What Is Brooklyn Style Pizza?

What is Brooklyn Style Pizza? Special Pizza & Helpful Guide


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In the vast and vibrant world of pizza, Brooklyn-style stands out as a culinary icon, embodying the essence of New York’s rich pizza heritage. This article delves into the heart of what is Brooklyn style pizza. With its thin, crisp crust, generously layered toppings, and signature hand-tossed dough, Brooklyn-style pizza offers a unique eating experience that has captivated food enthusiasts around the globe. Our exploration is rooted in a deep understanding of pizza craftsmanship, drawing on insights from seasoned pizzaiolos and culinary historians to uncover the origins, evolution, and defining characteristics of this beloved pizza variant. Whether you’re a die-hard pizza aficionado or a curious foodie looking to broaden your culinary horizons, this article promises to enrich your knowledge and appreciation of Brooklyn-style pizza. Join us as we embark on a flavorful journey through the streets of Brooklyn, where tradition meets innovation, and discover why this distinctive style of pizza continues to reign supreme in the hearts of pizza lovers everywhere. Get ready to ignite your curiosity, deepen your understanding, and perhaps, inspire your next pizza adventure.

The Essence of Brooklyn-Style Pizza

The Essence of Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Defining Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Brooklyn-style pizza, also known as New York-style pizza, has a distinctive thin, hand-tossed crust that is crispy on the bottom yet chewy and pliable enough to be folded in half for eating. The crust has a charred brown bottom from being cooked at very high temperatures in deck ovens.

Toppings are applied sparingly, with a balance between the crunchy, melty low-moisture mozzarella cheese and the bright, sweet tomato sauce. Less is more when it comes to toppings, allowing the interplay between the simple but high-quality ingredients to shine through.

Other key identifying features:

  • Large wide slices meant to be folded and eaten by hand
  • Minimal crust edge or rim
  • Cheesiness and moderate sauce sweetness
  • Light sprinkle of oregano and parmesan

Overall, Brooklyn-style pizza has a thin, crispy yet foldable and customary big-slice feel that is iconic to New York City’s quintessential, straightforward pizza style.

The Historical Journey

Brooklyn pizza has roots tracing back to Naples, Italy, but over time has taken on distinct qualities influenced by New York culture and tradition. Here’s a quick look at major milestones in its evolution:

  • Late 1800s – Early Neapolitan immigrants bring pizza recipes with them to New York. First pizzerias open in lower Manhattan.
  • Early 1900s – Pizza gains popularity in Italian-American immigrant communities.
  • 1920s – New York-style pizza starts taking shape, with pizzaiolos tweaking Neapolitan recipes. Pizzas get bigger and slices wider.
  • Mid 1900s – Soldiers returning from WWII fuel a pizza boom. Pepsi starts selling pizza ovens to pizzerias, allowing for faster and hotter cooking.
  • 1960s – New Yorkers fold their pizza to eat on the go. The folded slice becomes iconic. Regional styles like Brooklyn pizza solidify.
  • 2000s+ – Brooklyn pizzerias gain global recognition, retaining neighborhood tradition while also driving innovation.

Over 100+ years, Neapolitan pizza adapted into a style all its own – quintessentially New York and distinctly Brooklyn.

Culinary Craftsmanship of Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Creating an authentic Brooklyn-style pizza requires perfecting both crust and topping craft.

The Art of the Dough

The foundation of a great Brooklyn pizza is the dough, which requires:

  • High-protein bread flour – Gives structure to support thin crust
  • Water – Hydrates dough for chewiness
  • Salt – Enhances flavor
  • Sugar – Helps crust brown and adds sweetness
  • Olive oil – Adds richness
  • Yeast – Leavens dough

Hand tossing is key for stretching and handling the dough skillfully to achieve the desired thinness. The dough might be pre-fermented as well to develop complex flavors.

Cooking at 500-600°F in deck brick ovens gives the crust its perfectly charred yet chewy-crispy texture.

Key techniques:

  • Proofing: Allowing dough to rest and rise
  • Kneading: Develops gluten structure
  • Hand tossing: Achieves round, thin shape
  • High-heat cooking: Gives crust its char and texture

With high-quality ingredients and mastery of technique, Brooklyn pizza makers turn humble dough into a memorable crust.

