The best new pizzeria in New York does not command a two-hour wait in the West Village. It does not take advance bookings via a mobile app. It does not sell limited availability burgers. It does not decorate its space with magnums of Krug Champagne. It does not have a credit card-only policy: That crumpled up five-dollar bill in your pocket is good here for a meal. And its central product is a not a pricey pie but rather a more basic unit of pizza that’s too often overlooked by the city’s top chefs: the slice.
The best new pizzeria in New York is located within eyeshot of a lumber warehouse, a strip club, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum. The best new pizzeria in New York is Corner Slice at Gotham West Market.
You can eat well here for under $7.
In partnership with Ivan Orkin and David Poran, Michael Bergemann (who opened Ivan Ramen) serves a square slice made from a blend of fresh-milled spelt and durum wheat. If you want to geek out on the calculus behind the carbs, my editor Melissa McCart recounted all doughy deets earlier this year. What I’ll say is this: The golden underskirt offers a cracker-like crunch, while the cross section is puffy and chewy, boasting a depth of flavor on par with a breadbasket from a four-star restaurant.
There are cheese and soppressata slices, but the tomato slice is nearly unparalleled. Take a whiff of roasted garlic and sweet Sicilian oregano as a tray of pizza comes out of the oven. Tomatoes, both canned from California, and fresh ones from Jersey, striate the bread in gorgeous shades of pink, orange, and red. Most bites are pulpy and electrically acidic. Others — where the layering of the fruit is thinner than a coat of paint — are drier and more aromatic. The exceedingly light slice, about half the weight of a deck of cards, eats in about 30 seconds.
The price of that tomato slice is $2.75, less than what my neighborhood Sbarro charges for one of the city’s worst pizza experiences.
“Don’t disrespect the pizza parlor,” Christopher Moltisanti decreed during Season 3 of The Sopranos, suggesting that this tri-state area culinary temple — more commonly referred to as the slice joint — deserves the same reverence as church. And really, what other secular, for-profit institution feeds so many for so little?
A New Yorker who goes out for a “slice” isn’t referring to cake, pie, or bread: She’s talking about pizza — usually the round kind — that’s stretched, slicked with cloying tomato sauce, showered with commodity mozzarella, underbaked to order, and underseasoned to allow for a generous application of musty garlic powder or old parmesan. Pick up a proper slice, and it bleeds orange goo onto a paper plate.
New York needs more good slice joints. That’s not to scoff at the impressive state of pizza in New York, a decade-plus renaissance fueled by a passion for regional diversity and artisanal breadmaking.
But it’s disheartening that most of the compelling developments in pizza are at restaurants serving whole pies rather than at the slice level, which is too bad: A few slices are a more practical, everyday meal than an $80 sit-down pizza dinner for two, especially if the meal involves a 45-minute wait just to get seats at the bar.
There’s a logical reason why the slice joint hasn’t proliferated as much as the modern pizza restaurant: It can be tough to make a profit at a venue that doesn’t typically serve alcohol — or much else besides pizza. “When you can charge someone $20 for a small four slice [pie] and sell appetizers,” Bergemann says, “it makes more sense than when I sell someone a slice for $3,” adding that there’s a tighter cap on how much diners are willing to spend on a slice.
Sometimes I’m glad there’s that cap. An argument in favor of the slice isn’t about embracing its craftification: It would be a shame if Rose’s in Penn Station, where everyone greets you by your pizza name (“Hey Boss”) and where the slices come out in seconds, is one day replaced with a fancy fast-casual pizza spot that takes 10 minutes to deliver a thin-crust pie.
The argument in favor of the slice is as much about preserving the past as it is letting the most accessible form of pizza evolve. It’s about allowing customers who care about sourcing, process, and diversity sample a bit of creativity for less than $7. It’s about making sure that when tourists come to Manhattan fifty years from now, they can look forward to a city teeming with affordable slice joints both new and old, instead of a bunch of places selling assembly line lunch bowls.
A few outlets have made the modern slice joint work, from Best Pizza in Williamsburg, to Scarr’s in Lower Manhattan, and of course Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, which will open up a slice spot this fall. But what makes Corner Slice interesting is that it’s as much of an ode to the traditional tri-state-area pizza parlor as it is a hat tip to the Italian-American bakery, along the lines of Sullivan Street in Hell’s Kitchen: home to a mind-blowing tomato crudo slice.
Like an Italian-American bakery, Corner Slice supplements its pies with sour cream coffee cake, meatball sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, fruit crostatas, doughy mortadella pinwheels, buttered rolls, and La Colombe coffee.
But pizza, alas, is why I come here. That tomato slice is as good reheated, crisp as it is straight from the tray, though the cheese-based slices, including a gloriously funky soppressata slice, are better when the heat of the ovens can stretch out the mozzarella just a bit. I like to eat a slice from a seat at Gotham West while watching the sky turn pink over the Hudson.