We had Saturday plans to dine at Gyu Kaku, a Japanese BBQ restaurant in the East Village. We arrived by subway 90 minutes early, had time to shop and stroll. I remember the funky and bohemian Village of the 70s. It's all changed, and now it's a lovely, almost tranquil place full of cozy cafes and trendy restaurants, and largely devoid of tourists. Suddenly, a light went on in my head. Just this week, I had read a terrific blog post over at Me, Myself, and Pie reviewing the latest pie tosser in Greenwich Village and celebrating the number of great pizzerias in such a small area: John's, Joe's, Pizza Roma, Bleecker St. Pizza, Keste, Arturo's, Artichoke, and No. 28. Not to mention, Lombardi's is just a 10 minute walk too.
Given that a large dinner loomed with an hour or so, we needed a place that serves slices. It broke my heart when we walked past Arturo's and I saw the beautiful pies being scarfed by al fresco diners, including one sad couple who chose to forgo their pizza bones (corniciones). We headed to Artichoke. All of the pies looked great, but to make a fair comparison, I needed one with red sauce and hence selected the margherita. The friendly counterman had my $4 slice ready quickly. It was pricy (albeit cheaper than the crab or artichoke pie) but the slice was huge -- it rested on two plates.
The crust was thin, more or less tomato pie style. It had both some pliancy and a nice crisp snap to it. Strong base, and good thing, because this pie was almost swimming in red sauce. That can be dangerous to a pie, making it wet and sloppy and overly acidic. But not here -- the sauce was thick, with an ideal touch of sweetness. It had a modest amount of baked-in mozzarella, fresh basil, and appeared to be topped with some shredded aged cheese. Delicious flavor, perfect texture, and excellent balance.
All told, this was one wonderful, transcendant slice of pie. It falls right in line with Patsy's as a superb slice that falls only a hair short of the magic at DiFara or DeLorenzo's. There are three Manhattan locations; get yourself some soon.
By the way, Gyu-Kaku, at 34 Cooper Square in the East Village, was very good. It's big inside, a little noisy, filled with well-dressed people and a friendly staff. There is a fire grill built into each table, where you grill your meat and vegetables per instructions from the waitstaff. There are cold dishes, too, like the wonderful avocado salad we had and a nice chicken-garlic-noodle offering. The specialty for grilling is beef (though they offer a delectable "pork toro" as well as seafood). We paid, for a 5 ounce portion, $26 for Kobe short ribs, and $8 for hangar steak. The Kobe was indeed delicious, but not 3x better than the hangar steak. Good to try once, but I don't need to make it a habit.
Gyu-Kaku earns 7.5 stars. Really good, I'd surely go back, but nothing transcendant.
Artichoke earns nine stars. This is top-shelf pie. If I had allowed myself 2 or 3 slices, it might have been 9.5 stars.