A Pizza Tour of New York

Inspired by the three part podcast on the history of pizza, we made a pilgrimage to New York to sample as many different pizzas slices as possible. With so much possible pizza to eat, we fortunately were not alone. We were joined by Marnay’s sister, Cheray, and her boyfriend, Chris. From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, we ate at five different pizzerias. Here is our take, presented in chronological order.

Corner Slice
Corner Slice had our favorite crust out of the five. It tasted like freshly made focaccia, but it had a sourdough tang to it. Although the crust was thick, it was by no means doughy. Somehow they made a thick Grandma slice that was neither too thick nor too thin. It had good cheese coverage and the large chunks of tomatoes tasted fantastic. Corner Slice was the unanimous favorite. In fact, Marnay said that it may have been the best pizza she had ever had.

Corner Slice pizza from our New York Pizza tour

Scarr’s
This was thinnest slice of our tour. It was so thin that it was practically a bar slice, although without the crack crust. A lesser slice that was this thin would have fallen apart under the weight of the sauce and cheese. Scarr’s slice admirably kept its crispness intact. The margherita may have been even better than its plain cheese slice. Scarr’s does gets a negative point though for having a rude pizzaiolo.

Scarr's pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Williamsburg Pizza
We visited the Lower East Side location of Williamsburg Pizza, totally unplanned. We just happened to walk by it. The grandma slice tasted exactly like garlic bread – it was oily and super garlicky, but with a crispy crust instead of that loaf of bread style. The plain slice had an airy crust and a flavorful sauce, with a good sauce-to-cheese ratio.

Williamsburg pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

My Pie Pizzeria Romana
This was another square slice, but not nearly as thick as Corner Slice. It was very crispy and had more sauce then cheese, which is something that can be good when done right. Cheray and Chris got meatball pizza but unfortunately, the proportions were off. These were the least visually appealing slices, but the simple margherita was very tasty. Bonus points for having extremely friendly staff and for opening at 10am on a Sunday so we could pack in as much as possible before our train back to DC.

My Pie Pizzeria Romana pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Sofia Pizza Shoppe
The slices at Sofia tasted most similar to a “traditional” deck oven pizza slice. As with all five places we went, the slices were elevated by the crispy crust. There was a little more cheese than either Williamsburg or Scarr’s, but what draws it back into the realm of elite pizzerias is the marvelously crispy crust.

Sofia Pizza Shoppe pizza slice from our New York Pizza tour

Too often, at your run-of-the-mill strip mall deck oven pizzeria, the crust is an afterthought. Usually the crust is undercooked and practically soft. This lack of a crispy crust compounds itself when you load the crust with sauce and cheese.Now, I’m not saying that these types of deck oven pizzerias are bad – we grew up on them. In fact, I could go for one right now. But the way to differentiate a good pizza from a great pizza is in the crust. Every pizzeria we went to on our pizza tour of New York had incredible crust.

Marnay and her sister Cheray from our New York Pizza tour

PS: If you want to make great pizza at home, you need to check out Pizza Camp from Joe Beddia. We swear by this book for making homemade pizza.

Best Bite:
Paul and Marnay: Corner Slice

Places we went:
Corner Slice – 600 11th Avenue New York, NY 10036
Scarr’s – 22 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002
Williamsburg Pizza – 277 Broome Street New York, NY 10002
My Pie Pizzeria Romana – 690 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10022
Sofia Pizza Shoppe – 989 1st Avenue New York, NY 10022

La Piquette

After years of not being overly interested by French cuisine, we have been on a French kick lately. In fact, it’s a safe bet to expect more reviews of French restaurants over the next few months. We started things off with brunch with friends Brenna and Kyle at La Piquette, in DC’s Cathedral Heights neighborhood.

Marnay, Paul, Kyle and Brenna eating brunch at La Piquette in Washington DC

We usually are hesitant to write a full review based on brunch-alone, mainly because the brunch menus at restaurants tend to be unrepresentative of the dinner menus. But the good thing about La Piquette is that the brunch, lunch and dinner menus are all very similar.

At La Piquette’s brunch, you have the option of ordering 3 course for $30—a really good deal. But it also seemed like a lot of food, so all four of us opted to order a la carte. My steak tartare was very finely minced, bound by egg yolk and shot through with copious amounts of horseradish. It was served a bit colder than I would like, however. It was a little like serving wine too cold – you can’t make out all of the flavors.

