Saturday, December 23, 2017

Review: Best Pizza - Williamsburg (Brooklyn) NY

When I began writing about pizza in 2011, I was searching mostly for the legendary pizza joints that had survived the onslaught of the giant chains. Almost all of those places made a traditional thin-crust pie: DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies in Trenton NJ, DiFara and Totonno's in Brooklyn, Tacconelli's in Philadelphia, Frank Pepe's in New Haven.

Soon, though, the Pizza Renaissance began, and the new wave was really the American realization of the oldest pizza - Neapolitan. Thin, small pies flash-baked at 900 or 1000 degrees, the best "new" American pizzerias offered up these doughy blistered masterpieces, at places like Roberta's, Motorino, and Forcella in New York, Zavino and Capofitto in Philly, and the celebrated Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

The Neapolitan rage continues, and it's become the target for new chain pizzerias, churning out a much better product (at places like MOD, Ecco, and ZaZa) than the large traditional chains. 
Counter at Best Pizza
But recent years have seen the rise of the pan-baked rectangle - crispy oiled pies in the Detroit or Sicilian or Roman style at places like Alice in Philly, Via 313 in Austin, Elio G's in Old Forge PA, and the amazing pizza from future pizzeria Binge House.
Dining area at Best Pizza
With all that in mind, perhaps the most delightful new experience for me is finding a new pizzeria that is making old-fashioned American pizza.  The thin and crisp variety that Italian immigrants made here in the 1950s and 1960s as they adapted their traditional skills to the 550 degree gas deck ovens.
20" pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms
Leaders in this category include Philly's Pizza Brain and Pizzeria Beddia, Picco in Boston, Basic Urban Kitchen in San Diego, and Jerk Oceano in Lantana FL. For a while I've had Best Pizza (Brooklyn) on my radar, and I finally got the chance to visit at lunch time on a December Wednesday.

While parking nearby was impossible (spent $11 for a garage space), the pizzeria was quiet. We opted for a whole 20" pie for our party of three. When I learned that the sausage is pre-cooked, I opted instead for toppings of pepperoni and mushroom on a traditional red pie (Best Pizza also makes a grandma pie, and sells both styles by the slice).
Wonderful crust and perfect char
The pies are baked in a wood-fired brick oven. It took about 20 minutes for our pie to arrive - in the meantime we enjoyed some excellent jasmine iced tea ($2.75). Visually, the pizza reminded me of the gem we'd enjoyed at Philly's Pizza Brain - a big, thin, crisp, old-fashioned pizza that does not rely on gimmicks. A lovely touch included several large fresh basil leaves.
Thin crust, crisp yet chewy
The big slices were a bit too limp in the center, requiring two hands until the first few bites were eaten. The pie wasn't wet in the center nor overloaded with toppings, so I'm not sure why the crust was crisp and sturdy everywhere except the center. This was a flaw - but a minor one.

The crust itself was tasty, and it properly represented the wonderful bready aroma we noticed when we first walked in.  My remarks on the first bite was that "every pizza tasted like this in the 1960s" before the chains took over and the mom-and-pop places turned to cheaper mass-sourced ingredients.

One big difference from old-school pies was the cheese - this pie sported some bright white fresh mozzarella instead of the traditional dry mozzarella. The sauce was pretty traditional in both appearance and taste, and served as a role player under the cheese and toppings.

I prefer the spicy cup style of narrow and thick pepperoni, but this pie sported large circles of thin pepperoni. It served more as seasoning to the pie than a primary ingredient. The mushrooms added a quiet note of extra umami. Both toppings were fine but not "other-worldly" as one might expect on a pizza with this lofty reputation and in this price range ($23 for the pie, $6.50 for the pepperoni, $4.50 for the mushrooms).

Without question, this was excellent pizza, largely due to the superb flavor and texture of the crust. There is room for improvement; it could be better by solving the limp center issue, giving a boost to the red sauce, and upgrading the quality of the toppings. Still, highly recommended as an awesome pizza in New York with no long lines to endure.

Best Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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