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I’m From Brooklyn. You From Brooklyn?

April 19, 2010

People say I’m not from New York.  And they may have a point.  The hospital where my mother gave birth was in another state.  And the vast majority of my education from elementary through high school was in Miami.

However, I did live in Brooklyn for most of my formative years.

At least that’s what I learned in college.  They told me that your personality is largely created by the time you are six years old.  So if that is indeed the case, then my childhood in Brooklyn played a significant part of who I am today.

I mention this because recently I got a comment about pizza from a fellow Brooklynite.  Except this was no ordinary commenter, this was Lorenzo, the owner of Paesan’s.

Here is what you may not know.  I really like Paesan’s pizza and have had some fantastic slices from their Ontario and Western Avenue locations.  Fantastic is not a word I use lightly.

However, Pasquale’s got my nod for the FUSSYlittleBALLOT based on their consecutive two-year victory in All Over Albany’s Tournament of Pizza.  It is a brutal challenge for any pizza, and perhaps their unique crust is simply better suited for the rigors of the competition.

Regretfully I did not participate in the 2008 TOP where Paesan’s was knocked out in the first round.  So I wasn’t sure where they fell short.  But going back to look at the results, it seemed to be a close call, and they lost to the eventual tournament champion.  However, had the judges gone for the less greasy of the two pizzas in the first round, it would seem that Paesan’s could have gone all the way to the finals.

But there is one thing that I wish Paesan’s would do differently.  I wish they would abandon their pursuit of consistency and aim higher.

Let me tell you a story.

One day I was waiting for a slice to be heated up in the oven.  And I watched a pizza get pulled out of the oven, which was just starting to develop some gorgeous bubbles.

Now I am assuming that you all know that the bubbles are the best part of any pizza.  They are magical mystical things that are created as this living breathing dough, which has been slathered with sauce and cheese, is exposed to the blistering heat of the oven.  Most will resolve on their own, bursting under their own weight, and settling back down onto the surface of the pie.  But a rare few will hold their form, crisping up a thin amalgam of cheese and sauce above a pocket of air.  And lucky you should you grab the slice with one of these precious domes.

But I digress.  Getting back to my story, I stand there, and I watch the guy making the pizza.  He grabs a fork and starts to poke down every single one of these emerging bubbles.  It was a massacre.

A little piece of me died that day.

I understand why it’s their policy to do this.  They are trying to make a consistent product.  Bubbles are by their nature inconsistent.  There are no bubbles at Pizza Hut or Domino’s or any of the other national chains.  They don’t believe in them either.

By the same token, I understand why Paesan’s uses pizza screens.  Those are the round mesh disks that help hold the shape of the dough, guide the formation of the pie into a more perfect circle shape, and prevent scorching on the bottom of the oven.  You can always tell when a pizzeria uses a screen.  Simply look at the bottom crust and look for the hash marks.  They are virtually omnipresent.

My ideal pizza is crafted, not consistent.  I want to see the hand of the maker.  I want authenticity.  I want the crust burnished on the oven floor.  I want passion.  I don’t expect it to be perfect every time.  Sometimes it will be brilliant.  It will never be bad, but sometimes it just won’t be as good.  But that only makes the brilliant pizzas that much more special.

Now I know that Lorenzo has passion.  I don’t doubt that for a second.  But I do believe he is in a bind, because I can’t buy enough pizzas to justify him changing just for me.  And I’m not sure how many other likeminded pizza lovers there are out there in the Capital Region.

Plus the risk to reward ratio is terribly high.  Even with my small nits, I think Lorenzo’s shops make some of the tastiest slices in the region.  So there is not much incentive to take it to the next level.

But if he introduced a “Brooklyn style pizza” or a “Rustic style pizza” or something like that, which was cooked on the oven floor and allowed the bubbles to flourish, would you buy it?  And would you still buy it if he had to charge a few dollars more?

Fussy minds want to know.

There are only five more days remaining to vote.  Everyone has been very supportive, but we need to share the FUSSYlittleBALLOT with more people if we are going to reach our goals.  Please get out there and help spread the word about what we are trying to achieve.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    April 19, 2010 8:35 am

    I would be delighted to buy such a product as the coveted bubble is, well, coveted in our household.

