Just as ramen maven Orkin — of Ivan Ramen on the Lower East Side and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop — knows the importance of noodles to a bowl of ramen, Bergemann has taken to heart that a good pizza starts with knowing how to bake bread.
The kind of pizza Bergemann wanted rose out of nostalgia for the New York- and New Jersey-area corner pizzerias, back in the days (or in our memories) when pizza had more personality, was better for us, and would appeal to anyone in the neighborhood — from delivery people, to suits, to families visiting New York — with a price point to match. He’s not into fancy Neapolitan-style pizzas or the Detroit slice, he says.
“We’re not trying to be super Italian,” says Bergemann. “We’re trying to be super New York.”
Before we talk baking and what makes the pizza here stand out, let’s differentiate between pizza-that’s-good versus pizza-that-we-like — because when we’re drunk, or short on cash, hungry, and standing in front of a dollar slice shop — the two can be different. And if you’re a cheese-to-the-edge kind of pizza connoisseur, this may not be the pizza for you.
What makes this pizza exciting is that it starts with a spelt and durum wheat blend from Central Milling, which means that — outside of Bruno Pizza, Ops, The Brooklyn Bread Lab and a few other spots — it’s one of the few places in New York using entirely artisan flour for all of its pizzas. This is good because it often leads to more flavorful crust.
This next section is for bread nerds. The dough undergoes a 60-hour fermentation at 80 percent hydration, which includes the use of a starter to build dough strength and flavor, as well as cake yeast, which helps with crispness when pizza comes out of the oven. Using a starter and a long ferment also means gluten levels can be low, like, gluten-free bread low. And without additives that speed up the dough-making process, Corner Slice pizzas are more digestible than the slices sold at the average corner shop.
Once the dough is ready, sheets are par-baked, topped according to orders, then finished in the oven. You know it’s going to be good by the airy, symmetric hole structure in each slice, as well as the fact that it’s exceptionally light — even though it’s thick. It’s a level of dedication to bread that few pizzerias practice.
Beyond the crust, Corner Slice wanted to use better ingredients in every aspect of the restaurant, like meat from Fleischer’s to make sausage in house. They also wanted to make very good coffee that would take less time than a pour-over and to offer more incentives for snacks than the fare at third-wave coffee shops. This would include sweet and savory baked goods that would stick in your memory — like lard bread, olive oil pistachio muffins, and mortadella pinwheels, like the rotolo at Pizzeria Vetri.
Aside from pizza, coffee, and pastries, there’s a breakfast sandwich made on house-baked semolina rolls, topped with peppers and eggs, or smoked ham.
The shop suggests neophytes start with the tomato pizza finished with Sicilian oregano. From there, move on to the mozzarella pizza as well as white pizza ($2.75 to $4.50 a slice). Should you wish for toppings, there are plenty of to choose from, including roasted onions, fennel sausage, and anchovy.
This week, hours are abbreviated, from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Regular hours begin March 13, Sunday through Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. — until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Go early, or give yourself the time to stand in line. With ambition like this, it might just be the next big pizza destination in New York.