33 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg
Rating: 3 out of 5 L’s
What happened to pizza in this town? Not that I don’t love Motorino and Co. and all of the other great Neapolitan pizza places in New York City. It’s just that there is something about the corner slice joint that I also love: the no-nonsense guys working the counter, the clientele of penny-pinching bar-hoppers and, naturally, the cheap, delicious and portable slices of regular cheese pizza, reheated of course. Luckily for people like me, Best Pizza combines both models into one, all located on a quiet stretch of Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg.
You might remember the space from when it was the Brooklyn Star, Joaquin Baca’s superb Southern spot that tragically burned down nearly a year ago. Don’t shed too many tears; Baca is reopening the restaurant in the former Lazy Catfish space nearby and the pizza place he started in its place, with the help of the Roberta’s team, has slowly become a neighborhood favorite. This might not really be, as the place’s name suggests, the best pizza in Brooklyn, but it’s pretty damn good, cooked in a wood-fired oven with a firm-but-yielding crust that doesn’t bombard you with char or crispiness.
Two standards sit behind the glass counter: a classic cheese pie topped with fresh mozzarella and a white pie featuring ricotta and caramelized onions. The problem with most casual slice joints is that vegetables are often an afterthought; here the various pickled veggies, caramelized onions and garlic, sourced from nearby Brooklyn Grange Farm, are often the highlight of the pies they come on. The Grandma Slice is pretty amazing as well, a thick crust covered in a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic and a delicate hint of anchovies. Sure, prices might run about 50 cents or more above what your standard neighborhood pizzeria might charge, but it’s definitely worth it, especially considering the charming digs, a mix of understated white wood paneling and a mosaic of paper plates adorned with goofy drawings.
The laid-back vibe is a huge part of Best Pizza’s appeal. Walking into the small space, with its genuinely friendly proprietors and booming 90s hip-hop, is like walking into a relaxed house party. Thirsty? Pour yourself a pitcher of Bud Light, bro! Payment? No need to hurry, just walk up to the counter after dinner, pay what you owe and maybe leave a little extra cash in the tip jar. With its cheap beer, gourmet pies, a fun and casual vibe, Best Pizza is the neighborhood slice joint that every neighborhood wishes it had.