60 Greenpoint Ave, Greenpoint
Rating: 4 out of 5 L's
Consider Paul Giannone the Ian MacKaye of the pizzaiolo scene, a DIY mastermind who had devoted fans even before he had a restaurant. Pizza nerds could only gawk from their computer screens at images of Paul pulling out hot Neapolitan pies from the oven he built himself in his backyard in Warren, New Jersey, documented by famous (among rabid foodies, anyway) food blog Slice.
Well, it appears Paulie Gee has gone pro in style. Already he has a packed house, crowds of scruffy-faced Greenpointers mixed in with Paul's friends and family, watching as the man himself hurriedly oversees the thin pies flying in and out of the massive Stefano Ferrara oven he imported from Naples, huge blocks of firewood stacked in the background. The space itself, narrow, high-ceilinged and built entirely with reclaimed wood, looks like the world's hippest barn, perhaps a little too monochromatic but warm enough and eco-friendly to boot.
Where does Paulie Gee's stack up compared to the other great Neapolitan joints in the city? Paul tends to have a more generous hand when it comes to stacking his pies than most places, a plus or minus depending on your personal preference. My kale and guanciale pizza was as good a pizza as I've ever eaten, the kale obviously fresh and cooked just right and the guanciale (that's cured pig jowl bacon, or face bacon, for those that don't know) a fatty, salty and firm reminder of why living until 100 is overrated.
Speck, that smokier cousin to pancetta, is the liberally applied star of the Spectacle, joined by freshly made fior de latte (Paul prefers cow's milk to buffalo milk for his mozzarella), sliced red onion and shaved parmigiano reggiano, a vibrant and well-balanced mixture of flavors that is a common trait in almost all of his pies. The dough is pleasantly springy and salty, with a healthy char and strong enough construction not to droop under the weight of the toppings, often sourced locally and seasonally, which makes for great daily specials.
Of course, the drawbacks of being a self-taught pizza master is that you don't know how to cook anything else. Roberta's beckons with its best-in-Brooklyn bone marrow and Motorino with its octopus salad, but Paulie Gee's doesn't really have anything to offer besides pizza, unless you count a couple of paltry salads. This place is for pizza lovers only, and luckily for Paul, there seems to be plenty of those around these days.