Margherita pie at Barboncino
Artichoke-and-smoked-pancetta pie at Barboncino
Baked Potato pie at PeteZaaz
Meatball pie at Rosco's
Saint Louie pie at Speedy Romeo's
Dick Dale pie at Speedy Romeo's
The West Village—flush with pie greats like the iconic John’s of Bleecker Street, slice fave Joe’s and Neapolitan high-flyer Kesté Pizza & Vino—has long topped the list of New York’s pizza strongholds. But lately central Brooklyn, an area once barren of pedigreed pizza, has challenged the Manhattan ’hood’s dominance, with ambitious joints popping up like rapid fire at the nexus of Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Clinton Hill. First came Barboncino, bringing Neapolitan-style pies to Franklin Avenue last October. Two more dough-twirling spots soon followed, springing up within a three-block radius of Barboncino: PeteZaaz debuted its offbeat toppings (fried chicken with curried yellow squash, General Tso’s tofu with broccoli) last December, and Rosco’s started turning out classic New York–inspired slices in July. Then in January, just a short bike ride away from this trifecta, Speedy Romeo cranked up its wood-fired oven, drawing pizza nerds hot on the scent of smoke-perfumed crusts. Do as they have: Add this burgeoning ’za hub to your pizza hit list.
RECOMMENDED: See more of the best pizza in NYC
Before rolling out Crown Heights’ first Neapolitan-style pizzeria, indie filmmaker Ron Brown (A Perfect Fit, Consent) paid his dues in Naples, apprenticing with the Stefano Ferrara family—an illustrious clan that has been building wood-burning pizza ovens for more than a century.
The scene: Striking architectural detailing includes wood and steel frames hanging from a soaring ceiling, weathered-paint-swabbed brick and windows overlooking a garden. Tousled Brooklynites and families fill the space, gathering at tables in white-wainscotted nooks or sipping Negronis at the Carrera marble bar, in view of a white-tiled, wood-burning oven gleaming in the open kitchen.
’Za style: New Brooklyn. Like its Prospect Heights predecessor Franny’s, Brown mixes traditional techniques (char-spotted crusts made with Caputo 00 flour) and local ingredients (fior di latte). Distinctive from the other Neapolitan-inspired versions around town, the wood-fired crust here is a little flatter, and almost pitalike, with a pocket of air at the edges.
What to order: The standout is a white pie blanketed in melted fior di latte and salty pecorino romano, with vinegary marinated artichokes, pungent garlic and fatty nubs of smoked pancetta ($17). The Margherita ($11) might have too much drizzled olive oil, but the unimpeachable ingredients-—a sweet, bright sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, ultracreamy fior di latte and a charred thin crust—pick up the slack. • 718-483-8834
A pair of chefs with sideways baseball caps and legit CVs—Peter Entner (No. 7) and Glen Hudson (Pulino’s)—are behind this urbanist slice joint. The place is to pie toppings what No. 7 Sub is to sandwich fillings: a goofy reimagining of what’s possible atop a pizza crust. One of the pies on the opening menu (currently off-rotation) was a callback to the No. 7 Sub signature—marinated chunks of General Tso’s tofu mingled with dabs of miso and cottage cheese, along with broccoli florets and shredded carrot.
The scene: Head-nodding hip-hop blares on the stereo of this narrow 11-seat pizzeria, but the few decorative touches are truly old-school: An antique pinball machine hangs on one wall, while Entner’s grandfather and his Coney Island greaser friends are memorialized on another with 1950s black-and-white photos, taken from Bruce Davidson’s photography book Brooklyn Gang. In warm weather, the backyard picnic tables offer a roomy alternative to the tiny, cramped seating indoors.
’Za style: Pothead gourmet. The short menu reads like a list of fantasy stoner snacks dreamed up in a ganja-smoke haze, with pies like Cold Fried Chicken (fried fowl, curried yellow squash, fontina, stewed collard greens and pickled Thai chilies) or the Shoestring Zucchini (salsa, fontina, pickled tomatillos and shredded zucchini). The thin, crackery crusts may lack pronounced flavor, but they’re mere vehicles, sturdily built to deliver baroque combos of local produce and artisanal cheeses and meats into your mouth.
What to order: While other creations rotate in and out, our favorite, the Baked Potato pie ($17), has thankfully become a signature dish. Gooey white cheddar, thick slices of purple potato and crispy bits of bacon are scattered atop a crisp crust. It’s finished with a cooling pool of tangy crème fraîche in the middle and smattering of sharp chopped scallion: hangover grub in its highest form. • 718-230-9229
Pizzaiolo Jon Greenberg trained with new-school pizza greats, tending the fiery hearths at both Franny’s and Paulie Gee’s, before putting in a stint at Barboncino around the corner. But the toque decided to look back to New York’s time-honored pie shops when he teamed up with cheap-eats kings Clay Mallow and Wade Hagenbart (Gueros Brooklyn, Dram Shop) for this nostalgic spot.
