A few weeks ago (I’m a bad blogger, I know, I know…) my fellow blogger friend Jason, of I Dream of Pizza, and I headed to Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint. For me, it was a first! As for Jason, he was a regular.
When I arrived to meet Jason he was actually waiting at the front door with owner Paulie Giannone, catching up over the last few months. Paulie was filling him in on the fact that they just got their liquor license, and the status of the slice joint opening up around the corner from Greenpoint Avenue. Jason was catching him up on his wedding last summer. That’s when I knew Jason and Paulie were on extremely friendly terms. “You’ve gotta bring Michelle back in!” Paulie said, referring to Jason’s wife.
After some initial catching up, Paulie then sat us immediately — the benefits of going out on a frigid winter night. No wait for a table! Now came the hard part; Picking what pizzas to order off a menu of 24 pies! Oh, but wait. Jason shared with me the SECRET pizza menu with 11 additional offerings (scroll all the way to the bottom of the regular online menu).
The pizzas are individual sizes, so we assumed we’d get at least two to share. We settled on the Red Hot Cherry Jones with fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto di parma, dried bing cherries, and Brooklyn’s Mike’s Hot Honey. HEAVEN.
And as a second pie, we got the Arugula Shmoogula (best name ever, right???) with Italian tomatoes, baby arugula, olive oil, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.
The pies came out quickly! It takes less than two minutes for one to cook thanks to Paulie’s fancy Stefano Ferrara oven that’s about 1000-degrees Fahrenheit. Paulie spent approximately $25,000 on the oven assuming today’s exchange rate. But it was money well spent, considering the investment resulted in one of the most authentic Neapolitan wood-burning ovens you can buy. And as you can see by the pizza photos, the crust cooked very evenly and was nicely charred around the outside. Here’s a look at the oven:
The pizza itself was fantastic. Paulie Gee’s tops every “best pizza” list in New York City but I was still a bit worried the place may be overhyped. But even upon walking in, the environment pleasantly surprised me. It felt like a true neighborhood gem that didn’t look like much from the outside and if you didn’t know what was behind closed doors, you’d likely never bother stepping inside to find out. But once you enter, the warmth of the pizza oven, the homey rustic decor, and Paulie’s welcoming presence made you feel like you were in just the right place.
Our pizza order was spot on and I cannot rave enough about the Red Hot Cherry Jones. I’m usually not one for fruit on pizza (Sorry all you Hawaiian pizza lovers…) but the dried bing cherries with the prosciutto di parma and the gorgonzola were a match made in flavor heaven. The ingredients brought out the best in the other, and the sweet and savory combination was a complete treat. The Arugula Shmoogula pie was also tasty but Paulie actually surprised us with another pie which delighted us even more. It was Paulie’s version of a vodka pizza called the Sake Mountain Way with Fresh mozzarella and a tomato sauce made with garlic, onion, olive oil, basil, sake reduction and heavy cream. Mmm. (Forgive the blurry bottom left corner from the photo below — that’s the steam coming straight off the pie!)
Honestly, I doubt you can go wrong with any selection off the menu. And the fact that you could return back over two dozen times and never order the same thing is incentive enough to become a return visitor.
But beyond the pie — watching Paulie Gee navigate from table to table checking on his patrons and telling stories as he passed by made the experience all the better. His passion for the craft was palpable. He’s been at this for over six years and they have been the best years of his life, he said as we were first chatting.
Paulie also clearly has an appreciation for other pizza-makers in the city. “Franny’s is great!” Paulie said as he pulled up my blog and saw it was the last pizza I wrote up. He also was wearing a Speedy Romeo hat and even has a pie on his menu that’s a “tribute” to Roberta’s — the Speckenwolf with fresh mozzarella, speck, sliced cremini mushrooms, sliced red onions, and milled black pepper. It’s great to see someone talk so fondly of other pizzerias and their owners while some would consider these places to be rivals to watch out for. But instead, Paulie treats them as close friends to the point that he even posts the occasional Instagram at their pizzerias instead of just his own!
All in all, Paulie Gee’s deserves its reputation as a fixture on the NYC pizza scene. The pies are Neapolitan-style with several nuanced toppings (Sake reduction on pizza? Bing cherries? Come ON!) and the owner himself exudes passion not only for the pizza, but for his patrons and the pizza community. “I’m off to the Vegas Pizza Expo next week!” he shared as we were on our way out.
As for me, I’ll definitely be coming back soon — and here’s hoping Paulie’s there when I do.