In the world of pizza, does size matter? Of course it does! Size is relative when it comes down to pizza pies, however, as some places do slices and others only do pies. I can’t say I have a preference, but I do love a comically large slice of pizza.
Francis Garcia and Sal Basille (who you may recognize from Cooking Channel’s awesome show, “Pizza Cuz”) opened their first “Artichoke” location in 2008, and have quickly expanded to a trio of pizzerias across downtown Manhattan. Enveloped in the world of pizza since they were children, working in their father’s “Basille’s” restaurant in Staten Island, “Artichoke” is the epitome of high-flavor bar pizza, without “bar-pizza” being an insult to the food.
It’s a no-nonsense pizzeria from the moment you step in to their MacDougal St. location, with a few stools on the side of the wall, and one gigantic brick oven in the center of the place. The surly waiter will take your order while you wait on the side and admire the lamp in the shape of a women’s leg in stockings from “A Christmas Story” (a Very Italian prop to have since it’s from the fra-ghee-lay region). Much like the lone server/ pizza-maker guarding the place, the slices from “Artichoke” do not mess around.
“Artichoke” specializes in six types of pies – the classic margherita, Sicilian, meatball, crab, vodka (only available on a Sicilian pie), and their namesake, artichoke. If you want pepperoni or sausage or pineapples (shudder), there’s a Dominoes Pizza not far from Washington Square Park, so go clog your arteries there. I went with the traditional margherita on my first visit, although artichoke and crab sound really good, too.
One slice of any of their pies is equal to about two slices from the average pizzeria. In terms of the pizzas with toppings, you really can not beat any of them in terms of quality and freshness, as well as abundance. Best of all, that firm crust can stand up to the weight of their toppings quite well. I only utilized the traditional NY fold technique purely to make this monstrous slice fit in my maw.
A strong and thick crust, the underside of this broad slice had the perfect char with an excellent golden-brown color on bottom. Along with the darker hot-spots on the bottom, this crunchy crust packed a great flavor along with its crisp texture. It’s the kind of crust that you can tap on and it makes that sound that you know means this pizza is legit. The sauce was sweet with very little acidity and a big basil taste, especially with the fresh leaves of basil thrown right on top of the pie. There was more than enough cheese on this slice, with cubes of it generously heaped on top to melt into this gorgeously colored slice that you see in this review. Superbly melty, giving you those telephone wires of mozzarella that you want when you bite into a good slice of pizza.
“Artichoke” is definitely the new favorite for me in terms of pizza, and I will be making plenty of return trips there. They may not have an enormous menu, but who needs that when you have six amazing pizzas, done with perfect simplicity. I was unaware of the connection with this place to “Pizza Cuz”, which is really my favorite show on Cooking Channel, but I am happy to say that I can now see why Sal and Francis are such experts in the food. Overall, one of the best pizza spots I have found in New York so far, a must-have if you are in the area, and just a damn good slice of pie. Oh, and here is that lamp in case you did not believe me:
“Artichoke” is located on 111 MacDougal St., and they do deliver if you are in their delivery zone (check their site for details). They also have locations in the East Village and Chelsea.