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A round red pie with pineapple on top.
The al pastor pizza at El Mercadito.

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A Mexican Pizzeria Debuts in Jackson Heights

Al pastor, chile relleno, and chicken tinga pizzas are on the menu at El Mercadito Mexicano

A decade ago, Mexican immigrants began taking over and operating NYC neighborhood pizza parlors, most visibly in Astoria and Sunset Park. Many soon added tacos to the menu, partly using things already available in the pizzeria’s larder, but also bringing in new ingredients like tortillas and chiles. Eventually, an ingredient or two worked their way onto the pizzas as a topping, among them jalapenos, nopales, and Mexican cheeses. Fans of both pizza and Mexican food fervently hoped that pizzas featuring taco fillings — something that could readily be called a Mexican pizza — would follow. Birria and al pastor pies arrived in Astoria late last year, at Pizza X, a pizza shop located inside of a Steinway Street Latin Market. Now, they’ve appeared in Jackson Heights.

A little over a week ago, Hilario Morales, Mexico City native and operator of the Homemade Taqueria chain, opened up a new place called El Mercadito Mexicano in Jackson Heights. It’s located at 84-02 Roosevelt Avenue, in the Roosevelt Shopping Center at 84th Street, right inside the front door — basically just a counter, glass case, and stacked pizza ovens. In addition to conventional slices like cheese and pepperoni, it features nine pizzas with taco toppings. Some friends and I hustled in last weekend and tried four of them.

A storefront with neon hand scrawled placards in the windows.
El Mercadito, a newcomer to Jackson Heights’s Mexican food scene.
A glass counter with a slice display and pizza ovens in back.
El Mercadito is a pizzeria in a shopping center.

We ordered an entire al pastor pie (small $18, large $24) which was round, bright red, and dotted with fresh yellow pineapple chunks and lots of chopped raw onion and cilantro. Worked into the tomato sauce was a wealth of al pastor shreds; there was no shortage of mozzarella. It was damned good, but we actually liked the slices we tried a little better.

Three slices of pizza on white paper plates.
Clockwise from lower left: chile relleno slice, chicken tinga slice, elote slice.

Most surprising was a chiles relleno slice, which boasted a battered and stuffed pepper on each one. Yes, chiles relleno have served as a filling for tacos placeros in NYC for years, but finding them on pizza is still striking, especially since the Oaxacan cheese inside offers a subtle contrast with the mozzarella. I’m thinking of this as a breakfast slice (the place is open seven days from 11 a.m. to midnight). More powerfully flavored is the elote slice, for which the corn has been roasted; it’s also layered with squash and a garlic sauce, with extra sauce on the side.

The chicken tinga slice is best, with a bit of a burn from the tinga and an underlying paving of black beans. This is the slice that presents the greatest contrast to the city’s iconic plain cheese slice, and one that I would eat again and again. I’m not going to say it’s better than a taco, but it is very good.

Four tacos lined up on a rectangular plate.
Taquitos, left to right: ear, suadero, tongue, birria, with consommé.
An empanada with hots dogs and cheese visible inside.
Hot dog quesadilla.

In addition to pizzas, El Mercadito Mexicana goes on to offer taquitos ($11 to $14 for four) — basically, small tacos made on two white-corn tortillas and nearly the same roster of fillings, plus things like tongue, ear, and birria, the first two of which don’t appear on pizzas here, though hopefully someday they will. In addition, the menu offers Mexico-City-style quesadillas, which are like a regular southern Mexican quesadillas made of masa, only in this case sealed and deep fried like an empanada. Naturally, I picked the one stuffed with hot dogs and Oaxacan cheese, topped with crema and sprinkled with dried cheese ($8.50).

Mercadito also sells burritos, sopes, tortas, and flautas with a varying catalog of fillings, but I’m returning for the pizza and quesadillas.

El Mercadito Mexicano

84-02 Roosevelt Avenue, New York, NY 11372 (18) 685-2060 Visit Website
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