The rise of the US$38 pizza, exclusive and elusive
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NEW YORK, May 3 — New York is well known for its obsession with cheap pizza: the US$1 slice, the sporadic price wars, the hand-wringing over each new increase in the average cost.
Then there is the other, pricier side of the city’s pizza addiction: the US$7 (RM30) slice (with a specialty topping) at the revered Di Fara Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn. Or the advance tickets required for a US$25 lunch at Margot’s Pizza, a pop-up that opens roughly one Saturday a month in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
This week, the Sofia Pizza Shoppe, in the well-heeled Sutton Place section of Manhattan, is upping the ante, with a US$38 pizza that requires an online ticket purchase and is available only a few nights each week, for a limited number of seatings. Only one pie will be made for each seating.
The pie, called the DoughDici, is a two-inch-tall, puffy-crust pizza with a crisp edge and a blanket of red sauce, fresh mozzarella and grated cheeses. Pizza obsessives may liken it to a soufflé for its dough, which traps air to form an elevated structure.
Thomas DeGrezia, who opened the shop last July with Matthew Porter, said he cold-fermented the dough for about three days before letting it rise in an oil-lined pan with grated cheese for 12 hours. (The name is a play on “dodici,” Italian for “12.”) It is cooked for 10 minutes without stretching the dough, resulting in a collapsed, airy crumb. The result is a six-slice pizza that Sofia will sell only by the pie.
If all that seems a lot of bother for pizza, the partners say it reflects the time, labor and cost of making the pies.
“We use all imported flours, and we also use an imported, unfiltered, organic Sicilian olive oil,” said DeGrezia, who traces his pizza heritage to J&V Pizzeria, which his grandfather helped found in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1950s. “Of the four cheeses on it, one is a daily-hand-made, fresh mozzarella, and another is a 36-month red cow Parmigiano-Reggiano that gets shaved on top right before serving.”
The first round of four tickets, for two nights this week, sold out on the day they were announced. The partners plan to offer additional dates for the remainder of May, and to serve the DoughDici a few days weekly through the end of summer.
“We didn’t set out to create a pizza event, but once we realized that we wanted it to be an in-house-only pie to best ensure quality, we decided it needed to be a bit more experiential,” DeGrezia said. “Since our shop is so small, we added the stools, reservations and drinks.” (The price includes two nonalcoholic drinks.)
On Monday, four friends with 40 years of New York City pizza-eating experience were the first DoughDici customers. Rachel Meakins, 30, a model and a doula, bought the ticket after seeing the pizza on Instagram. She knew that her friends Vinay Tolia, 38, and Ross Goodhart, 37, both pizza fanatics, had to try it.
“She knows that we have a problem with pizza,” said Tolia, a hedge fund manager for Bengal Capital Trading. “There’s a lot of dough, and the sauce is not as tangy and present as on some other pizzas that I’ve had. But this is really about the crust, and that’s really original.”
Of the price, Tolia said: “I’m not the right person to ask. I’m a sucker for these kinds of things.” (And the price will rise. “This is an introductory price for the month of May,” DeGrezia said. “It’s just way too much work for the price. It’s not going to skyrocket, but it is going to be a bit more.”)
Adam Kuban, who runs Margot’s Pizza and sampled an early trial of the DoughDici, said he hadn’t seen anything like it. “It’s a tightrope walk, letting that dough rise so high for so long,” Kuban said. “Somehow they manage to cross to the other side and come out with a pretty special pizza.”
Whatever customers think of the DoughDici, DeGrezia says, they can still count on Sofia’s traditional pizzas, which range in price from US$21 to US$35.
“Our everyday pies are still our favorites,” he said. “This is a fun, once-in-a-while treat, but it is not an everyday pie.” — The New York Times