New York is a pizza town. Whether old or new school, thin crusted discs or poufy squares, the slice maintains rock star status to its devoted groupies.
Matthew Hyland is currently the rising star of the city’s pizza world, having achieved fame first with his brilliant renditions of Neapolitan pies at Clinton Hill’s Pizza Loves Emily and later for paying homage to the thick chewy Detroit-style pie at Emmy Squared in Williamsburg. When he announced, along with his wife Emily, that they were coming to Manhattan and bringing a new style of pizza with them, it was huge news.
The Hylands aren’t moving into any old storefront; they’re taking over one of the most famed wood-burning ovens in the city, at the former Blue Ribbon Bakery on a picturesque corner of Greenwich Village. This is the beating heart of New York pizza territory, a stone’s throw away from such iconic spots as John’s, Joe’s, and Keste. Hyland has never made pies in an oven like the tremendous one in the new space before; it stretches back 18 feet and was originally used to bake loaves of bread. Depending on your sources, the oven dates back to the 1850s or was built as “recently” as 1906.
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The old bakery is a trophy space for the Hylands. “When I was fresh out of culinary school and cooking at Public, around 2004, I used to come here and eat a Blue Ribbon duck club sandwich after service.” He says he would slip downstairs to look at the oven and tell himself, “One day I'll have restaurant like this.” (Then he’d remember he was making $10 an hour.)
While the rent at the original Emily is about $4,600, and Emmy Squared's is $9,000, the West Village Pizza Loves Emily rent is $22,000, almost a 500 percent increase. (The space is nearly twice as big as the original Pizza Loves Emily and seats about 70.) The landlord was relieved to hear that he and Emily were opening a pizza place. “I think they were afraid it would be a frozen yogurt spot or a cell phone store,” says Hyland.
There’s currently a neon sign outside that announces their arrival, and Emily has decorated the space with a wide array of knickknacks, from her father-in-law’s old lacrosse stick to art by employees. Otherwise it looks almost exactly the same as it did when it was Blue Ribbon Bakery.
It opens Wednesday, June 7, and if it’s not ready by then, “We’ll order take out from John’s for customers,” jokes Matt. “I love that place.”
Below, highlights from the menu of the new West Village Pizza Loves Emily.
There will be not one, but two kinds of pizza. The round, 12-inch Emily-style pies are wood-oven baked. “They’re an homage to New York’s original pizzas,” says Hyland. “Places like Lombardy’s that were bakeries that made pizza.” The edges of the lightly chewy dough are brushed with oil, generating a slightly fried and crisp-chewy crust. Hyland has also changed up his tomato sauce—this one is more deeply flavored with garlic, roasted vegetables, and a splash of wine. The pungent cheese blend has been adjusted, too.
There are just four wood-oven pies, including the Classic, which tastes like a powerful Margarita; the Margot, with a Calabrian-chile spiked tomato sauce and pungent, Asian-style anchovies; and the spicy clam-topped Dune Road with tomatoes. “Most of the clam pies in New York are New England chowder style, white pies; this one has a Manhattan chowder vibe,” explains Hyland.
The other pizza on the menu is a riff off the Emmy Squared sensation, the rectangular, chewy, and cheese-crusted Detroit-style pies. From a triple decker convection oven, Hyland is producing a more Grandma/bar-style pie. They’re about ¾-inch thick—half as thick as the ones at Emmy Squared—and denser, with a higher ratio of toppings to base, but the same fried cheese corners. Among the dozen-plus selections of these, you’ll be hearing a lot about the Pig Freaker, an ode to their friends at the nearby restaurant Pig Bleecker: It’s covered with cheese, thick pieces of bacon, kimchee scallions, and splashes of miso queso—the flavours are meaty, tangy, and indulgent. (“We’re an Asian restaurant masquerading as a pizza place,” says Emily.) And for those who have longed for Emily’s bestselling Colony topping—pepperoni, pickled chilis, and honey—on a pan pizza, they’ll get their wish here.
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland