Have you ever seen such a colorful pie? Click on image to enlarge.
No product better represents this era in the city’s restaurants than the pizza. Incessantly glamorized by food journalists, pizzas are cheap to make even when the ingredients are relatively expensive. While most of us tend to favor traditional pies (New York coal over, Naples-style, Sicilian, etc.), pizzas provide plenty of room for innovation, as we were recently reminded by Eater’s Pizza Week 2012. I scanned the entries, and discovered several unusual pizzerias that I was keen on checking out. Riding my bike to Crown Heights, Pete Zaaz was the first one I tried.
The place is narrow, with a grand backyard, and the menu is weird in the extreme. So extreme is the point of view expressed, pizza-wise, that only four pies are available, all but one assertively off-the-wall. The one called Brooklyn is relatively normal (tomato, mozzarella), save for its use of marjoram as primary herb.
From there, things get stranger and stranger. A pie called Chorizo sends America’s most beloved flatbread spinning in a Mexican direction, while another features coconut and tofu. The most interesting is called Baked Potato, and I wondered how a pizza could be conflated with the oven-baked spud your mom might have served with roast turkey.
The pie–shown above–turned out to be magnificent. Instead of mozzarella, it uses cheddar. Slices of purple potato decorate the top, and crumbled bacon and crème fraiche add to the illusion of a baked potato. (Crème fraiche is just a fancy French name for sour cream.) Best of all, you’ve rarely seen a more perfect pizza crust, well-browned, crusty, and soft inside. Peter Zaaz could put steel wool on that crust and it would taste good.
Does four weird, non-traditional pies a pizzeria make? These days, on the frontiers of pizza innovation, it does.
766 Classon Avenue
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Some day you’ll be able to eat weird pizza outdoors while watching movies. Let’s see…what movie goes with the baked potato pizza?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 17, 2012