My college friend, who writes sometimes in this publication as The Gourmet Runner, is absolutely not a gourmet. He is very definitive in his opinions about food, and even more passionate in voicing them. He and I have really spirited discussions about food often, and it’s uncanny how similar our thoughts are.
Such was the case when I asked him about the demise of Brooklyn Pizza. As a native New Yorker, this was a depressing event for him. Brooklyn Pizza was the first place locally that had pizza as he knew it.
We also agree that we prefer a New York-style pizza to a true Italian pizza. He refers to the unwelcome trait of an Italian pizza as “flop”. I call it flaccid, meaning the crust will bend down and ingredients slide off if you are not careful. I actually find this a little stressful, While we both love Italian pizza too, we prefer a slice that does not need our support.
When Brooklyn pizza arrived on the scene pre-Katrina, my friend was surprised and delighted to find this favorite cherished food item so close to his Metairie home. Brooklyn set up shop in that strip mall at Labarre and Airline. He visited often and got to know owner Todd Duvio, also a transplant from New York. My friend forgives Duvio for a tiny flaw in his pizza, one beyond his control: the flavor was slightly off in the crust because he couldn’t use the water in New York City, which they claim is the best in the world. But he came very close. Brooklyn Pizza’s pies were made with all the other ingredients imported from New York. And they were the right size. A slice of this pizza was a meal.
In addition to bonding over homesickness for New York pizza, they had another thing in common-a sport. Duvio’s two sons were talented track stars, who pole vaulted at John Curtis and later Stanford. It is this fact that my friend and I theorize as the blame for the end of Brooklyn. But I get ahead of the story.
Katrina put Brooklyn out of business very temporarily. Duvio set up shop in a trailer he outfitted with a pizza oven. My friend could continue his habit. He was delighted when Brooklyn permanently relocated to Veterans. That’s where I became familiar with it, and with Duvio’s personal story.
What struck me most about the place was the place. It looked the part of a New York City pizzeria, complete with the checkered tablecloths and otherwise dull decor. But the people here were nicer. The service window was small and the oven directly behind it, flanked by pizzas for the choosing. The overall effect was charming. And the pizza a dead ringer for the “real” ones.
I don’t believe I ever bought pizza from Todd Duvio himself. He always sat in a tiny office to the side. When he was there. He and his wife were ardent supporters of the kids and their pursuits. It was fun to listen to him talk about this. All parents should be this devoted.
My friend and I discussed the increasing frequency to which the place was left in the hands of others not as committed to the original excellence of Brooklyn Pizza. I stopped going, and so did my friend. The place had somehow lost its spirit.
And other places filled that need for a real New York City pizza. This is defined by my New Yorker friend as 1) the right crust, meaning it will stand on its own. 2) a sauce that has a little tang to it-definitely NOT sweet, 3) enough cheese to mix nicely with the sauce, 4) just a little grease to run down your arm.
Pizza Delicious, which is way too hip to pass as a New York pizza joint, and Slice before it, which might be called a sophisticated version of a NYC place, are both very good “real” New York slices. Fans of Brooklyn Pizza will now have to go to Bywater and near Lee Circle to get their fix.
“To everything there is a season,” as the profound saying goes. My friend and I concluded that the Duvio’s have entered a new season, and we wish them well. They left a great legacy here, because those that haven’t made it to the Big Apple now know what “real” New York City pizza is. They’ll just have to drive a little farther to get it. But not as far as New York.
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