Mike Bergemann’s tiered “bakery style” electric ovens don’t carry the same ostentatious gravitas as the five-figure, wood-fired hearths favored by Neapolitan-pizza fanatics. They’re not domed, tiled in gold or mosaics, or painted with an Italian seascape. Their temperatures aren’t adjusted by chucking freshly hewn logs onto glowing piles of embers, but instead through fine-tuning scientific-looking LCD panels outfitted with a very serious-looking assortment of buttons. For Bergemann, the separately regulated precision controls give him some freedom, enabling the enterprising chef to “bake off pastry and bread at low heat, and pizza at high heat.” Far from the imposing kitchen centerpieces helmed by purists wielding Italian 00 flour dough, these ovens are discreetly tucked away behind the counter at Corner Slice, the pizzeria he opened last month inside Gotham West Market with his former boss, New York–born noodle virtuoso Ivan Orkin of Ivan Ramen fame. And rather than making us pine for char-speckled Neapolitan pies artfully splattered with oozing gobs of mozzarella, his crisp-edged pizzas and virtuous slice-shop fare have us praising the return of the sheet pan.
If you haven’t noticed, square is the new circle. This city celebrates square slices of all stripes, from grandma and Sicilian style to thin and saucy squares to the eminently cheesy and crunchy offerings made famous in Detroit. Corner Slice is all for square pizza proliferation, though with considerable fastidiousness put to what turned out to be a deceptively finicky pursuit. “The recipe was developed over about a year period of trial and error,” says Bergemann, describing the meticulous steps he took to find the right flours and proper fermentation for his dough — all while communicating remotely with his younger brother Pete, who ultimately left his job at Austin’s Easy Tiger bakery to take up the reigns as head baker here.
The results ($2.75–$4.50 per slice, $18–$24 per pie) are compelling and refreshingly unique, eschewing the bready density of Sicilian slabs in favor of something more compact, like a stockier relative of the classic grandma style and Roman bakery pie. Thin yet sturdy and wildly bubbled in places, it’s simultaneously spongy and crispy, with a light chew and a long-lasting yeasty note behind every bite. The crust’s mild tanginess is most pronounced when covered with just a splash of tomato sauce redolent of garlic and Sicilian oregano, as in the bare-bones tomato pie, though this dough stands on its own as a harmonious vehicle for whatever toppings you choose to pile on.
Hot soppressata is a favorite, hailing from midtown’s own Salumeria Biellese. Sliced wafer thin, it softens in the oven, imbuing everything it touches with a spicy, fatty sheen. Ricotta, hand-dipped in Connecticut by Calabro Cheese, gives the white pizza serious heft, its intense creaminess offset by a touch of garlic. Liberally spiced fennel sausage, made in-house from heritage pork, improved every slice it appeared on, including one mingled with onions, sauce, and melted cheese, and another interspersed with fiery pickled cherry peppers on a cheese-less tomato base. With the greenmarket in full swing, the kitchen is getting inspired, so you might find pies laced with garlicky kale, broccoli rabe, or flowering Japanese mustard greens. It’s clear that Bergemann, who previously ran Orkin’s Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop at the other end of the market, shares his mentor’s attention to detail.
Squeezed into a quiet section at the north end of the sprawling complex, past Uma Temakeria’s sushi hand rolls and the Cannibal’s butcher station, Corner Slice winks at pizza parlor nostalgists under its glowing neon signage. It drips with an earnest, old-fashioned aesthetic, staffed by friendly faces surrounded by towers of stacked pizza boxes waiting to be filled. The brothers Bergemann may get fancy with their market special slices, but they and their team make the mozzarella for their standard cheese pies fresh daily. Root beer flows freely on tap from a cheeky barrel keg stood upright behind the counter. Plunk a scoop of ice cream in the sweet suds for an excellent float ($6.50), or opt for other frozen treats like an affogato ($5.50) and tart lemon ice ($3). From the bakery side, there is babka-like semolina chocolate cake with a whisper of orange zest and a generously crumb-topped coffee cake (both $3.75).
Corner Slice took over what was a Blue Bottle Coffee outpost, and Bergemann keeps the java flowing starting at breakfast, which is when rows of soft, olive oil–pistachio muffins, apple crostatas, and salami lard bread rule the display case. Another strong play is the breakfast sandwich ($6), a pile-on of scrambled eggs, zingy peppers, and lush mozzarella on a sesame semolina roll. Then there are Corner Slice’s lunchtime sandwiches ($11.50-$13), served on golden-brown focaccia that makes even a simple pairing of mozzarella and peppers sing. Leagues above your average gloppy, muddled parmigiana subs, Bergemann’s feature quality ingredients like grass-fed beef meatballs and intensely flavorful porchetta. If you’re lucky, your first bite will send a shiver across your palate as the tender meat and crackled pig skin melds with the briny slap of a bracing, anchovy-infused salsa verde. How two slices of bread can contain such a melee of flavors is anyone’s guess. So is how far Bergemann can take his four-sided gambit.
600 Eleventh Avenue, 212-956-9339
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2017