One of the most popular food books published this year was “Where to Eat Pizza,” by Daniel Young, a thick, illustrated guide to more than 1,700 recommended pizza places all over the world. The list was compiled by a thousand experts – real and self-styled – and takes you from Sydney to Shanghai, through Copenhagen and Krakow, to New York and Buenos Aires, with a compulsory stop in Italy, of course.
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There are presumably some restaurants on the list, but most of it is made up of pizza joints – kiosks and fast-food places that are scattered throughout most major cities.
I’ll leave you to deliberate over which of the local eateries you would have recommended for the list, since I haven’t decided yet. One of the problems is that Tel Aviv pizza is pretty firmly divided into two types: “Elite” pizza, served in restaurants and ordered by the tray, and local pizzerias that will provide a single slice on demand but in general lack creativity and quality.
Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but sometimes you just want more. When you think about it, Tel Aviv pizza places – as opposed to many hamburger joints, for example – have yet to perfect that sweet encounter between trash and gourmet, encased in a light, cool package.
But, lo! It seems that there’s a harbinger of things to come: a pizza place that might be heralding the beginning of a new fashion. It’s called Brooklyn and it opened last week on northern Dizengoff Street, near Nordau Boulevard. It has a good pedigree, since it’s owned by the same people who own HaPizza on Bograshov Street, a popular small restaurant that has some of the best pizza in town coming out of its brick oven, but in a sit-down, formal-order format.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, is a street pizzeria, that’s more liberal with the toppings and allows one to eat quickly, pack up slices to take home, and – soon – to order home delivery.
Brooklyn’s oven produces regular pizzas (Margarita, olive and mushroom), but most of the attention goes to the 13 more interesting ingredients, among them various types of cheeses, toppings like corned beef and pickled gherkins, a combination of various types of meats and more.
We started with the basic Margarita, which here is called Queen Margaret – 16 shekels ($4.24) a slice, 96 shekels ($25.41) for a pie. The diameter of a Brooklyn pizza is larger than average, which also makes for a very respectable slice.
The dough was amazing; it was far from thick, but it wasn’t thin and fragile, either; it stayed flexible enough to fold and succeeded in holding whatever was put on it. The tomato sauce was rich and sweet, laced with oregano leaves that made their spicy presence felt. What gave the Margarita its taste was the cheese – it wasn’t just mozzarella, which is naturally neutral, but also more dominant parmesan.
Next in line was the vegan pizza (19 shekels a slice, 114 shekels a pie). With the same successful dough and tomato sauces, we got vegan cheese, which wasn’t particularly felt, pesto sauce and a blend of grilled vegetables – garlic, olives, zucchini, peppers, and artichoke – which were tasty; a sort of antipasti on dough, if you will. Although we are not the typical target audience for the vegan version, it was very good.
We then took a 180-degree turn to taste the Hawaiian pizza, with pineapple, ham and bacon, and the “Carnivore,” with parmesan, bacon, ham and pepperoni. These, also 19 shekels a slice, were the epitome of incredibly enjoyable trash, but of the type enhanced by good ingredients.
In the first, the sweet pineapple cubes (we tasted some syrup there) were a good contrast to the spicy saltiness of the meat and cheese; together they made a pizza that was very refreshing and fun. In the meatier version, the generous amount of toppings and their quality made the pizza excellent.
We thoroughly enjoyed gorging at Brooklyn and we might well have eaten more, but not only were we stuffed (two slices will be quite sufficient for the average person), but an autumn wind blew some dried chili flakes into my eye, reminding me once again of the professional risks involved in being a street-food critic.
If we had to rate Brooklyn, it would be right on the border between highbrow and street food. The vibe, the tastes, the reasonable prices and its casualness, make it a fun spot for pizza lovers. It will soon be adding a dessert section that will offer soft ice cream, Nutella-filled calzones, and a collection of wild milk shakes (salty caramel, tiramisu, toffee and maple and more).
That, and it’s colorful, pop design, make it a pizza joint as good as anything across the sea. I don’t know if and when there will be an updated version of “Where to Eat Pizza,” but Brooklyn is undoubtedly a good candidate for inclusion.
Brooklyn Pizza, 276 Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv. (03) 6877748 Open Sun-Thurs and Saturday 17:00-23:00 (soon to open in the afternoon, too)