June 27, 2007 | BITE: My Journal
Dean’s Pizza Is Like Sex

Pizzas at Dean's: The pizzaiolo shapes them. His elves bake them. Photo: Steven Richter
Pizzas at Dean's: The pizzaiolo shapes them. His elves bake them. Photo: Steven Richter
    Well, actually all pizza is like sex. When it’s not so great it’s still pretty good.  So my pulse is racing when I learn that Dean’s Pizzeria has opened on West 85th Street, a brisk hunger-charging hike from our homestead. Frankly, I’m hoping this latest outpost of the family that gave us Patsy’s, Angelo’s Pizza and Goodburger is also going to be our new neighborhood depot for Italianesque, if not Italianate, cheap eats.

    The few al fresco posts outside are taken on this balmy evening, so we amble past the full service bar to a vast echoing gymnasium of a dining room where babies squall as their owners try to soothe them and toddlers shriek… unsoothable.
    In a decent passage of time our table is barricaded with pies on elevated chrome armatures. I quickly decide (and our savvy pizza pals agree), the “old fashioned square” with a mix of fresh mozzarella and some kind of chewier proletariat stretchy stuff would do in a pinch.  It’s mildly satisfying, like an interlude with a longtime, devoted, but distracted lover who’s watching the baseball game during sex.

Dean Pizzeria's Old School Round is a winner. Photo: Steven Richter

     Happily, the house’s thin-crusted “old school round” with real mozzarella is a stand-out.  Though with add-ons like sausage and anchovy at $2.50 each – the $13 tag for a “small” quickly tops out at $18 compared to Celeste’s sensational discs, fully decked out for $10 to $12 a block away.  But then, we can reserve ahead here.  And the next table is not one eighth of an inch to the left of our table.  My back is not about to be pinched by the chair behind me. And my credit cards work.  (Though none of these tortures has ever threatened our loyalty to Celeste once the owners installed that noisy-baffler on the ceiling.)

    If tonight’s sampling is a guarantee of future performance, I can predict it’s safe to start with eggplant-zucchini fritters, crisp thin circles to drag through a sticky yogurt garlic dip that tastes an awful lot like fake sour cream.  A $9 platter should be enough for four, especially if you add a fried calamari starter with its unassuming tomato sauce.  Fare’s fair I suppose, with a tiny wine goblet that’s full and only costs $8 or $9.  And Absolut and tonic is just $8, too.
    But we won’t be back for pasta since our standard choices for predicting pasta pleasure -- linguine vongole and baked ziti -- are pathetic washouts. Gummy linguine. Insipid clams. Ziti muddled and melted, but missing that essential, tantalizing cheesy crustiness.  A vision of the Brooklyn Diner’s exaggerated exaltation of crusted cheesiness springs into my mind. I file it away for a needier moment.

    “Was this baked ziti anywhere near an oven?” I ask our relentlessly cheerful waitress, a pretty young woman with a Slavic accent.  This is actually the first time we have seen her since waylaying her to take our drink and pizza order half an hour ago. Two other waiters who dared dash by close enough to corral have amiably rustled up our entrees and clean plates.

    Aneta (our waitress‘ name is on the bill) seems wounded that I would ask. “Of course. Baked ziti from the oven.”  I fear she’s fragile and we’ve been unduly challenging.  We overtip.

    A detour to a nearby Tasti Di-Lite for a swirl of low-fat chocolate marshmallow seems a fitting nightcap.

  215 West 85th Street 212 875 9100





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