Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to 190th Street for some Bodega Pizza.
Heading up to 190th Street on the A train, my fear was that Bodega Pizza, brand new in Washington Heights, would be one of those gimmicky restaurants that cater to a neighborhood's newcomers, while hiding behind an homage of sorts in the misguided hope of gaining a little street cred with the old timers.
Not at all. Yes, Bodega Pizza is decked out to look like a bodega, from the typography and yellow awning outside to the stacks of cereal and Goya beans within. But the place was jumping with young locals when we walked in for dinner at around 7 p.m. on a Thursday, everybody already making themselves at home.
Turns out the owner here is Jose Morales, who also ran the location's previous iteration, the legendary/notorious Apt. 78, a club and artist event space that he shut down at the end of last year. Also turns out that many of my fellow pizza eaters were here for the live podcast of The Reel Scumbags. So although Bodega Pizza is absolutely a full-fledged restaurant, clearly it will also function as a hangout for the creative community around these parts as well.
The space itself is a jumble of regular tables, picnic tables, chairs and, in a couple of cases, flipped-up milk crates. On the night we went, perhaps fearing the sort of noise complaints that plagued Apt. 78, the big front windows were closed to the porch area outside, which was unfortunate.
There's a small bar at one end of the room, a pizza oven at the other, toward the back. Local graffiti writers went to town tagging the kitchen and bathroom, and you are encouraged to contribute to the decor using one of the Sharpies supplied in a basket by the sink.
Bodega Pizza feels a bit like a clubhouse, a bit like a party place, but the food is anything but an afterthought.
The menu consists almost entirely of wood-fired, 10-inch pizzas, and both of the pies we tried were terrific. The crust was chewy with areas of crunch, the balance among toppings handled with care, the tomato sauce not too sweet, the mozzarella tangy and generously applied.
The Picasso Baby featured a mildly spicy, appropriately greasy pepperoni; the Dongan's Place adds creamy ricotta and sharp Parmesan to the mix, as well as roasted red peppers with slices of soppressata giving the whole thing a welcome bass note of funk.
In fact, these were good enough to put Bodega Pizza in, let's say, the top third of the new-Neapolitan spots in town.
But the surprise winner of the night was the Sweet Dreams sandwich, a pocket of dough stuffed thick with pungent sweet sausage, thick hunks of melted mozzarella, and some of those roasted red pepper for a bit of an acid bite. This beauty packed a ton of flavor and had the exact right gooey texture. If I lived nearby, this would be my usual.
This is a great new local for those in the area, and certainly worth stopping in for a feast of cheese and dough for travelers to, for example, nearby Fort Tryon Park.
Bodega Pizza is located at 4455 Broadway between 192nd Street and Fairview Avenue, and is open from 1 p.m. to 12:00 midnight on Monday through Wednesday, until 1 a.m. on Thursday, until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from noon to midnight on Sunday. There's a separate brunch menu on the weekends, possibly with an unlimited self-serve mimosas special, which sound like it could be a nightmare. CASH ONLY. (917-675-7707; bodegapizza.com)