Ode to Best Pizza

Emma Gase | Medium Talk Co-Creator

It sits on Havemeyer Street across from a large, prison-like public school-just another anonymous Brooklyn storefront half-hidden by scaffolding. When you enter, you are struck by the spare, all-white interior. Paper plate art lines the walls, drawn by loyal customers. There are a few tables with mismatched folding chairs, some booths that line the windows. An iPod dock sits atop the soda fridge, which blasts old and current rap classics (Tha Carter III & DS2, respectively). Behind the counter is the giant, open brick oven. The smell is nearly enough to make you faint.

You place your order. The staff is brusque, to be sure, this is New York after all—but they can’t hide their friendliness for long. Once you’ve been a few times, they’ll show their smiles, tolerate your drunk banter, and wait patiently while you dig around for cash, holding up the line. You sit down, hopefully in one of the booths, and wait for your name to be called. When the time comes, you skip to the counter to retrieve your white paper plate, rush back to your seat, and begin to eat with an excitement most reserve for a Thanksgiving feast.

Best’s pizza is both crispy and chewy, with a slight char on the bottom and a flawless cheese-to-sauce ratio. The crust is crunchy, buttery, doughy, and rarely left uneaten. Best’s slices are large, but not gluttonous, and it doesn’t flop every which way when you’re trying to hold it up to eat. A dainty basil leaf is placed just off-center of your slice, adding a burst of peppery sweetness.

And then there’s the meatball sub. Too often in a meatball sub, the bread dissolves into a soggy mess, unable to properly hold up to the meatballs. But not at Best. At Best, the meatball sub is on bread so crusty and robust, by the end of your sandwich your jaw will be sore. Salty shards of fresh Parmesan add texture to the tangy acidity of the marinara, which is poured directly onto the sandwich from a sizzling cast-iron pan just before serving. I won’t even go into the meatballs themselves, except to say they contain the correct amounts of red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley, and are so fresh, I actually had to put mine down for a minute the first time I ordered one and contemplate what the hell kind of meatball subs I’ve been eating for the past 24 years.

Lately, the frequency of my Best Pizza consumption has me slightly alarmed. On my way to get ramen one day—a heavy meal in its own right—I pregamed dinner with a slice of Best. After a few too many drinks watching Michigan lose at a bar, I took down two slices of Best within three minutes. My ‘usual’ order has gone from one slice of pepperoni to a slice of pepperoni in addition to a meatball sub. Plain gluttony? Perhaps. I prefer to think I’m in the honeymoon phase.

Coming from the land of deep dish (a form of pizza I disdain), pizza was priority A1 upon moving to New York this summer. To me, Chicago pizza always tasted like a vat of butter and cornmeal that had been baked into a shallow bowl, with a can tomatoes thrown in over some congealed cheese. Plus, one of the best aspects of eating pizza is the repetition of it—to eat multiple slices, reliving the joy of biting into a fresh piece over and over, hunger whetted by the slice you just inhaled only a few minutes prior. Compare this to deep dish: half a slice, and the meal is over.

Pizza is subjective. I am prepared to acknowledge perhaps not everyone would think Best Pizza is the best in New York. It may have been the first place I tried, but I’m now off the market