street)
58. CLAM PIE at LOMBARDI’S PIZZA
Lombardi’s was definitely the place that brought pizza to New York and most likely, to this country. So it had better be good, right?
Over 100 years later, the pizzas are still delicious. But the clam pie (which somehow sounds dirty) is out of this world. Fortunately the clams aren’t as old as the pizzeria.
It was worth the $26.95 I spent on the 14 inches (that’s $1.95 per inch). The pie is crowded with fresh clams and garnished with a lemon. The clams are chewy and delicious and all the flavors come together like an Italian masterpiece. This could have been incredibly heavy and decadent since it features all the ingredients for a nice linguini white sauce. But it was really just right. And I was amazed that the light thin crust held up the weight of those beautiful bivalves. Price: $26.95
|32 Spring Street (between Mott Street and Mulberry Street)
57. MARGHERITA PIE at COALS
I had never heard of (let alone tasted) grilled pizza before this year. I ventured up to Coals, a divey but homey pizzeria/bar all the way up in the Bronx, to discover an unusual take on pizza.
The small margherita pie is so thin and light, but very rich, buttery, and tender. It reminds me a bit of a grilled cheese sandwich (bet you never saw that one coming), but lighter and more balanced.
The bread is slathered with mozzarella and beautiful red mountains of tomato sauce with restrained slivers of basil dotting the canvas. There is also a nice garnish of sharp pecorino cheese which gives the pizza an edgy bite.
This is not your usual New York pie, but it’ll broaden your horizons and might convert you to the ingenious grilled pizza. Now if only they could figure out a way to make other variations (like fat free pizza) taste this good…
|1888 Eastchester Road (between Morris Park Avenue and Loomis Street)
Morris Park, Bronx
56. CHERRY JONES at PAULIE GEE’S
Paulie Gee was a wiz at changing his career from engineer to pizzaiolo. And he’s a wiz at making some of the best new pizza in the city.
They’re in the Neapolitan style so the dough is tender and doughier than most thin-crust New York slices. And Paulie usess local, fresh ingredients and pairs them with the right Italian imports to make winning pies.
My favorite is the Cherry Jones which features fior di latte cheese, gorgonzola, prosciutto, dried bing cherries, and locally made honey. The ingredients are surprising (especially together), the final product is an awesome pizza experience that features complementing flavors – richness, sweetness, saltiness, and a nice amount of funk from the blue cheese. Paulie Gee is a wiz! Price: $17
|60 Greenpoint Avenue (between West Street and Franklin Street)