  2. April 19, 2010 9:01 am

    “My ideal pizza is crafted, not consistent. I want to see the hand of the maker. I want authenticity. I want the crust burnished on the oven floor. I want passion. I don’t expect it to be perfect every time.”

    Daniel, what did you think of Townsend’s pizzas, when they were still around?

  3. Chris permalink
    April 19, 2010 9:40 am

    B, I believe Townsend is reopening this month:

    Daniel, my offer still stands (see comments):


  4. beck permalink
    April 19, 2010 9:43 am

    I’m originally from Orange County, New York, where I think pizza is, generally speaking, much closer to New York city style pizza than what we get up here. I love crust bubbles in pizza. I would definitely buy a pizza that had crust bubbles. I love a smattering of cornmeal on the crust, too, which is uncommon around here (Pasquale’s does this).

    Would I pay a few dollars more for a bubbly pizza? Maybe – I guess it depends on what the cost would be and how much I felt like pizza.

    • wendalicious permalink
      April 19, 2010 10:09 am

      Where in the OC? I’m from Middletown, and Cosimo’s used to be the standard-bearer there.

      • beck permalink
        April 19, 2010 2:48 pm

        I’m from Goshen. My favorite was Main Street Pizza in Chester.

  5. April 19, 2010 10:13 am

    Chris, I heard that (and I know someone who would be really, relaly happy if he could buy bread there again), but you know how it is, I’ll believe it when I see it (how many times has something been supposed to open in the old Larkin space…).

  6. Jenny on the Block permalink
    April 19, 2010 4:27 pm

    I would love a Brooklyn style pizza from Paesan’s. We love Pasquale’s pizza, but they don’t deliver, so 19 out of 20 times we order from Paesan’s. A bubbly (even charred) pizza delivered to my door would be great.

  7. April 19, 2010 5:27 pm

    Daniel, I’m sorry. I was neglecting your formative years and I apologize.

  8. April 19, 2010 5:27 pm

    That said, I think it makes all the more inexcusable that YMF just tried his first hot dog:)

  9. April 20, 2010 3:44 pm

    I have traveled to NYC and New Haven just to eat pizzas like you describe and they have been worth the trips! I share your passion. P.S. I grew up in Brooklyn as well.

  10. Lorenzo permalink
    April 21, 2010 2:07 pm


    When my brothers and I first came up to Albany in 1994 we served pizza that way, no screens no popping bubbles and a little cornmeal on the bottom to slide of the peel into the oven. I should have recorded some of the complaints we got for not having a round pizza or a customer saying they got a slice with very little cheese on it due to a bubble and wanting a discount or a new pizza. As we grew our business we had no choice but to have our product be uniform from store to store and stop some of the complaints.
    Just an FYI Paesans Pizza was voted #1 in the Capital Region Living and Saving Source this year, with a Timesunion win(hopefully)this year were going to get the Triple Crown.

    Paesans Pizza

  11. April 21, 2010 4:46 pm

    Wow. Lorenzo’s comment is proof positive of the problem with Cap District dining, namely Cap District diners. If patrons not only expect but demand less, a restaurant that wants to stay in business has to give it to them. No wonder you can’t find uni and CCK serves you a starter of fried noodles with a bowl of plum-flavored corn syrup.

    Lorenzo, if you would be willing to make available an off-menu version of a bubbly pizza in one of your stores, the “rustica” or whatever, I for one would journey down from the frozen north (Saratoga) to try it.

  12. Andy permalink
    April 23, 2010 4:13 pm

    There is no doubt that I am a New Yorker, because I can’t imagine a scenario in which I wouldn’t want bubbles in my pizza. In fact since moving to the Capital Region several years ago they had almost left my memory because it has been so long since I’ve had a pizza with some really good bubbles. Used to get them all the time when I lived downstate. I have never actually had Paesan’s pizza but I am seriously disheartened that an owner of a small independent business would cave so easily to mediocrity over excellence. Uniformity and homogenization is what has turned every Main Street of the world into a giant conglomeration of chain restaurants and retailers. I understand that a business has to turn a profit, but that REALLY sucks.

  13. MattW permalink
    April 27, 2010 2:54 pm

    I would only try their Pizza if this “new” pizza was offered. Otherwise, I find pizza in Albany to be boring.

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