Reinventing the pizzeria | The New Yorker
The other night, as I was preparing to venture outside, the sky took on the menacing tone of gunmetal, and my phone lit up with a warning: severe thunderstorm approaching, flash floods and hail probably, seek shelter. All of my instincts told me to retreat, and yet I had a date that I just couldn’t miss, through thick and thin. I finally had the chance to order from Stretch Pizza, a pop-up by chef Wylie Dufresne, tucked away in Breads Bakery, just off Union Square.
This perhaps resembles the delusions of a madwoman; you might be wondering if a pizza could be worth it. But what is a small storm, really? It was oddly refreshing to experience such intense drama around something as weak as pizza. I headed for the metro. By the time I got to Fourteenth Street, the storm had passed and it was barely raining. Up the stairs at the station, a woman was peddling umbrellas with a familiar, heartwarming rhythm: “Five dollars, five dollars, five dollars!”
At the start of the pandemic, Dufresne – who made a name for himself with wd-50, his avant-garde, light-hearted restaurant on the Lower East Side, and who in recent years had turned his talents to donuts – discovered a pizza oven forgotten in his basement. For months he was passionate about it; a year later, he decided to share his R&D with the world.
Dufresne’s crust, made from dough sprinkled with whole wheat and cold-fermented for seventy-two hours, is particularly tangy and pleasantly chewy beneath its crackle exterior. It makes a great base for each of the four pies (plus a calzone) available, including the Classic New York, with tomato sauce and low-water shredded mozzarella, and my favorite: the Everything, topped with cream cheese, poppy and sesame seeds, dried garlic and salt, and finished with fresh chives – a toasted bagel with melted schmear, in pizza form.
Still, I can’t recommend exactly the Byzantine process it takes to get Dufresne’s pies despite the weather. From Tuesday to Thursday evening, Stretch offers a limited number of pickup times by reservation only, which sell out quickly. Nothing came to add me to the online waiting list for different dates. When, after weeks of random website checking, I finally managed to grab an opening, I had to both pre-order and prepay, days in advance.
The previous month, when I had pulled myself off the much more user-friendly waitlist for Pies Upstairs – a similar, albeit more rambling, operation that, frankly, I forgot I signed up for – I rather felt like winning the lottery. “Upstairs” refers to the fifth-floor Crown Heights apartment of David Kay, a former chef at Gramercy Tavern, who started his home pizza business in January. If you can’t come when your number is up, it will suggest you another time.
Kay only produces twelve ten-inch pies per night, a maximum of two per customer, twice a week, and also sells her own cream soda (flavored with vanilla and cocoa nibs) and cookies from Best Damn Cookies, the pandemic project of another chef, who happens to be Kay’s roommate. My pizzas, one red with mozzarella, soppressata and marinated peppers, the other white, with mozzarella, caramelized onion, minced potatoes, roasted garlic cream and capers, both with a beautifully bubbled crust, were beyond reproach. , cream soda and cookies (pieces of dark chocolate, made with brown butter and coconut sugar) each have an argument for its shape. To be knowingly led to the elevator by a man eating nachos in the lobby felt like a rite of passage.
In May 2020, Gabriele Lamonaca, a native of Rome who lives in Harlem, began bartering homemade square pizzas, including his signature Burrapizza, for which each slice is topped with an entire scoop of burrata, via Instagram. For a year, he met strangers on street corners, bartering for everything from caviar to guitar lessons. Last month he opened Unregular Pizza, a slice shop not far from Breads. The accepted offer is mostly traditional, but you can still add yourself to the list for its daily exchange only. (Extendable pizzas $ 19. Tarts Upstairs pizzas $ 13 – $ 16. Non-regular pizza slices $ 4.50 – $ 12.) ??