The East Village got another first-rate pizza option last week with the opening of a big new Lions and Tigers and Squares, the Detroit-style pie joint from Francis Garcia and Sal Basille, who also own the Artichoke mini-empire. This is the second LTS location, but it's a more ambitious operation than their original on West 23rd in Chelsea. You'll find seating for about 50, a quasi-bar area, new menu items, and there are plans for sidewalk seating in the spring.
Cutesy name aside, Lions and Tigers and Squares is serious about its pizza. Each four-slice Detroit-style pie, which you can order as a half (mix and match!) or a whole, is prepared in a rectangular pan, so every piece is a corner piece. It's not as thick as Sicilian, and it's more crisp than bready, with a semi-charred, cheesy crust. LTS generally builds their pies in "upside-down" fashion, with sauce on top of cheese, and there's a considerable amount of (delicious) grease involved in many of the varieties.
And there are a lot of varieties! Garcia and Basille, cousins who were born and raised on Staten Island, like to experiment with pizza. For example, they're offering a Chopped Cheese pie at this location, which consists of ground beef and melted American cheese on a thick blanket of ketchup. Honestly, the ketchup brings more of cheeseburger vibe to the beast, and if you aren't expecting it, it's a bit of shock, but it's also kind of a must-try for pizza completists. Get a half pie to start, maybe, and another option to balance it out—the Pepperoni, the Sausage and Onion, the Mushroom, and the Vodka are all great.
Another signature LST pizza is the Mustard pie, which I happen to love—growing up, I always put mustard on my grilled cheeses, preferring that vinegary bite to the sweetness of ketchup. This one features sliced corned beef and a bit of sauerkraut, so it's really a Reuben Pizza, and delicious creation. There's a bracing Detroiter pie smothered in sausage, pepperoni, onions, and hot cherry peppers; and a Graceland, thankfully not involving bananas and peanut butter, but rather pulled pork bathed in "Elvis's favorite BBQ sauce."
The ordering counter is covered in at least a half dozen different varieties at any given time, some standard, some slightly absurd, so there's usually plenty from which to choose. And there are more menu items coming, including spicy chicken wings called Detroit Red Wings. The decor is rather slapdash, just a few genetic posters of Detroit icons (Joe Louis, Eddie Murphy, Motown), but a big, appealingly garish sign will soon hang out front, beckoning East Village bar hoppers deep into the night.
The East Village Lions and Tigers and Squares is located at 160 Second Avenue, at the corner of 10th Street, and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. (lionsandtigersandsquares.com)