Searching for NYC’s Top Pizza — in Hell’s Kitchen
A review of the seasonal grape slices at Sullivan Street, plus notes on the bakery's tomato, zucchini, and potato pizzas
Do you dream about buttery domes of raisin-laced panettone as the weather turns chilly? I sure do.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s only fall. And every September, I look forward to a different seasonal bread: schiacciata all'uva, an autumnal indulgence that doesn’t get as much airtime as it should in New York.
In Florence, bakers take fat canaiolo grapes from the vendemmia — the annual wine harvest — and fold them into layers of dough. The dark orbs soften in the oven, spilling their inky juices into the yeasty bread. Many shops add a dusting of sugar and anise seeds, offering up the schiacciata as a sweet mid-morning snack.
Interested? Well I have good news for you. It’s schiacciata all'uva season across the rolling hills of Tuscany. And at Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan.
On a rainy Saturday not too long ago, the Hell’s Kitchen mainstay — which still fires up some of the city’s top Roman slices — ‘grammed that it was serving the fruity specialty again. Schiacciata all'uva can appear quite rich, but Lahey’s is different. Instead of an oiled up focaccia, he deploys a lighter pizza bianca for the base. The burnished, puffy masterpiece stretches out over a wooden shelf, with pockets of purple fruit corralled into the bread’s narrow ravines.
Dessert, this is not. Lahey adds a hint of sugar, but keeps the sweetness on a tight leash. Some bites are savory and chewy. Others deliver a deep rush of licorice; the bakers scatter anise seeds liberally.
And then all of a sudden it’s as if you’re working your way through pie filling. The Venus, Somerset, and Jupiter grapes pack a vivid tartness. Some are as fat as small marbles. Others are as tiny as salmon roe. But they all pop and squirt their juices once you break through the leathery skin.
How much longer will Sullivan offer the schiacciata for? It depends on how long the grapes keep coming in; the bakery predicts about three more weeks.
Alas, after the fruit is gone and the clocks change back, I’ll just have to cope with some of the city’s best tomato pizza. So be it.
Behind the paywall: The Epic Tomato Slices of Sullivan Street and the Great Hudson Pizza Corridor
Grub Street’s Chris Crowley authored a short piece last year asserting that the city’s finest pizza neighborhood is Williamsburg. It’s not a bad argument, especially with L’Industrie (burrata slices!) and Fini (lemon-y white slices!) located within blocks of each other. Indeed, Brooklyn stakes a solid claim to being the pizza capital of the five boroughs. But…