When I bring a pizza home, it normally arrives with a slice missing. Sitting next to a hot pie, its aroma filling the car, is usually just too much temptation and I begin hoping the traffic signals will turn red along the way to give me a chance to stop and properly balance a slice on my fingertips to eat during the rest of the trip.
But when I bring home a pie from Brooklyn Pizzeria, it is intact, and that has nothing to do with the frequency of traffic signals around its central Metairie address. Rather, Brooklyn Pizzeria lives up to the New York brag inherent in its name by serving enormous 20-inch pizzas that yield proportionally huge slices. The crust is thin, the slices are floppy, and the only way to efficiently eat one when it is hot from the oven and at its most pliant is to fold it in half, a move that creates a cone shape and funnels the vital, orange pizza grease down the wrist and forearm with each approach to the mouth. You don't need to be in the auto insurance business to see this is not driver-friendly pizza.
That folded-pizza-to-mouth motion, and the use of a paper plate held between fingers to catch the grease, is as common a sight on New York City streets as a cell phone pressed to the ear. Not so in New Orleans, to say nothing of Metairie, where the scarcity of pizza by the slice is just the most glaring testament to the area's dearth of viable street food. But Brooklyn Pizzeria is one of a handful of local pizza restaurants making the case that things can change.
Pizza aficionados can count themselves three times lucky to have Brooklyn Pizzeria around. First, owner Todd Duvio decided to open his pizzeria early in 2005 with marching orders to reproduce a convincing New York-style slice. He took over the Airline Drive strip-mall location of Rocky's Old New Orleans Bar & Pizza Joint. The tiny place was beginning to make its name known when the Katrina flood filled it with several feet of water. But Duvio quickly bought a trailer equipped as a mobile pizza kitchen and set it up in the blacked-out strip mall's parking lot. For a while during that terrible post-flood fall, the trailer's illuminated sign reading 'pizza" was practically the only light along that stretch of suddenly desolate road.
Duvio rebuilt and reopened Brooklyn Pizzeria and settled into making his huge pizzas again in proper ovens, the second stroke of luck for his fans. Then, early this summer, a dispute with the strip mall's landlord forced Duvio to relocate. In August, the restaurant reopened a few miles away in a former Lee's Hamburgers location. It was essentially the small business' third start-up in less than three years, but this time the upshot is a much more visible location and a larger dining room.
I wasn't able to learn Brooklyn Pizzeria's recipe specifics, but if it follows the actual New York standard, as it appears to do, then it would include a high-gluten flour that yields a crust that stays soft and foldable under the sauce and cheese. Meanwhile, the surrounding lip of crust bubbles up nicely, forming airy domes that add a nice level of texture and puffiness. This is what pizza fanatics actually call 'hole structure." Sauce is applied lightly, and the mozzarella cheese produces a sheen of grease that some people don't like to talk about but which is nevertheless as essential to a good slice as pork fat is to red beans.
Another key consideration is the selection of toppings, which by contemporary standards are scant and ordinary at Brooklyn Pizzeria. This is a good thing with New York-style pizza. I can get into a bit of salmon and cream cheese on a wood-grilled pizza or some nice duck sausage or the occasional shrimp and corn kernel mix. But with New York-style pizza and its emphasis on the crust, less on top is more, and Brooklyn Pizzeria embraces this aesthetic. There are no specialty pies combining unusual toppings, and the most exotic build-your-own ingredients are grilled chicken or maybe a dollop of ricotta.
There are purists in New York who insist the flavor of an authentic local slice comes in part from the mineral composition of the New York City tap water used to make the dough. A similar argument is sometimes heard around here for the difficulty in achieving anything like New Orleans-style po-boy bread north of Interstate 10. I'm not about to start searching for the perfect fried oyster po-boy on Long Island, but when I want a pizza to fill the table and scratch the itch for a New York-style slice, I'm heading to Brooklyn Pizzeria.
- Cheryl Gerber
- Brooklyn Pizzeria-founder Todd Duvio makes big New York-style pies.