Toppings and Flavors

While the crust is the foundation, carefully chosen toppings complete a Brooklyn pizza. Purists opt for minimal ingredients that complement, not compete with, the crust and each other.

Low-moisture mozzarella is the quintessential Brooklyn pizza cheese. Compared to fresh mozzarella, low-moisture has:

  • Lower water content
  • Saltier, tangier flavor
  • Better meltability and stretch

When baked, it forms the ideal crispy-chewy texture and balance of cheesiness.

The tomato sauce brings crucial sweetness and acidity. Sauce is applied lightly with the equivalency of two to three spoonfuls per slice. This allows the crust and cheese flavors to still shine.

Beyond classic cheese and sauce, popular Brooklyn pizza toppings include:

  • Pepperoni – Spicy and salty cured meat
  • Mushrooms – Earthy compliment
  • Onions – Pungent allium
  • Sausage – Savory and bold
  • Bell peppers – Bright crunchy vegetable

Less traditional but equally crave-worthy specialty pies feature everything from meatballs to honey drizzles. However, restraint is valued to let the crust and cheeses sing.

A Guide to Making Brooklyn-Style Pizza at Home

While mastering Brooklyn pizza takes professional technique, home cooks can absolutely make a mouthwatering pie with basic ingredients and equipment. Here’s a beginner recipe to try:

Ingredients:

  • Dough:
    • 3 cups bread flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 packet instant yeast
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sauce:
    • 1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
    • 2 cloves minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • Toppings:
    • Shredded low-moisture mozzarella
    • Desired meats or veggies

Instructions:

  1. Combine dough ingredients and knead until smooth ball forms. Let rise 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven as high as it will go, ideally 500°F. Use pizza stone if you have one.
  3. Sprinkle flour on work surface and stretch dough into a thin round. Transfer to pizza peel or baking sheet.
  4. Spread sauce evenly over dough, leaving 1/2 inch crust border. Top with cheese and other toppings.
  5. Transfer pizza to preheated oven and cook until crust is browned and cheese melted, 8-10 minutes.
  6. Slice and enjoy. Fold to eat New York style.

For best results, use a baking steel if you don’t have a pizza stone. Stretch the dough as thin as possible. Use plenty of flour so it doesn’t stick. Add toppings very sparingly.

Cultural and Social Fabric

As much as Brooklyn pizza reflects the classic Neapolitan origins, it has also come to represent Brooklyn’s rich cultural heritage and sense of community.

The Cultural Significance

Brooklyn pizza arose as an Italian-American tradition, becoming ingrained into the borough’s cultural identity. Brooklyn pizzerias acted as neighborhood hubs where new immigrants could gather and support one another.

Over the generations, Brooklyn’s pizza culture has expanded well beyond Italian-American communities. The classic New York slice transcends ethnicity, class, and background – acting as an equalizer among Brooklynites and a symbol of the borough’s diversity. Walk into any Brooklyn pizzeria today and you will see a melting pot of patrons and staff enjoying this cornerstone of the borough’s culinary traditions.

Pizzaiolos of Brooklyn: Stories from the Kitchen

Behind every great Brooklyn pizza is an intrepid pizzaiolo passionate about their craft. Take Rosario Laratta of L&B Spumoni Gardens, who grew up playing in the shop as his uncle perfected their beloved Sicilian-style square pizza. Or Connie Lorenzo of Connie’s Pizza, who upholds coal oven traditions inherited from her Neapolitan grandfather.

Many pizzaiolos proudly share tales of learning at the elbows of Italian immigrant family members. Their dedication to time-honored cooking methods helps explain the staying power of classic Brooklyn pizza. Pizzaiolos young and old treat their work as a noble trade, not just a means of subsistence. Their hands and hearts shape pies infused with care and tradition.

Pizza and Community

Beyond nourishment, pizzerias give their neighborhoods a sense of place and community. They offer welcoming spaces to gather, chat, relax after work or school, watch the big game, celebrate events, and feel part of the fabric of Brooklyn.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, some pizzerias shifted to offering care packages for hospital workers and others in need. This reflects the spirit of generosity embedded in Brooklyn and its pizza culture – serving up good food along with goodwill.

Health and Dietary Considerations

While decadently delicious, Brooklyn-style pizza can also fit into a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation. Let’s break down its nutritional profile and lighter options for special diets.

