Paulie Gee on The Best Pizza in New York, His Last Meal, and DiFara's

Yesterday you heard from Paulie Gee about how he made his way from IT manager to restaurant owner and pizzaioli of his new eponymous spot in Greenpoint (60 Greenpoint Avenue).

Here, in the second half of the interview, find out which pizza spots Paulie favors, the worst pie he ever made, and how he feels about flash photography in his restaurant.

What other pizza places in New York do you like?

My two favorite pizzerias for atmosphere are Roberta's and Lucali. My favorite pizza is a tie between Motorino and Keste. I like them both very much. I still love the Sicilian pie at Spumoni Gardens. And my favorite New York slice is at New Park Pizza in Howard Beach.

Do you like DiFara's?

I think their pizza is great, but it's not just a New York slice because of all the ingredients he uses. I don't to wait on something that's not a line. It's like if I walked into a bakery and took a number, I'd know there were 10 people in front of me. But if I have to fight to get a pizza in a reasonable amount of time, it's not worth it. But it's a great slice, worth every bit of the $5.

And my favorite coal oven place is still, and I imagine always will be, Totonno's.

What does your wife think about this second career?

She's very happy about. She's very happy I've found something I love to do. She has a job she loves, so he's happy I've found something I love that's going to create a secure future for us. God forbid something happened to me, I've created something here.

And she loves my pizza!

What advice would you give to people who work at jobs they don't particularly like and want to do something different?

Believe in yourself--we all have seeds of greatness in us. Life is not a dress rehearsal. And tell people you're going to do it--that's very powerful. Belief and commitment are the two most powerful things. And it'll happen.

Are you still making your own mozzarella?

At this point, we are, but that'll probably only last a few more days....I've found a local artisan who makes very good mozzarella in north Brooklyn, so we're going to be using them.

I've seen you quoted as saying the most important tool is the garbage can....

I haven't used it enough! You know, I thought I was going to be one of those guys who makes every pizza. Like Chris Bianco, Anthony Mangieri, Mark Iacono...All those places, they stand there and they're the face of the place. I said: I'm going to do this. Well, at friends and family, I was inundated. And I had to have someone jump in and help. I have 60 seats, and all these other places I mentioned have 35 seats.

So we've had some challenges with that. Challenges with the pie, taking the dough out at the right temperature, pies being too small, a lot of pies in garbage rather than sending them out. But it's difficult when people are waiting...

Is one of the challenges being too much of a perfectionist? Too many pies in the garbage?

No, because I have rent to pay. I'd be throwing all my profit away. Plus, now that person is waiting that much longer.

 

I've heard you'll be doing seasonal pies: Any ideas for spring and summer that you're excited about?

Absolutely. I can't wait until figs show up. I'm going to rock the figs. I like to do it with mascarpone or Gorgonzola, with a drizzle of orange blossom honey...

Right now, there's a pie called Off the Hook. It's always something different. You know the Meat Hook? Yes.

I go get sausages from the Meat Hook. One night it was chicken-herb, one night rosemary and wine sweet sausage. I do that right now, that's a heavier, cooler weather thing.

I'm also serving Van Leeuwen ice cream. But I'm so looking forward to those figs. And I'll mess around with zucchini flowers. I'll also have a Rooftop Farms pie, using produce from them. What's the worst pizza you've ever made?

Ah, well the very first one. It looked like an amoeba. I didn't realize had to let dough stand out before used it.

And I once made a dessert pie at home. It looked absolutely amazing. I was going fig pies, and I thought a raspberry, fig, mascarpone pie would work. But the figs and the raspberries didn't work together, so I had to can it.

Worst pizza you've ever eaten?

Too numerous to mention!

Best pizza you've ever eaten?

That was at Una Pizza Napoletana. Sadly gone now. I think he only used buffalo mozzarella, and his crust was just fantastic, very special. I hope to someday make a crust like that. Do you think you'll ever get tired of making pizza?

No, because it's much more than making pizza. I get out and talk to the people who come here. I build a relationship with them. When people come and have a good time...I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that I created a good experience for them.

I have to say I am very grateful for all the people in the pizza community. They've all been so helpful to me. They knew I was going to be their competition, and everyone has just been great. Roberta's really helped me out when we had personnel challenges. It's important to recognize that when people are so good to you. I'm so appreciative. If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you eat for your last meal?

A roast pork Italian sandwich at DiNic's in the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. I'd start with the sandwich, and then have a bowl of fresh cheese ravioli from Sapore with my own meat sauce.

But you know, if I knew I was going to die, I might not have an appetite. I might be a little upset. Do bloggers taking pictures of pies bother you?

I love it when they take good pictures. The shots that Always Hungry took, and the shots that Adam took for Slice, I just love to look at those pictures of my place, and see it how other people see it.

I don't like flash photography. I almost want to put up a sign. I hate it.

You could put up a sign.

I would not do that. I would not suggest that someone wanted to take a picture. When you do something like that, people will stop taking pictures.


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