Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop, at just under six months old, continues to serve nearly flawless New York-style pizza. It’s as simple as that. The Greenpoint venue, as owner Paul Giannone wrote in an email last year, is an “homage to to the many Brooklyn slice shops I frequented in the ’60s and ’70s.” He cited Korner Pizza in Kensington or Pizza Wagon in Bay Ridge as examples, places whose booths, like his own, boast the same unnaturally red or orange hues as a Kool-Aid.
Just one problem: A proper New York slice shop needs a square slice. When Paulie Gee’s debuted last August, its perpendicular effort wasn’t ready for the public. “Still in development” is what a counter guy told me in October. Then in early November, it officially launched.
That slice is called the Freddy Prince. It’s a heck of an offering.
The name, of course, evokes a certain teen heartthrob of the late ’90s, co-star of She’s all That — and an unlikely cookbook author. But the moniker is actually an homage to two famous pie joints. Head pizza maker Andrew Brown coats the bottom of his squares with sesame seeds, a hat tip to Freddy’s Pizzeria of Whitestone, New York. He also showers the top layer of fresh mozzarella with a thick layer of red sauce, in the style of Prince Street’s “upside down” slice.
How does it taste? Darn good. The pan-baked pizza, nearly as thick as a dry-aged steak, exhibits a pleasantly chewy crumb and a crispy underskirt. The mozz sports a noted milkiness, while the tomato sauce revs up the dairy’s natural sugars (I’d prefer something a bit more acidic). But what makes the slice truly special is the sprinkling of pecorino, imparting a gently funky tang, and the sesame seeds, adding a complex dose of nuttiness.
Sesame isn’t an entirely rare inclusion. Best Pizza deploys them smartly in its white pie, and so do others. But here, the marked aroma of the seeds doesn’t seem to channel a standard Italian loaf or bagel as much as it does something a bit more fragrant — perhaps a warm giuggiulena, the traditional sesame cookie of Calabria. The ingredient perfumes every bite.
Giannone tells me he occasionally serves something called the Hellyboy2, a square slice topped with pepperoni. It’s an offering that brings to mind Prince Street’s legendary “Spicy Spring,” which at least one soon-to-be chain is having a tough time replicating. Paulie Gee’s gets around the copycat issue by throwing in a touch of honey and omitting the requisite chile-flecked sauce. The only issue is its limited availability, which Giannone attributes to his tight kitchen space.
For now, the Freddy Prince is the chief square slice on tap. It costs $4.25, and it’s definitely 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).