December 5, 2007
“The Best Specialty Slice in New York”, quite a claim I realize, but the Nonna Maria at Bleecker St. Pizza, with a bed of grated Grande Mozzarella supporting slices of Fresh Mozzarella and large dollops of garlicky, tomatoey Marinara sauce, all sprinkled with top-of-the-line Parmigiano-Reggiano, is a recipe for pizza perfection. That is one good looking pie; steam rising off the hot bubbles of mozzarella and chunks of tomato and garlic.
Terms of the “best” title and a delicious description after the break.
Proclaiming “best” status for a slice of pizza is not easy, but here are the deciding factors:
1) Overall Taste: The combination of superior ingredients and an interestingly flavored crust, which leads us to…
2) Crust: Light, airy, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside; possesses a unique flavor. Sturdy enough to support the weight of the slice without falling apart.
3) Sauce: Superior ingredients, not overly sweet or bitter. Its presence is not overbearing but provides a sometimes subtle, sometimes powerful flavor.
I’m a supporter of the argument that the only true test of a slice joint’s supremacy is their plain slice, which is also delicious at Bleecker Street Pizza (BSP), but it’s no Nonna Maria, a specialty slice that falls into its own category:
What make’s this slice so good is the melding of flavors. Every pie at BSP is dotted with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Valued at $14-$15/pound, this cheese is bought in bulk, with one huge wheel running BSP upwards of $1,000. The result is that each pie is sprinkled with at least $8.00 worth of delicious and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano. The cheese also shows up in the all of the sauces, including the Marinara, a recipe of the owner’s grandmother, whom the Nonna Maria is named after. Whereas a lot of slice joints use generic, grated Parmesan, BSP makes sure that even at the most basic level, their pizza is overflowing with fresh, delicious ingredients. I tasted a little bit of the parm-reggiano; it was slightly firm, slightly sharp, and after a second, it all melted in my mouth. Delicious.
Here’s a shot of their most recent stock of Parm-Reggiano. They slice the wheel into smaller blocks, vacuum seal those pieces, and then grate at least one block a day:
The crust at BSP is very crunchy, and while the flavor is ordinary, it’s not a crust that flourishes on its own. The crust serves the purpose of support, as I referred to in point 2 of the “best” factors, allowing the eater to lift the Nonna Maria by its end crust and not have the slice fold under its own weight:
Led by an inviting plume of smoke you would see in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, my nose first led me to BSP one warm summer morning 4 years ago. The smell of garlic and pizza dough drew me into BSP right as the counter guys were placing a fresh pie of Nonna Maria in the showcase. Two satisfying slices later, I knew I had found a quality spot. BSP now approaches their 4th anniversary in January and the pizza is unchanged; still satisfying, still delicious, still a no nonsense slice joint with some experienced help at the helm:
(From left to right) Dennis, Tony, and Benni will take care of you at BSP. Their favorite slices are the Nonna Maria, the Grandma slice, and the Nonna Maria, respectively.
Speaking of the Grandma Slice, I also recommend it strongly at BSP. Compared to the Nonna Maria, it’s thinner, fluffier, and less crisp. It has a thin layer of olive oil and garlic beneath its blanket of mozzarella and healthy dollop of marinara. It’s one of the better Grandma Slices I’ve had in the city. I’ll be getting a picture up here ASAP.
BSP, on the corner of 7th Ave. & Bleecker St. is in the middle of all the action. Weekends they’re open until 5AM and until 2AM during the week. I know a lot of people who think Joe’s Pizza on Carmine & Bleecker is the best slice you can get after a night on the town, but I beg to differ.
Next time you’re in the West Village, forget about waiting on line at Joe’s and risk getting a small, overcooked slice with generic mozzarella for $2.50. Instead, walk up Bleecker to 7th Avenue and spend the same amount of money on a Nonna Maria, letting your inebriation yield to the intoxicating aromas of garlic, tomato, and Parmigiano-Reggiano wafting together in wisps of pizza goodness.