My search for the best pizza in New York continues….
When I visited St. Louis a few years ago, I discovered a relatively obscure pizza style I never even knew existed. St. Louis pizza was unheard of in these parts. And here I was thinking that New York had every style of pizza imaginable. Was it topped with barbecue and baked on gooey butter cake? What could possibly separate the pizza in “the Gateway to the West” from the rest of the world?
I must admit I wasn’t immediately won over when I visited Imo’s in downtown St. Louis. The pizza was cracker thin and it was caked with a gooey processed cheese called Provel. Evidently if you grew up with the stuff, you learned to love and crave it. Having come to this later in life, I wasn’t as nostalgic for the greasy, plastic flavor. It was only a matter of time before this oddity was brought to the big city and it makes perfect sense that Brooklyn is where that niche was filled.
Speedy Romeo was jamming early on a Saturday evening when we arrived. We were fortunate to get a corner table without too long of a wait. The restaurant was filled with families, couples, and large groups enjoying the weekend. On one side of the menu, there’s a list of cleverly named pizza creations, while the reverse side is a bit more ambitious with full entrees of protein and a nice selection of appetizers.
We decided to stick with the pizza for our first visit. They offered a special seasonal pizza called “Spring Training” that was very intriguing. This was a limited-time only pie in collaboration with Chef Ashely Merriman from Top Chef and The Waverly Inn. Topped with pancetta, peas, pea shoots, ricotta, mint, and a runny egg, it was hard to not order it, especially with the promise of fresh spring flavors. The pizza looked and sounded better than it tasted. For some reason, none of the herbs or greens really popped with flavor. The pizza crust was moist and crisp, but the toppings (aside from the meaty pancetta) were all rather bland when combined together. It was a bit of a head-scratcher. Where did all those exciting flavors go?
Hailing from its namesake city, the Saint Louie pizza worked better than I expected. Here the Provel cheese is just dotted throughout yielding a creamy and velvety texture. Its sharpness played nicely with the tangy tomato sauce, bright pickled green chiles, and the double whammy of meat: sausage and pepperoni.
I thought the crust was perfectly cooked. It wasn’t as crackery as Imo’s, yet it still had a browned crisp exterior with a pleasant chew.
I’m still not completely convinced that St. Louis-style pizza is for me. There’s a processed flavor to the toppings that conjures up memories of heartburning junk food served at a bowling alley. However, it’s exciting that Speedy Romeo is bringing the city one more regional specialty and I believe they do it as well as they can. I wonder what the folks in St. Louis proper would think.
Is Speedy Romeo the best pizza in NY? I’m eager to try their other offerings, but they get a 7 out of 10 for now since they do a mighty fine job with the crust. I’m just not sold on all their topping choices. But I didn’t grow up in the right region.
|376 Classon Avenue (at Greene Avenue),
Clinton Hill, Brooklyn