As the birthplace of American pizza, New York can be a cheesy, saucy utopia. In this column, we’ll highlight neighborhood pizzerias with staying power. If there’s 00 flour, so be it, but the only prerequisite is that these places have been serving their neighborhoods for more than a few years.
Among the shops at Newkirk Plaza, which flanks the Newkirk Avenue subway station in Flatbush, Brooklyn, LoDuca Pizza (14 Newkirk Plaza, Brooklyn; 718-859-1501) sits squarely in the middle. Opened in 1989 by brothers Sal, Daniel and Vito LoDuca, the pizzeria has been in its current location — holding court directly across from the station’s entrance — for the past 17 years. Stepping out of the station, its presence is a warm welcome for anyone spending time in the just-starting-to-gentrify neighborhood.
Although it rarely makes best pizza listicles, LoDuca still gets some love from the pizza illuminati as home to some of the best square and specialty slices in the city. Still, at its heart it’s a community slice joint, and the narrow, utilitarian booths host a rotating cast of characters throughout the day: kids and teachers stopping by on their way home from school, families out for pizza night, or hungry night owls fueling up before partying the night away across the river. Their plain slice is superlative, with slightly sweet marinara and a thin, pliable crust.
LoDuca’s signature specialty pie is a square chicken parmigiana — and for good reason; the cutlets are assembled and fried in-house. Diced into bite-size chunks, they dot the surface of numerous variations on a theme, from chicken bacon ranch to this monstrosity of chicken and bacon partially submerged in an oozing mass of mozzarella and brandy cream sauce. The undercurrent of milky, boozy sweetness against the forward flavors of chicken and smoked pig coalesce on top of a crust that’s at once chewy and crunchy.
Less oily and messy than versions from Artichoke or Di Fara, the grandma slice is another winner, carried by that near-perfect square pie crust, a fine and craggy canvas for LoDuca’s liberal saucing. Although our slice was skimpy on the torn basil, other slices were more generous with the leafy herb. If you’re a pizza perv, get your upskirt on and marvel at the pronounced browning on the bottom of the crust.
White pizza can be polarizing, but the offering here raises no concerns. More straightforward than our favorite white slice (which, for the record, can be found at Williamsburg’s Best Pizza sprinkled with caramelized onions and sesame seeds), the white pie boasts wide pools of soft ricotta separated by plenty of browned mozzarella and a toss of chiffonaded parsley. For a white slice in particular, it achieves a wonderful balance between luscious and crisp.
If more pizzerias put the same amount of care and craft into their product, the average neighborhood slice joint might have a fighting chance of surviving against the barrage of chains and dollar slice joints threatening the city’s pizza landscape.