Angelo Iezzi is supposedly a pizza legend in Rome. He rose to fame in the 1980s by adopting a long fermentation, high-hydration style of style of pie-making that resulted in an airy, crispy, highly digestible crust. And as luck would have it Iezzi himself now has a permanent Manhattan presence — of sorts. He’s partnered with Fabio Casella of San Matteo fame to open PQR on the Upper East Side, selling his signature al taglio slices, cut with scissors into grandma-style rectangles. Iezzi is “one of the pizza gods,” Casella has said.
So I strolled into PQR, located next to the three Michelin-starred burger chain known as Wahlburgers, and gave the crew a little New York welcome. “So, is the pizza any good here?” I jovially asked the guy behind the counter. The guy behind the counter was not happy with my question.
Pizza in New York is about dealing with strong headed folks with very specific ideas about what this Italian-American product should taste like. That’s all the more true at tri-state area slice joints, a sacred and somewhat staid institution that has largely remained immune to the upscale-ification and diversification that has transformed the larger pizza pie market over the last decade.
I’m a believer that most slice joints could be better, especially if anyone expects a younger generation of food obsessed folks to stay excited about this quintessential New York product. PQR, based on an early visit, is easily one of the better ones, and possibly one of the best.
The buffalo mozzarella slices ($6.50) are fantastic. The popped cherry tomatoes and their pulp exude a sharply fruity, floral aroma. The first impression is almost, ‘This could use a hint more sugar,’ and that problem is fixed when one bites into a gob of creamy, milky mozz. The pumpkin slices, in turn, balance sweetness with the vegetal overtones of the squash, all cut by a salty jolt of pancetta.
And that famous crust? It’s almost everything it’s trumped up to be — a cracker-like underskirt and a soft interior, with a digestibility that’s infinitely higher than a typical slice joint slice (though it doesn’t quite boast the complexity of a square from Corner Slice, which also espouses a high-hydration, long fermentation ethos).
PQR, incidentally, feels like a typical slice joint in that there were a bunch of people behind the counter doing nothing. And while I was disappointed at the lack of a quarter slot video game machine (something that disappeared from most pizza parlors decades ago), I was stoked that everything was served on a red plastic tray, with glass bottle of Fanta.
I’m rating the rating the buffalo mozz, pumpkin slices, and Fanta soda a BUY!
Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).