Have you ever tried to give a pizza recommendation to a New York transplant in Providence? It’s nearly impossible. They all have harsh critiques and far-away nostalgia for the “perfect slice” back home. But no more, folks – we have a legit New York-style pizzeria on Atwells Ave. Chef Christie Flanagan of Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza tells us how this iconic pizza is done right.
Tell me about the distinctive qualities of New York-style pizza.
You have to have the right crust to start. It can’t be soft; it can’t be dry. It has to have the right consistency to hold its shape, so when you pick up the slice it doesn’t flop down. And it must be chewy with a little bit of crisp.
After that, the mozzarella cheese, which is basic. A lot of places around here use different cheeses on their pizzas, like cheddar. I think most New Yorkers would die a little if they saw cheddar cheese on a pizza. We don’t mix and match here. If you want to sprinkle parmesan on your slice after the fact, that’s your decision. But it’s mozzarella – that’s it.
If you had to choose one, what’s your favorite slice of pizza?
Cheese. Three key ingredients: cheese, tomato sauce and dough. If you can’t make cheese pizza, you can’t make pizza at all. A lot of places will throw weird ingredients on a slice to make it taste good, but for me, if you want to eat pizza, you have to order a slice of cheese first. If that tastes amazing, you know the rest of the pizza is great, too. You have to have a good base and then build off it.
How do New Yorkers eat pizza?
You have to fold it. Crust-to-crust; not crust-to-point. It’s the easiest way to eat a slice. When you pick it up and fold it (if you have a good piece), it’s not going to flop down at the tip. It’ll maintain a nice structure and then you can walk around, get on the subway, read the paper and you’re on your way. I don’t know why New Englanders have trouble with that concept. I’ve had plenty come in here and fold the pizza the wrong way. New Yorkers will try to school them on how to eat a slice the right way. It’s pretty funny.
What’s another must-try on the menu?
I’d say the homemade gravy with the meatballs and sausages. It was a staple every Sunday at my house when I was a kid. You could smell it cooking in the morning and knew around two or three o’clock you were going to sit down and have some type of macaroni or ravioli with meatballs. We make the sausages in-house; it gives the gravy a really nice flavor.
What’s the type of feedback you like to see from area pizza lovers?
My favorite is serving another New Yorker a slice, especially when they haven’t had it in years. He or she will come in and look around, like, “is this for real? I don’t believe you.” Believe me, this is the real thing! Then they take the first bite and they’re like “Oh my God, it’s been so long.” Sometimes it’ll be ten, 20 even 40 years since they had a New York-style pizza. So that’s great to watch.
Napolitano’s Brooklyn Pizza
Locations in Cranston and Providence