This story was originally published at EatABQ, the city's food, restaurant and drinks guide. EatABQ is a publication of The Paper, ABQ's new alternative, independent weekly.
NY Pizzeria Keeps it Classic Down to the Checkerboard Tablecloths
With election night fast approaching it became apparent that I needed some assistance in getting a full night’s rest. Resisting the urge to crack a bottle of sour mash bourbon, I went the other route: comfort food. For me this meant a good pizza pie … and a few cheap lager beers. I cruised to The Quarters for a four pack and then headed further east to the only place in town where a somewhat snobby New Yorker (only through childhood) such as myself is sure to find a satisfactory slice. Giovanni’s Pizzeria on San Pedro and Kathryn isn’t the only place that crafts a high quality pizza here in Burque—but they are the only one that manages to serve up authentic New York pies. As soon as I walked into the joint, the stresses of the election receded. There’s little better than the warmth from a pizza oven and the smell of roasting garlic. I looked over the menu, passed up such tempting classics as the baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana, and ordered a plain Neapolitan pie and a stromboli.
Above the classic checkered tablecloths, rarer these days even out east, Giovanni’s walls host an impressive collection of reviews going back to the early ’90s and a bunch of glossy signed photos. The original cast of “The Sopranos.” Yankees from times past. Bob Odenkirk (from “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”) had two. My order was up before I knew it.
It took some restraint, but I left the garlic powder, red chilli flakes and parmesan for later (wanting to taste the pizza just as it came out of the oven), folded the first slice down the center one-handed, and demolished most of it with hardly a breath, much less a pause to jot down notes. The crust, though, did give me pause; it looked a bit too crusty, perhaps even borderline burnt in the 5:30pm twilight of the parking lot. A cautious bite proved me wrong. Much like such classic spots as L&B Spumoni Gardens out near Coney Island, Giovanni’s flirts with too much char, but the burnt sienna tone achieved by a nice long high-heat bake worked wonders on their dough. It may be somewhat unorthodox, but they cook with a holey pizza sheet that creates somewhat uniform charred circles on the underside—and even more flavor.
The slice’s rich, tangy and well-garlicked sauce worked in tandem with what lay above and below. The cheese ratio hit the higher parameters of what one might expect out east, but it didn’t pool grease like New York slices are prone to do. Maybe I was a bit disappointed, as I have the admittedly kind of grimy habit of letting some grease drip off, sprinkling this small pool with oregano and chili flakes, and then using it as a dipping sauce for my crust. But most people, I figure, will appreciate the lack of grease as it is a sign that Giovanni’s uses a higher quality mozzarella blend.
The Stromboli (perhaps not the best idea after I’d already consumed half a pie) was up next. If you have never had one, strombolis are similar to calzones, but while calzones are made by folding a circle of dough over toppings, strombolis are more like rolling a pizza burrito and then baking it. Giovanni’s stromboli comes standard with just pepperoni, cheese, and a side of marinara, though just below it on the menu they offer an “Italian Burrito” that is basically the same concept but with ground beef and green chile. The standard stromboli was enormous; it could easily feed two or three adults. Like the pizza, it was good. The pizzaiolo had achieved a nice swirl, and while the addition of pepperoni made the stromboli greasier than the pizza there still was no grease pooling beneath. While I do think the stromboli, and my insides, could have benefited from some added roast peppers or even broccoli rabe, dipping bites into the side of their house red gravy had me fully satiated.
The next morning I pulled one of the two slices that made it through the night from my fridge. It was still delicious. The cheese was squeaky and the tang of the sauce even more pronounced. At $17.50 for a large plain pizza, the prices at Giovanni’s are on par with a typical New York pizzeria—rather high for Albuquerque—but if you are willing to pay for true pizza mastery, it is worth splurging on. I look forward to sampling the Sicilian (square) pie on my next trip. [ ]