It's possible I wrote about this place last year sometime, but it's not showing up when I search, so I'm thinking maybe I didn't. Anyway, there's a pizza place on Avenue J and E. 15th Street in Brooklyn -- about halfway between where my parents live in Bergen Beach and where I live in Park Slope, and a block from the Avenue J stop on the Q line. From the outside it looks like just another pizza place, but it gets a crazy amount of press coverage (one worth-reading blog entry is here, but that's just the tip of the iceberg -- there's a cult following on Chowhound and Slice NY, and there's been mentions in the Times, Village Voice, New York magazine, and tons and tons of other places) because it's just about as good as it gets for gas oven "pizza place" pizza (like, $2.50 a slice and counter service, as opposed to a place like Franny's on Flatbush Avenue, also delicious but a fancy sit-down place, brick oven, and $15 for a personal-sized pizza).
The owner makes every pizza by hand to-order, so it's all served right out of the oven, a sauce of fresh and canned San Marzano tomatoes, three kinds of cheese (including one awesome salty cheese, fresh grated, that he sprinkles on right as it comes out of the oven), topped with freshly-cut basil and some extra virgin olive oil.
The criticism tends to be that it's slow and disorganized. If it's crowded, apparently people can wait up to 2 hours for a slice of pizza. Which is kind of crazy. But I've yet to read a criticism about taste. I went there about a year ago with my mom, for the first time, since I'd started reading about it and wanted to try it. There was a sign about a special baby artichoke slice, and a special porcini mushroom slice, so we got one of each of those, and then a regular slice too. They were all pretty excellent, but the toppings, while really good, weighed the pizza down and the regular slice was really what shined. Somehow we accidentally got there at an off-peak hour, and while there were 3 or 4 people in front of us, it was only about 15 or 20 minutes until the slices were ready.
I went back sometime in May, on a nice day, after a doctor's appointment I had somewhat nearby and the weather was pleasant enough that I figured I'd take a walk and didn't mind a wait if there was one. Got two regular slices, probably about a 45-minute wait. Part of the fun (maybe I'm using "fun" loosely) was watching the people who weren't expecting a long wait get frustrated. There's not much order to the place. There's a line, and at some point you get acknowledged, and he asks what you want, and you sort of hope he'll remember, and you try to stay noticeable so he doesn't forget and eventually you get your pizza. A lot of people order whole pies, and so the balance of what becomes a pie for slices and what becomes a whole pie for someone is the tricky part. He can only fit 2 or 3 pies in the oven at a time, and he takes care of everything by himself -- the slicing and boxing and the cheese grating and the basil cutting -- so it's not a fast process. And it seems like people who want toppings end up waiting longer. And so a bunch of people kept getting upset and asking where their pizza was, and why someone who wasn't waiting as long got theirs first... but it seemed like making a fuss didn't help you get served faster. I was pretty content watching him make the pizzas, and wasn't in a rush, so it was cool, but some people got pretty frustrated.
And then I got my slices and they were pretty amazing. It's like awesome handmade gelato vs. Edy's Fat Free Frozen Yogurt. It's sort of the same thing, but one of them is just a lot better.
So I went again yesterday after visiting my grandma in the hospital (she seems to be doing well, incidentally -- she's off IV antibiotics, just coughing a little bit, and I think she'll probably get to go home early next week), having not really eaten lunch and just wanting a slice of pizza to tide me over until dinner, and figuring that 3:30 in the afternoon wouldn't be too busy. And it wasn't, although I still had to wait about 25 minutes. The owner's daughter was sort of managing the line, writing down what people wanted, but there was still the pies to be given as whole pies vs. pies for slices issue, and there were some people who it seemed like didn't realize this wasn't just a regular pizza place and were frustrated with the wait. There were also two people who clearly had been reading message boards and made the trek specifically for this, and took pictures of everything, and of themselves eating the pizza.... It's just really cool to watch this guy, in his 70s, who everyone's pretty much acknowledged is a master at what he does, just making pizza after pizza, and everyone in there being really grateful they get to eat it. Because it's really good.
I still haven't tried a square slice. The regular are just too good, and I don't really like all the breadiness of square slices generally. But maybe next time.