A New Yorker and a Californian walked into The Other End Pizza Parlour (formerly Playland Pizza) to sample what is being called the best pizza in New York.
New Yorker: I grew up in Queens, where if you mention “pizza” and “Cross Bay Boulevard,” most people think of New Park. The landmark neon sign harkens back to the days when Italian immigrants and their children were rapidly colonizing Howard Beach. But the real standard bearer of pizza is Gino’s. For a generation of Queens kids, Gino’s epitomized the New York slice: the crust was the perfect combination of doughy and crispy, ideal to eat with your hands, folded in half, without a lot of oil drip or gooey cheese. It wasn’t referred to as Margherita: just a plain slice, please. Occasionally, we would have a pepperoni or sausage pie, but we were mostly of the mind that when it comes to pizza, less is more. In places far away from New York, we have sampled pineapple and ham toppings, and while it may be tasty, it is not what most New Yorkers would consider pizza.
Recognizing that tastes have evolved, we decided to try out the fare at Whitney Aycock’s pizza emporium. The Margherita was wonderfully perfect: Whitney doesn’t prepare an ultra-thin crust, but it was still easy enough to eat by hand. Just tomato, cheese and some fresh mint on a perfectly charred crust, all imported from Italy.
The next sample was the Cavolini. Now, this brussel sprout topped pizza was ordered with a bit of hesitation (see “less is more” above). However this was, hands down, the best pizza I have had in quite a while. The brussel sprouts were very finely sliced, and along with the pancetta, lent a subtle flavoring to the pizza. This very tasty and aromatic combination will be my first choice the next time I eat at Whitney’s.
And don’t be afraid of Whitney. His reputation as the pizza nazi is a bit overblown. Just don’t order by the slice.
Californian: I grew up in northern California, where Round Table’s doughy-crusted pizza is the norm. Pizza may be the perfect food, not just because it’s founded on twin wonders of bread and cheese, but for its nearly endless options. With a small amount of legwork, you could eat pizza every week and never have the same pie twice. The Other End Pizza, however, will give you the opposite problem; go once and you’ll never stop returning. I have craved their Margherita and Cavolini (brussel sprouts and pancetta) every day since my last visit, and the Bianca (goat cheese and zucchini) was a great acidic balance to the savory flavors of the others. All three pies wear their crown on the bottom, though. The crust is thin but not tough, a feat that countless pizza guys from Manhattan to the moon can’t seem to pull off. Whitney nails it, however, with a thoughtful menu, genuine local feel and three of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted.