The Bronx was easier to ride this year. First of all, they fixed the RFK Bridge so now it was only 3 sets of stairs through the entire bridge. Last year it was about 10 sets. That alone made the ride much more enjoyable because I didn’t have to dismount and carry the Schwinn up and down the stairs. Also, I had more familiarity navigating the Bronx this year: I know St. Anne’s goes N/S, so does Boston Rd (sorta). And the streets with numbers go east and west, starting with the late 130s. I only got lost once the entire trip and barely had to look at the map.
The Bronx is different. Something you’ll notice is that there are a lot of rocks and people are more likely to hang out in the streets. Also, there is a unique Bronx pizza style: the slices are huge. I didn’t plan it this way (and I wouldn’t do it again if I had to choose), but of the 4 places I explored on this day, 3 took on gargantuan status.
Neighborhood: Mott Haven
504 E 138th Street
Bronx, NY 10454
This place must have some history to it. The signage is everything charming and it’s the size of a closet; probably made before tables were deemed necessary in pizza shops. It’s also one of the closest in proximity to the other boroughs, being just over the RFK bridge and the local Manhattan-Bronx bridges, so outsiders looking for a quick in-and-out taste of the Bronx can pop in here.
This was my first extra-large Bronx slice of the day, measuring nearly a foot long. The bottom of the crust was pure crunch, but a layer of fluff stood atop that crispiness. The cheese was as standard as I could ask for, although a bit softer than I prefer, resulting in blending with the sauce. It did have good bubbling and browning at the cheese peaks, though. The grease quotient worked well giving appreciated appearances throughout the slice, with no drastic pools. I tasted spots of oregano, which gave it some character.So did the amount of holes along the cross section of the dough – stretch marks from it’s rise to becoming a butterfly.
Workers are obviously not the originals, but who cares? They are pretty much keeping it real. Is it one of the best? Yeah, it probably is.
Sometimes I get jealous of the people not on an exploratory pizza tour. A few people got a “beef patty with cheese with cocoa bread.” That sandwich(?) looked delectible.
Neighborhood: Pelham Gardens
2130 White Plains Rd
Bronx, NY 10462
La Pentola was heralded from many directions. It was even listed as a Best Pizza pick in the Village Voice 2007. I know this because there is a giant Village Voice sign in the front proclaiming this. After this visit, I am scratching my head.
I like them because they have lots of specials. On this day, I hit the $1 slice jackpot. Under the glass, the garlic rolls were attractive and so where the chicken et al. rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds.
It’s definitely a tasty slice with some zest to the sauce and cheese combo. The chewy crust has a slight flavor, wholly different than cardboard slices, but still just as forgettable. And the sauce was forgettable too. I grade this a few steps above Chuck-E-Cheese, but in the same family. It’s like the over-achieving son in the chuckecheese brood.
But that’s just the pizza. The overhead lighting and bric-a-brac is charming and they have table service, should you choose it. I’m sure this is a great option for workers in the neighborhood of all income levels. Something of note is the many drink options: fountain Cokes, Stewarts sodas, Snapples, more bottles and juice machines. It’s like they are preparing for something…
Three Boys From Italy
Neighborhood: Pelham Gardens
704 Burke Avenue
Bronx, NY 10467
Another huge Bronx slice. I should tell you that the prices of these giant slices are generally comparable with your neighborhood shop. This one was $2.50. I’m not sure what the standard size of a pie from here is. It could be as much as 22″. They don’t go by tray size, that’s for certain, because the whole pie always flops over the tray. Maybe there is a standard Bronx weight for the dough before they flatten it. Maybe they use a container one size larger than a regular pizza to process the dough.
3 Boys from Italy is increasingly becoming legendary. And it deserves it. My slice was thin, cheesy and greasy. The crust was a bit tough and chewy. The sauce is a bit salty, but mostly innocuous. The end crust was too doughy to devour, but by the time I reached it I was full, so I didn’t miss it.
There are no lines, just a mass of people huddling around the 15-foot counter. You really have to pick up your balls to get a slice here. That being said, it’s an extreme neighborhood feel and everyone seems nice and fair. It was a unique experience for a Long Island boy.
Something of note was the floor boards and the dough setting in wood boxes. The kitchen looks like it’s on a pirate ship. I have a feeling the boxes give some sort of characteristic 3 Boys deems necessary and unique to their pies. I am not going to argue, I just want to learn a little bit more.
Lots of drink options: fountains, twirlers and 2 cabinets full of bottles. What is it with Bronx places and the plethora of drinks?
1015 Allerton Ave
Bronx, NY 10469
Unknowingly, I saved longest slice of the day for last. It measured within a fraction of 1 foot in length. Dominick’s is in a holdout Italian section of the Bronx, next to the Italia 90 club, where most of the members are, yes, Italian, and, probably, 90.
This was also the most respectable crust of the day. Thin, rigid, with integrity to it and a bit of flour. That little bit of resistance made me appreciate it. The sauce made it slightly juicy, and the cheese sat on the slice without lending much to grading either way. Because of the crust, it was the most thought provoking slice of the day.
There are soooooo many great places to eat in the Bronx. Sometimes I feel that I could use a dowsing rod and I would find as many great places to eat as any reporting in the New York Times. But it’s nearly impossible to find great pizza here.
All I’m looking for is great pizza. I’m very open minded about styles, but I’m having a hard time hitting that next level of pizza in the Bronx. If only I could find something here on the caliber of Gaby’s of Hollis, Queens. But that’s unfair. That’s Queens. Maybe I have to shake my thinking. Maybe 3 Boys is remarkable.