Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us west for the best new pizza in town.
Ivan Orkin, the Jewish kid from Long Island who fell in love with noodles and today makes some of the best bowls of ramen in New York City, now sets his sights on another beloved urban staple: the pizza pie. His place is called Corner Slice, located within Gotham West Market over on the farthest fringe of Hell's Kitchen (and about fifteen steps away from Orkin's Slurp Shop), and like several other excellent new pizza spots around town, he specializes in the square pie.
Gotham West Market, in case you don't live near the USS Intrepid, is one of those high-end, industrial-interior food halls that popped up a few years ago. And while there seems to be fewer vendors here now than I remember from the opening, the place felt reasonably bustling and alive on two mid-afternoon visits last week.
Corner Slice itself is set along the northernmost wall of the market. Enthusiastic counter workers take your order and give you one of those buzzing alert devices, but it'll only be a minute or two before it's ready so don't wander too far in search of a seat. There's some counter space by the window looking out onto a unremarkable stretch of 11th Avenue, and a number of communal tables or two-tops right nearby. Signs indicated that outdoor seating is available in the warm weather.
Ivan "Ramen" Orkin may be the big name here, but chef Michael Bergemann is the guy who spent this past year fussing with crust. His labor and love pay off big time: Corner Slice is perhaps the best new pizza in NYC.
Their pizza doesn't fit into a neat category. It's not a classic, cheesy New York fold. It's not a burnt-edged, wet-centered Neapolitan. It's not a spongy Sicilian, or a Detroit-style pie. Frankly, it doesn't look like too appetizing when it hits your paper plate. But man does it taste good.
Much is expected of the crust with one of Bergemann's slices—there's a lot of blank canvas here—but by using a custom-blend artisan flour, combined with some sort of lengthy and complicated fermentation process that is way beyond my understanding, it more than handles it's responsibility. It's crunchier than most crusts, but it's not at all cracker-y, and has a ton of flavor. It's like eating really good bread.
I had three different slices, and all were excellent. The Margherita was topped with some astonishingly bright and delicious fresh-tomato sauce, a bit of mozzarella, some parmesan for bite, and it was perfect. The special that day was Four Cheese with Mushrooms, and it totally nailed the proper balance of ingredients, the thick coating of cheese adding some chewiness to the proceedings as well. The Soppresatta slice was equally satisfying, with pickled chili peppers bringing the acid and heat.
Not everything is as good as the pizza. My Meatball Sandwich on focaccia (a guaranteed mess!) was decent enough, but there's no reason to get this instead of, say, three slices for the same price. On the other hand, the Salami and Cheese Lard Bread—really, just a roll—was spectacular, as good as the one they make at Mazzola in Carroll Gardens, which is my personal gold standard for the stuff.
The Semolina Chocolate Cake was bland and getting too close to stale to enjoy, but both cookies I had were first-rate, a salted Double Chocolate and a chewy Toasted Almond.
Completists will definitely want to head up/down/over to Gotham West Market to try Orkin and Bergemann's creation. This is a terrific entry into the ever-more-burgeoning NYC pizza canon.
The Corner Slice is located within the Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue at the corner of 45th Street, and is open Sunday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until midnight. Morning hours are all about coffee and pastries; the pizza part of the operation starts at 11:30. (cornerslicenyc.com)