French

Meanwhile, Marnay cleaned the plate of her mushroom risotto, made with shitake, hen of the woods and royal trumpet mushrooms. We appreciated that La Piquette used some out-of-the-ordinary types of mushrooms and didn’t skimp, either.

French

Kyle went the more traditional brunch route, ordering piperade, a traditional Basque dish (really a sauce more than a dish). Piperade is a red pepper, tomato and onion-based sauce. While the Basque region tends to be associated more with Spain, it’s important to remember that it also includes portions of southwestern France. His piperade was topped with French ham, two sunny side up eggs and frites.

We expected to all be full after this, but the entrees were just so good we didn’t want to skip dessert. We all shared the gateau a la’ orange–a spongy, sweet cake, plus a chocolate mousse. The gateau came with crème Anglaise, meant for pouring over the cake. I’ll admit, the sauce was so good I also ate it on its own!

Gateau a la’ orange for dessert at La Piquette in Washington DC

A lot of ink has been spilled over what constitutes a “neighborhood restaurant.” At its heart, I think it just means a place where you can go frequently (maybe 2-3 times a month). I believe that La Piquette fits the bill: it’s small, cozy, and moderately-priced with respectful but not overly formal service. If we lived in Cathedral Heights, I could see us going to La Piquette multiple times a month, for sure. For classic French cuisine in a casual setting, La Piquette is the place to go.

Best Bite
Paul: Steak tartare with frites
Marnay: Mushroom risotto

Address
La Piquette: 3714 Macomb Street, NW Washington, DC 20016
Closest Metro: Cleveland Park

Rye Street Tavern

I work in downtown Baltimore and wanted to have a fun daytime adventure before the end of 2018. So, before the holidays, Marnay met me for lunch at Andrew Carmellini’s Rye Street Tavern, in the Port Covington section of south Baltimore.

The restaurant, for now, is nearly all alone in Port Covington. The only exceptions are a few industrial buildings, an UnderArmour office and the restaurant’s sibling distillery, Sagamore Spirits. Down the line, though, this will be a large mixed-used area that will grow around the restaurant. As of now it is a destination spot with an incredible waterfront location. On nice days (such as the day we dined), the windows are opened for a cooling breeze.

Paul and Marnay Meyer standing outside Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Since the restaurant is isolated from residential areas, we were surprised to find it crowded on a workday. We went to the bar but had trouble finding two seats next to each other. We briefly had a feeling of helplessness until the wonderful bartender saw our plight and came out from behind the bar. She was able to play bar-patron Tetris and figured out a way for Marnay and I to sit next to each other. During the whole meal, in fact, she really went above and beyond!

The free cornbread to start the meal was a bit dry (but, hey, also free) but after that just about everything was fantastic. I opted for the $25 three-course prix-fixe, a good deal. The ember-roasted beets with sheep’s milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts tasted smoky like barbecue. Plus, the big chunks of sweet beets were so juicy they reminded me of watermelon, but with the texture of a root vegetable. The yogurt and the hazelnuts made it feel like a complete dish. Above all, the presentation was stunning.

Ember-roasted beets with sheep's milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Marnay ordered the Southern-style fried chicken, Rye Street’s Tavern’s signature dish. It was perfectly seasoned, and we especially liked the housemade hot sauce, which the bartender encouraged us to use. It really only needed a little bit because it was well-seasoned already. The only disappointment was the honey-butter biscuit, which tasted like it had been drenched in melted butter.

Southern-style fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

I came in with low expectations for the rock shrimp tacos—after all Rye Street Tavern is a modern-American restaurant. But the battered and fried shrimp topped with pickled jalapenos and a fiery guajillo chile paste and young cilantro were quite good. I would even consider getting them again!

Rock shrimp tacos at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

My prix fixe came with dessert, so we shared a slice of vanilla buttermilk pie. It was a tasty end to the meal. Throughout everything, our bartender did a fantastic job of taking care of all, as while still serving the other bar patrons. If I had gotten her name, I would have passed along a good word to the manager on the way out. On a nice day, it’s hard to top Rye Street Tavern’s waterfront setting as a place to grab a bite in Baltimore. I can definitely see us going back in the Spring when the weather is warmer.

Slice of vanilla buttermilk pie at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Ember roasted beets

Address
Rye Street Tavern: 13 Rye Street Baltimore, MD 21230