Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review: Giuseppina’s Pizza, Brooklyn NY

Marc Iacono is the famously erratic chef behind the iconic celebrity-magnet pizzeria in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood. I once attempted to get that pizza - so prized by Beyoncé and Jay-Z - but found it closed during hours when it should have been opened. Iacono has been in a knife fight outside his restaurant with a mob-connected felon; more recently, he closed his Brooklyn Lucali temporarily to open a Miami outpost.

For a recent journey to Queens from Pennsylvania, I scouted out the pizza joints I might stop at in Staten Island or Brooklyn. Several intriguing options, but then I saw that Marc Iacono's brother and former Lucali pizzaiolo Chris Iacono had opened his own pizza and calzone place in South Slope, Giuseppina's. Reports are that the pizza is more or less identical to those at Lucali, but without the long lines and random closings.

We arrived in early afternoon on a Saturday, after the normal lunch hour but ahead of dinner time. There were only a few other patrons in this warm and cozy setting, so we were quickly seated and placed an order. 

Taking guidance from the reliable SeriousEats website, we ordered a red pizza with all-beef pepperoni. Giuseppina's offers garlic and fresh basil as no-charge additions, so why not?

The pies bake in a large brickface oven; I could see both burning wood and a gas flame working inside the hybrid oven. We ordered a beer (bottles only) and an excellent "Manhattan Special" espresso soda. We could see the pizzaiolo in the open kitchen space with the oven behind him, and our pizza was soon ready.

Every pizza succeeds or fails based on its crust, and it's hard to improve on this report, written by Sam Sifton in the New York Times: "The crust is chewy, pliant, with a dull complexion that belies its great flavor." Indeed, the crust looked like a huge circular piece of lavash cracker, with the broadest cornicione I've ever seen.
Under the hood
Despite its lackluster color, the crust sported several large promising bubbles at the edges. In the center, the crust was soft without being wet. A few bites in, that gave way to a perfect mix of crunchy and chewy, a very thin but sturdy base. And at the cornicione, it remained thin but developed a cracker-like brittleness without the cushioning of sauce and cheese.

The tomato element is a dense cooked sauce, but it is a role player. The second star goes to the cheese. Standard American pizzas are loaded with salty-but-bland aged mozzarella. Hipster artisanal pies often merely substitute bland-and-not-even-salty fresh mozzarella. Here, the pie sports a richly flavored blend of fresh Italian bufala and American aged mozzarellas, topped (post-bake?) with Parmigiana Reggiano.
The undercarriage
The all-beef pepperoni was curled, crisped, salty, earthy, and it added an element of flavor that popped with each bite. The taste of the dense sauce and cheese blend recalled those at Beddia Pizza in Philadelphia. There were even similarities to the thin, crisp, rigid yet chewy crust. State of the art stuff here.

The fresh basil was applied generously, but in large clumps that might have worked better if chopped a bit more. I could not detect the garlic we has requested, and I suspect it was omitted. Neither of these quibbles matter much, because this was simply wonderful and uncomplicated pizza. 

Even though Neapolitan pies remain on the front line of the pizza Renaissance, they can rarely measure up to the kind of pizza you get at Beddia and Guiseppina's, because a Neapolitan crust doesn't provide the al dente satisfaction. 

I'm always delighted when I can get a world-class pizza like this without enduring long lines. There's even free and reasonably open street parking in this quiet neighborhood. This is destination pizza.


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