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Damn you Artichoke!

Stood in line a half hour Friday evening-gave up (and went around the corner to Luzzo's which is pretty good). Drove back twice Saturday afternoon-closed each time. Staggered in Sunday night at 9:30 PM. Still a long line for the square and artichoke pizzas and artichoke fritters. Cut in front of everyone by agreeing to accept only round slices. Desperately wanted to hate it. Even though I was a little drunk, I wasn't impaired enough not to be able to tell that this was (damn it) comparable to DiFara's. I know that such a comparison is blasphemous and when it was first made on the Slice website I condemned the writer to pizza purgatory. NY Magazine said it was more like the recently departed DeMarco's than DiFara's, of which I was probably the biggest fan. But the round slices were DiFaraesque-even better than DeMarco's (son of DiFara's). And judging by the line of loonies ahead of me, I suspect the squares may be even better. Looks like I'll be standing in line again soon. Damn.

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  1. the squares are better.

    and theyre just a hair under difaras minus the 2 hour wait. instead, you get a 45 minute wait with a bunch of pizza nerds off the L train.

    ill wait for the delivery to begin.

    1. I wish they would have earlier hours. I passed by a couple of weekends ago around 3P for a late lunch only to find out that they don't open til 4:30 or so. The guys there were telling me that they sometimes open til 5A. Seems more of a late night scene.

      1. Last week i did make it thru the line.....and was disappointed...although i loved it the first time. The just need to get the hang of things....they do do delivery....and they are more focused on that then feeding those that are in line.

        The slice i got last week was uneven- meaning they overneeded the dough. Some pieces looked better than others.....perhaps they could parbake a bunch of pies and finish off later - to cut the wait time in half.

        1. 1. Not worth more than a 5 minute wait.
          2. Get some posted hours going
          3. don't post it on a paper plate
          4. if we find you an apartment it should be worth more than 1 slice a day for a month
          5. even the Mexican guys at Patsy's (in Harlem) are more friendly

          6 Replies
          1. re: cubanat

            Sorry Cubanet, but not sure what any of this has to do with the Pizza. Personal issues, perhaps?

            1. re: MrNubbins

              Actually, I agree with cubanet on items 2, 3, and 4. I was spending some rare free time in the city today and went over to the east village solely for the purpose of trying their much-lauded pizza. I arrived at 1:50 PM and was greeted by a note on a paper plate that had been taped to the door. The note said they were sorry but would not be opening for "several hours". I was annoyed, and wondered why they could not simply decide on a schedule and stick to it, like everyone else. Only now, as I read this thread, am I realizing that they are not a daytime slice joint (as the press led us to believe) but a nighttime, line-around-the-corner-type joint (shades of Una Pizza Napoletana?-let's hope not).
              I wouldn't know about #s 1 or 5, but I will say that apartment-hunting in Manhattan is the kind of hellish experience that would warrant a share in the business, never mind free slices! Furthermore, this kind of total unreliability and disorganization is not "customer-friendly".

            2. re: cubanat

              the fellows were really friendly and enthusiastic on my visit. can't argue with the need for regular hours and consistency with the menu, though. they were open and turning out pies around 2pm when i was there, but none of the more intriguing nonpizza dishes (cauliflower fritters, stuffed artichokes, broc rabe heroes, etc) were ready.

              1. re: wleatherette

                I agree. They were really nice to me as well. I also wish they had regular hours.

                1. re: wleatherette

                  You're lucky- I showed up at close to 2 PM and it looked as though they had just gotten there. The estimated time of opening was in a "few hours". I found that to be major let-down. And if such a non-schedule persists, it will, no doubt, become a major detractor for many.

                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                    i agree. i really hope that they can get on track and organized.

              2. The square was good, and the neapolitan slice was (somewhat) reminiscent of Dom's, but on my visit both slices were reheated badly and were nearly burnt. I was also not a big fan of the artichoke slice; it's a bit too creamy and bulky.

                2 Replies
                1. re: logicchop2

                  Agree entirely. Been there twice. Didn't have to wait much, so may be more generous than others here, but the first time I sampled square and round: found the first spongy but pretty good and the latter a little crackery but also good. Second trip had the artichoke, which was spongy and creamy and over-rich, good if you're drunk no doubt, but still pretty indulgent; and another slice of the "Neapolitan", which this time was better and I would describe verbatim as "somewhat reminiscent of Dom's"—very, very good but ultimately second-tier. If the wait is longer than twenty minutes, go up the street to Posto.

