24 July 2008

The Ruination of a Great Slice

This isn't exactly on-topic, though it does concern Sal's Pizzeria, which has been serving pie on Court Street in Brooklyn for 50 years.

Among the old-school pizza places in the area, Sal's has always struck me as a bit of a mess. Their regular pie is OK, but nothing to scream about. The interior's a riot of conflicting intentions and past business models. The counter's right at the front door, making it difficult to line up. There's no easy-to-see menu listing prices. Tables crowd out most of the walking space. There are display cases full of rice balls, stromboli, buffalo wings and anything else you could think of. They make heroes, pasta dishes, salads, soups, etc. A jumble of signs cover the walls. There's often a half-assed sidewalk cafe set up. And the restaurant next door is affiliated to the place in an ambiguous way. Plus, no one seems to steer this ship; a changing cast of characters is always to be found behind the counter. In short, you never know where you're at when you walk into Sal's.

I would never visit the place if it weren't for three things: They've got a great location, smack dab at the crossroads of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens; the great old neon sign attracts me like a moth; and the chicken-jalapeño slice.

The chicken-jalapeño pizza has long been, to me, their one decent menu item. It was thin and flavorful, not too spicy, with a good sauce and eschewed gooey mozzarella in favor of other cheeses. It always satisfied.

So why did they fuck around with it? I don't know when the change occurred, but lately Sal's has severely altered their chicken-jalapeño slice. It's crust is now significantly thicker; it's almost deep-dish-like. Mozzarella overwhelms everything; you can barely taste the chicken or hot peppers. And the sauce is almost a non-entity in the new formula. It's a terrible slice now, doughy and flavorless.

I thought I had got them on a bad day, so I went back a week later. Sure enough: There was chicken-jalapeno slice 2.0. And it was just as lousy. I asked the counterman if they had indeed changed the recipe, and he said, yes, they had.

In contrast, here's some good pizza news. Lucali, the fantastic pizza joint on Henry Street, introduced hot peppers as a topping two weeks ago. They're great! Try them with pepperoni.


Paul said...

Wow! A comment on Frankie and Johnnie's -- where I went after I got engaged -- and Sal's -- where I got pizza all the time when I lived on Sackett Street in the 1990s. A nice blast from the past. As someone who has been exiled to Atlanta for 10 years, I urge all you people blessed to live in New York to cherish every minute. There are alot of people out here leading very bland existences who don't even realize it.

Paul said...

Wow! You've posted comments on Frankie and Johnnie's and Sal's back to back. I went to Frankie and Johnnie's for dinner after I got engaged in 1994. We then got married and moved to Carroll Gardens and gave Sal's alot of business. I still have Sal's refrigerator magnets. This was a nice blast from the past. I want to urge all you people blessed to live in New York City to cherish your time there. As someone who has been exiled to Atlanta for 10 years, you should be aware that there are millions of people in this country living bland existences in cities with no soul. I count my days in Brooklyn among my happiest.

Lawrence O'Neil said...

I love the pasta at Sal's. Cheese ravioli is great, lentil soup with pasta is a great meal for five bucks. Both come with a nice, crusty bread. Oddly, I never eat the pizza.

Anonymous said...

A few more good things about this place: 1. It is open late! 2. Broccoli balls. Sounds silly when you ask for one, but a great snack for under a buck. 3. The square pizza on the counter with fresh basil. I hope they didn't change the recipe for that one because it is really tasty.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Glad Sal's has some fans. Must be why it's stayed in business all these years.

Anonymous said...

You forgot a regular slice is $3.00 I think that tops in the hood.