The scene: Brooklyn pizza parlors of yore come to life at the counter-service Rosco’s—barely decorated with a tin ceiling, black vinyl banquettes, and a video-game table offering idling diners Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. The ’hood’s artsy denizens scarf slices and gulp beer from frosted mugs at the outdoor iron counter, while parents swing by to pick up large pepperoni pies to feed their brood.
’Za style: Classic New York. These crusts aren’t the puffy nouveau-Neapolitan variety. The chewy, flat-edged rounds—in the corner-slice-joint mold—are made with organic, high-gluten King Arthur flour, slicked with a mellow San Marzano tomato sauce and cooked in a standard gas oven. Greenberg tops the pies with local, low-moisture mozzarella and primo ingredients from the legendary Kings County Italian specialty food shop D. Coluccio & Sons.
What to order: For his meatball pie, Greenberg upgraded his grandmother’s recipe with Paisanos’ grass-fed beef and homemade bread crumbs (16-inch pizza $17.42; 18-inch pizza $20.69). Skip the reheated slices—which can render the meat a little dry—and share a full pie with buds while watching the area’s diverse cross-section of locals pass by on Franklin Avenue. • 347-955-4881
Longtime Jean Georges vet Justin Bazdarich brought Manhattan’s hottest cooking trendlet—wood-fired fare—deep into Brooklyn with this Italian-inflected American eatery. Pizza anchors the menu, which also sports seasonal small plates and smoke-kissed meats.
The scene: Electro and rock thump and a campfirelike smoke fills the air at this candlelit Clinton Hill restaurant, where a bright open kitchen—spotlighting chefs in crisp blue pinstripes—serves as theater. The cool, industrial space is a community center for the up-and-coming neighborhood, with pierced servers cooing over the babies of well-heeled regulars.
’Za style: Pizza Americana. Bazdarich draws on a range of influences for his firm-crusted pies, using a fresh-yeast dough technique he learned during a tour through Naples. There are Italian standards such as the marinara, but many take their cues from classic stateside pizza perversions, like the Hawaiian-inspired Dick Dale ($16): oozing béchamel and cheese, sweet chunks of pineapple, wood-grilled scallions and thin slices of speck. A yawning black-painted-brick oven infuses the robust pies with an unmistakable hint of smoke, and a small pot of house-pickled finger chilies in champagne vinegar accompanies each one at the table.
What to order: The Saint Louie ($16) was on the lips of every pie obsessive this year, with raves coming from Slice NY blog founder Adam Kuban and Paulie Gee’s owner Paul Gianonne. The stacked pizza, cut into squares, is smothered with tangy San Marzano tomato sauce and molten Provel—a pungent, almost-blue-cheese-like mix of provolone, cheddar, Swiss and liquid smoke, born in St. Louis. It’s blanketed with plump nuggets of anisey homemade pork sausage, crisp-edged strips of soppresata and pickled peppers. Although the inspiration comes from Bazdarich’s father’s hometown, this balls-out pie de resistance will stir nostalgia for anyone who has shared a pizza overloaded with toppings at cozy family-style joints in the burbs. • 718-230-0061
As our waiter lifts a thin cross-section of Kalbi ribeye from a mist of dry ice, he announces his intent to lay the marbled meat on the in-table grill by shouting, “Hami-kal yakimasu! Sei-no?,” to which the waiters and patrons cheer, “Yoisho!” This is standard practice at the New York flagship of this theatrical Tokyo-born chain, founded in 2010 by twin brothers and restaurateurs Sunbong and Sunchol Lee (yakiniku refers to the lesser-known, Korean-influenced Japanese barbecue, while futago translates to “twins”). Located in the food-dense Flatiron District, the restaurant occupies a long, spare room lined with exposed brick, wood paneling and a tilework portrait of the twins. It’s clear the brothers aspire for a modern, rather than traditional atmosphere throughout: bathrooms are fitted with high-tech Washlet toilets, the soundtrack mixes hip-hop with Korean pop and regulars receive name plates on the wall (one is cheekily marked “P Diddy”), along with gratis desserts and a pair of custom engraved golden tongs. Despite the restaurant’s casual ambience, you’ll have to call in advance to reserve their hamideru kalbi ($45; well-worth in the investment), as there are only ten orders per night of this half-pound imported Japanese black Wagyu, cut into four distinct segments and served with lettuce leaves, red bean paste and fresh wasabi. For appetizers, you won’t find any better than the sinfully tender filet or rare steak with toasted garlic ($15), followed closely by a sear
Venue says: “Best imported Japanese "wagyu" beef! Enjoy Japanese BBQ in the stylish dining atmosphere!”