                  1. re: logicchop2

                    Unless you're into, like, waiting.

                  2. I, too, was a big fan of DeMarco's.

                    1. How can you not love these guys? If you don't like hours posted on a paper plate, why don't you go to the new Hot n Crusty pizza half a block east? but if you're wiling to wait out the rush and remember them once the crowd dies down, support a truly original privately owned business. Keep em alive before 14th street goes totally corporate!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: hungrycomposer

                        No, the issue is that there are no hours.

                        1. re: hungrycomposer

                          I'm totally on board with supporting local business but this is just bad business! Maybe if I lived next door and whenever they were open I could pop in but to have zero consistency is just sad...

                          1. re: cubanat

                            That's true... I can pop in whenever I like, but I generally call first. They wouldn't be having these growing pains if their pizza wasn't so good. Better to be patient and let the hubbub die down than to drop them like a hot potato!

                        2. I went week before last at like 3 pm on a Thursday, and it was pretty much dead; everything was in the oven when we got there, which was handy. We ordered square and round slices.

                          It's not really DiFara-level. The crust has no real chew (or flop) to it — really too crackerish on the round pie — and was sort of tough on the square. But that's my only real gripe. The cheese, and especially the sauce, were really great.

                          I still haven't had anything w/ artichokes. I'm gonna go back around the same time of day I guess.

                          1. where is their menu posted to order for delivery?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: heymine

                              I stopped in one afternoon last week. They had a whole stack of menus right next to the door.

                            2. How does their pizza compare to Lucali's?

                              1. OK-so I went back again and actually got in after 10 minutes. Ordered one of each-round, square and artichoke/spinach. Round and square were not hot. Still the square was fantastic and even cold showed its huge potential and the round was also still good even cold. The artichoke/spinach was hot and fresh and HUGE but, as a friend accurately described it, tasted like creamed spinach or artichoke dip on a pizza. Too creamy. DiFara's still reigns supreme (particularly for artichoke as to which there's no comparison) but Artichoke is otherwise doing a hell of a good impersonation of DiFara's on the square and the round slices right down to the long wait.

                                1. Stopped by Sunday at 3pm, and hooray, they were open! I was half-expecting to see another paper plate.

                                  Line was 5-6 people long but moving quickly. Total wait was less than ten minutes. Had a slice of the round -- the crust is too thick and I'm not sure they're baking it right. The edge of the crust was HARD but the actual crust itself was chewy and thick! A bit too thick, I think, and there was too much sauce on my slice. I looked underneath the slice, and it was all the same shade of golden brown, with a little bit of char towards the outside. Something just seemed off.

                                  I can see how it's Di-Fara-ish given the parmesan on top, but the crust just isn't right. The slice was greasy (not olive oil, but orange cheese grease) but not too bad overall. I think I'd probably like the square one more (have tried the spinach-artichoke one already and while it's good, it seemed too big and heavy at the time).

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    The squares ae the way to go though they sometimes suffer from too much charring on the bottom-a problem DiFara also has developed.

                                    1. re: guttergourmet

                                      Are the Artichoke guys open for lunch yet?

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        not that it means anything permanent but they were open today @12 or 1ish when I walked buy and there was no line. Although the 1 customer I saw in there was picking up 3 boxes.

                                        Sadly my arms were full with packages or else I would've grabbed me a slice or 2 to go.

                                  2. i had my second fresh-from-the-oven square today, it was exactly the same as the first a couple weeks ago. overall pretty darn good.

                                    good: lots of sauce & it is wonderful & fresh tasting, also fresh basil really adds a lot of flavor.

                                    eh: crust flavor is ok, but not even close to DIFARA or the yeasty L&B SPUMONI GARDENS, both the gold standard for sicilian squares. still, its decent flavored crust (when it isnt soaked with grease on the bottom).

                                    not so good: way too much flavorless cheese (although i am sure many might love that), also the crust broke in half both times (what? on a square?!!), lastly, as noted above my biggest peeve: the crust bottom was soaked with tray grease (from all that cheese no doubt).