Nutritional Profile of Brooklyn-Style Pizza

One large slice of plain New York-style cheese pizza contains approximately:

  • Calories: 290
  • Total fat: 9g
  • Carbs: 41g
  • Protein: 11g

The carbohydrate-rich dough supplies energy, while the cheese provides protein for satiety. Fat comes mainly from cheese and meats. Sugars occur naturally in the tomatoes and dough. Brooklyn pizza delivers a fairly well-rounded nutritional package.

However, calories, fat, sodium, and carbs add up quickly with multiple slices or additional high-calorie toppings like pepperoni or sausage. Practice portion control for a healthy diet.

Gluten-Free and Vegan Variations

Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy gluten-free pizza, made with a crust substitute like:

  • Rice flour: Light, mild flavor
  • Tapioca flour: Chewy texture
  • Nut flours: Hearty, protein
  • Cauliflower: Low-carb

For vegan Brooklyn-style pizzas, substitute:

  • Plant-based cheese: Soy, cashew, or coconut-based alternatives
  • Veggies or beans: For protein instead of meat

Brooklyn pizzerias like Screamer’s Pizzeria or Double Zero cater to specialty diets without compromising on the classic Brooklyn-style flavor.

Enjoying Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Enjoying Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Now that you’re a pizza expert, let’s discuss proper Brooklyn pizza etiquette.

How to Serve and Eat Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Brooklyn pizzas are large thin pies cut into wide wedges meant for individuals. For the most authentic experience:

  • Fold lengthwise to avoid spillage as you eat
  • Bite off the point end first
  • Prop slice on plate to catch any drips

Don’t eat pizza with utensils. Use your hands and enjoy the sensations of the hot crust and melted cheeses in each bite.

Sharing is also customary. Pizzerias serve pies whole for groups to pass around. Splitting a couple pies enables trying different styles.

Pairings with Brooklyn-Style Pizza

What should you sip alongside a hot slice? Brooklyn pizza pairs nicely with:

  • Craft beer: Hoppy IPAs or ales cut through richness
  • Wine: Light reds like pinot noir; citrusy whites like Riesling
  • Sparkling: Refreshing with acidity; Italian Prosecco
  • Cold brew coffee: Perky pick-me-up with dessert

But truly, almost any beverage from soft drinks to milkshakes complements the flavor versatility of Brooklyn pizza.

Where to Find the Best Brooklyn-Style Pizza

Beyond our must-try tour, Brooklyn boasts countless top-notch pizzerias. Here are the 5 best to know borough-wide.

  1. Di Fara Pizza

What began as a corner pizza shop in Midwood in 1965 earned a legendary reputation for its perfected Original Round Pie. Dom DeMarco hand-crafts each pizza with tender care and premium toppings. Expect a wait, but the sublime satisfaction is worth it.

  1. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Consistent crowd-pleaser under the Brooklyn Bridge, open since 1990. Their classic coal oven-baked pizzas never disappoint. Perfect for enjoying after a day at the Brooklyn Bridge Park or Brooklyn Museum right nearby.

  1. Emmy Squared

Detroit and Roman-style pizza mashup in Williamsburg with trendy vibes. Their pretzel crust and Le Big Matt bring unique flavor fusions to Brooklyn’s round pie customs. Worth checking out for an innovative spin.

  1. Speedy Romeo

Helmed by a Michelin-starred chef, this Clinton Hill pizzeria takes a more upscale approach without sacrificing Brooklyn pizza gusto and cred. Their Brussels sprout and pancetta pizza adds gourmet flair.

  1. Vinnie’s Pizzeria

Longstanding Brooklyn slice shop chain dishing out piping hot, straightforward, addictive New York-style pizza since 1932. Open late, so the ideal spot for a tasty last call. Unfussy neighborhood classic.

Conclusion

For over a century, Brooklyn-style pizza has fed residents cravings, fueled communities, and sustained traditions. Its thin, foldable slices encapsulate the borough’s straightforward values and culinary craftsmanship. We hope this guide gave you deep insight into the regional style – inspiring you to taste its nostalgic flavors and timeless appeal for yourself. Grab a slice, walk the Brooklyn streets, and you’ll see why this iconic pizza holds a special place in New Yorker’s hearts and stomachs.

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