Hip To Be Square: Grandma Pizza Feels Right At Home In New York

Grandma PieWho knew that “grandma” could be so in fashion? I’m referring, of course, to the grandma pizza. Or grandma pie, as it appears on the menu at GG’s in New York City’s East Village. If, that is, you even bother to look. “It’s the one thing that people order as soon as they sit down, and they don’t even look at the menu — they order it before they order drinks,” says executive chef Bobby Hellen.

Indeed, Hellen’s signature six-slice pie, liberally dotted with little pepperonis and flagged with fresh basil, has become quite the sensation since the restaurant opened last fall. The Village Voice raved about the sauce, colorfully describing it as “more herb-stocked than a Colorado dispensary.” (Hellen grows many of the ingredients in the restaurant’s garden out back.) Eater, meanwhile, has gone into exhaustive detail in outlining the chef’s intensive pizza-making process.

But while Hellen’s grandma pie is perhaps the most prominent of its kind at the moment, it is far from the only example of this increasingly popular, yet relatively new style of pizza. From old-school joints like J & V Pizzeria in Bensonhurst to newer spots like Best Pizza in Williamsburg, grandma is flourishing on menus across the city — and beyond. Once considered a strictly New York phenomenon, the style is beginning to transcend its regional trappings. Writing in Pizza Today, California-based pizza maker Tony Gemignani, who serves his own version of the grandma at Slice House in Rohnert Park, recently recounted his first encounter with a grandma pizza in Italy, at a place run by a Staten Island ex-pat who wanted to bring this new style to the old world.

What is a grandma pie? Continue reading

Neapolitan Smackdown!

NeapolitanSmackdownIn opening La Forchetta, the modish new Italian-themed eatery in Wesley Heights, restaurateur Hakan Ilhan boldly declared that the reigning mecca of authentic Neapolitan-style pizza-making in the District had just been surpassed.“2Amys, in my opinion, was No. 1,” Ilhan said, referring to Peter Pastan‘s  uber-popular pizzeria in Cleveland  Park. “I think ours is the best.”  On a recent evening, I decided to put Ilhan’s pontificating on his pizza to the test, dropping by both wood-fired oven eateries for an initial side-by-side comparison of each one’s take on the classic margherita  pie. Continue reading