Monday, June 13, 2011

900 Degrees

I'm a strong believer that Greenwich Village is hands down the best neighborhood for pizza in America. Within the confines of the quarter square mile radiating out from 6th Avenue and Bleecker Street lies a cross section of what arguably makes New York the greatest pizza city in existence. Yes, it started in Naples and San Francisco is giving the Big Apple a run for its money, but nowhere else can you find such a heavy concentration of incredible pizzerias of nearly every style.

Not convinced? There's old-school NY-Neapolitan at John's, the perfect slice at Joe's, Roman style at Pizza Roma, the infamous "Nonna" slice at Bleecker St. Pizza, incredible Neapolitan pies at Keste, coal-fired pizza at Arturo's, funky slices at Artichoke, more Neapolitan pies at No. 28, and that's not even counting at least 7 or 8 run of the mill slice joints. So who'd be crazy enough to open a new pizzeria in the midst of all this competition?

Enter 900 Degrees, the new creation from multi-award winning pizzaiolo and dough-thrower Tony Gemignani. I'll admit the first reaction I had when I read about this place opening up was pure unadulterated joy. After having had a great time at Tony's Pizza Napoletana in SF, I was pretty stoked to see he was crossing the country. Then the reality set in- "this guy's got brass balls opening in this neighborhood," I thought, "can he pull it off? What's he have that'll set him apart from the rest?"

Well, two ovens for starters.

But that's not all. Similar to its sister site in North Beach, 900 Degrees offers a dizzying selection of not just different pies, but completely different styles of pizza (five to be exact). Just one look at the menu is enough to make your stomach growl and your knees weak.

Manning -or should I say womanning- both of these gnarly ovens (one is traditional wood-burning brick while the other is brick-lined gas-electric deck) is Tony's long-standing 'pizzapprentice' Audrey Sherman, who makes for one hell of a talented, dauntless pizzaiola. Considering how male-dominated the world of pizza seems to be, it's refreshing to see a woman kicking ass behind the bench.

While Tony and Audrey make a killer Margherita (be warned, only 73 are made per day), I had already tried it prior to returning with my camera to properly document the place. Meanwhile, another pie had been haunting my dreams: Tony's 'Original Tomato Pie,' which is Gemignani's take on the Trenton classic with an updated spin.

This thing is all kinds of out-of-control awesome.

After stretching the dough, thin slices of mozzarella are laid down, covered with a great tomato sauce equal parts tangy and spicy, then topped with Neapolitan oregano, EVOO, sea salt and freshly pinched sausage.

All of the tomato pies, along with the Sicilian, Roman, and half of the 'Pizza Americana' are baked in the electric oven, while the Neapolitans are cooked in the wood-burning guy.

Yep, that's from the electric! Before I had a chance to scarf my heavenly tomato pie, one of 900 Degrees' 'farmer pizzas' showed up!

While this isn't currently listed online, you can definitely find it on the menu at 900. I've never had a pizza quite like this, ready for it? White potatoes, leeks, Fiacco's broccoli rabe sausage (made just around the corner), Calabrese chilies, and raw goat milk cheese. "Inventive" doesn't do this pie justice.

I have a lot of respect for 900 Degrees- not only do they have the chutzpah to compete within a stone's throw of the city's best pizzerias, they still manage to bring something new to the plate. Anyone willing to challenge the status quo is a welcome addition to the neighborhood and ultimately New York City.

UPDATE: Sadly, 900 Degrees is no longer open (R.I.Pizza)
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