Since it's buzz-filled opening almost a year ago, Artichoke Basille pizza, now (in)famous pizza pie has warranted every reaction under the sun. "Too heavy", "bland", "sloppy", "heavenly" - you name it, somewhere in cyberspace, somebody has lamented its inadequacies - or extolled its other-worldly virtues. There is no doubt the craziest of the crazies who lead New York's relentless pizza community have gone out of their way weigh in on Artichoke's rather unorthodox business model (sporadic hours), and seemingly lethargic response to increasing demand (by lethargic I might mean indifferent).
All that said, as the Ubereater, it is my duty to ignore that mess - to think nothing of such criticisms, and instead understand that no matter, this is about the pizza. Thus, it is my duty to throw my hat in the ring, and dole out my two-cents on what this pie is all about. The sicilian kind anyway.
And my first comment is, Stop the whining.
I'll admit, in those beginning days of hysteria, I waited 30 minutes for a slice of this supposed magical pie. The pie that would turn pizza puritans' beliefs on their head. I wasn't wild about it but I did, and when I finally was able to savor these much-anticipated creations (hunched over a pigeon-shit-covered ledge on 14th street mind you), I was, at the very least, impressed. So much so, I ran 2 slices home to Meghan so she could understand the source of my excitement. (I didn't mention the ledge upon my arrival for good reason).
Fast forward 8 months, and a bazillion online reviews later, and Artichoke continues to flourish as one of New York's premier pie spots, having survived an initial media-created hype that can execute any promising food venture, regardless of its merit, in no time at all. The haters may or may not have given up, and yet those who believe in what they're producing in this closet of a space, continue to return.
So on a bitter cold December day, pining for a substantial slice of pie, I decided I'd head back to Artichoke to see what was happening, with the hope of sampling this savory treat devoid of any the extraneous extracurricular chit chat and disdainful discourse that straddled this spot from the get-go. I don't care about any of it at this point. I just want my pie.
No line. No wait. Beautiful. Seeing as this was my appetizer before lunch at another location, I conservatively stuck to 1 slice of the sicilian pie. I would later determine this move to be nothing short of stupid.
The sicilian slice was unbelievably satisfying - if not, mind-blowing. Hyperbole? Not even. Though I remember this square slice being very good 8 months prior, this time around, everything had changed, at least in my mind, for the better.
Among the many visions and ideas that tend to haunt my mind on a daily basis, the perfect, most satiating slice of sicilian pizza has always occupied a small corner of my twisted head. The dough, the gravy, the cheese, the texture - all pre-determined, all self-distinguishing, all outright phenomenal.
The slice as a whole is really a confluence of several wonderful ingredients that all make sense. The dough is sturdy, stocky and broad-shouldered, acting as the perfect platform for its cacophonous collection of slightly-burned mozzarella, sweet red gravy, and vast lilly-pads of aromatic basil leaves interspersed with large, oven-crusted crumbles of parmiggiano reggiano cheese.
The construction clearly demonstrates these guys know what theyr'e doing. Artichoke's sicilian slice, and correctly so, thankfully and pleasingly reminds you that true sicilian pie is first about the dough, then about the gravy, and lastly about the cheese. Each bite packs a humongous punch of salty parmiggiano, fresh basil, and modest amount of red gravy, that together compliment the dough, and not the other way around.
Quite simply, this Artichoke's sicilian slice embodies every aspect of what I've envisioned throughout the years, as the quintessential slice of sicilian pie. In fact, my interaction with sicilian pie has forever now, been limited only to long-time Clifton pizza parlor Bruno's, whose girthier, more expansive square pie has remained near and dear to my heart for a decade now.
So, what's my two cents? (Though I think I may have given you more than two cents by now). Outside of all the self-serving reviews, over-exposure, and righetous analysis that has surrounded this spot for what seems to be its entire existence thus far, I can honestly and truthfully say, the pie, or specifically, the sicilian slice is the exquisite. (The round slice and the eponymous Artichoke variation are for another day).
I've eaten a lot of pizza in my day, and there is probably no other food, over which I've so laboriously agonized in terms of striving for finding true excellence.
Therefore, it is not out of some self-absorbed, contrarian foodie urge, or introspective gastronomic itch that I am compelled to so vividly laud this wonderful sicilian pie, but out of my innate, ubereating nature as a calm and collected culinary citizen, that I'd like to emphasize Artichoke's sicilian pie's true amazingness. Because it is truly outstanding.
A compulsion that begs perhaps a more simple concept - why the hell didn't I get another slice?
Artichoke Basille's Pizza and Brewery
328 E. 14th St., nr. First Ave.