                                    as for the hours, fyi someone asked about that when i was in there. they said straight up to the lady that asked that opening hours varied, sometimes lunch or sometimes 2pm or so.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: mrnyc

                                      I am in total agreement with you, mrnyc.
                                      I finally got to try some last night: I had one square slice, and a couple of bites of an artichoke slice.
                                      The sauce on the square slice is very good and clearly above-average in quality. I, too, enjoyed the the fresh basil and the overall fresh flavor of the slice.
                                      However, I also noticed that their blend of cheeses included a very average-looking "mozzarella" that possessed neither the flavor nor the texture of real mozzarella (the kind you would expect to find at fast food pizza chains, or even some average pizza joints). There was also real fresh mozzarella and a grated cheese of some sort (I am not sure it was Parmigiano), which were quite good.
                                      The crust on the square slice was strange. Very thick, very dense and quite hard, despite being soaked (halfway up from the bottom, not the top) with grease.
                                      I actually did not care for the artichoke slice: way too thick, way too creamy (was that cream? on pizza?) and garlicky for me. I could definitely see how one slice could be a satisfying meal for some.
                                      Overall, I thought the pizza tasted much better, and was made with better ingredients, than just about any other slice in Manhattan. But it was nowhere near as good as the pizza I ate at DiFara's recently.

                                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                                        Flavorless cheese?! Oily crust?! That just doesn't sound like the square slice I tried yesterday. I was struck by the tasty blend of fresh and processed mozzarella, and my main complaint was that the crust wasn't oily enough.

                                        I was ready to hate Artichoke, but left really, really impressed with the square. I agree that it's not on the level of DiFara, but the comparison isn't as ridiculous as I initially thought it would be.

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          The fresh mozzarella was great, and sets them apart from the competition. However, I felt that the chewy industrial cheese in the blend added nothing, and ultimately took away from the entire experience. The crust was orange about halfway up from the bottom- which I interpret as grease. It didn't stop me from eating it, but I would have preferred the crust be less dense and less oily.
                                          I expected to like Artichoke, and I did like it, but I wouldn't run back.

                                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                                            multi-v we are sympatico on this. exactly my observations & feelings.

                                            rootbeer i am surprized. "flavorful" cheese? you really think so? bland to me. not only bland, but way too much for a square.

                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                              vvvindaloo: To clarify, are you criticizing their choice of processed mozzarella or the decision to use it at all? If it's the latter, I disagree in that a blend of fresh and processed cheese prevents the pie from geting soggy. If it's the former, then I confess my taste buds may be dulled by living in LA, where Polly-O is a specialty item LOL! Still, I've had squares from DiFara within the past three months, so I haven't completely forgotten the face of my father...

                                              mrnyc: See my comment to vvindaloo re living in LA. Also, I've only been to Artichoke once on a beautiful day when it wasn't mobbed and I could eat my slices in the park -- ideal conditions. But my square, which was fresh from the pan, had a perfect balance of sauce and cheese. I'm with you that cheese oil isn't the kind of oily I'm looking for. But I think if they used the same amount of cheese as on my slice with a little extra virgin olive oil, they'd have the best square slice in Manhattan.

                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                a and w, I am really glad that you got to have your delicious-pizza-in-the-park-on-a-beautiful-day experience :)
                                                Though you may disagree, I was questioning their use of commercial processed cheese at all. It just wasn't necessary, IMO, and got pretty annoying about halfway into the slice, as I began removing the rubbery, unnaturally translucent white stuff (I am exaggerating, though only slightly, to make a point). I felt that the other elements of the pizza (including the too-dense crust), were delicious and fresh enough to stand on their own with a reasonable amt. of fresh cheeses only.
                                                FWIW, I doubt that the processed-type of "mozzarella" used in the blend is even on par with Polly-O, which I would imagine remains white when it melts!

                                                1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                  even worse than that, their choice to use way too much cheese is what leads to the unappetizing greasy bottom on the square.

                                                  yeah, i had another square again a couple days ago!

                                    2. i swung by several days ago and was not really all that impressed. liked it but didnt love it. granted i didnt try their specialty artichoke and spinach slice (they ran out), nor did i try a square slice which ppl seem to tout a bit more than their regular slices. i found the slices i had to be extremely oily. the crust was burnt pretty bad in a couple areas. all that aside, the overall the flavor was very good. i would rate it as a very good, above avg but not great or amazing pizza. i promise that these feelings i have are not biased by the fact that the guy behind the counter was particularly rude to me. i asked specifically for two slices from a pie that came out and was brought to the front for distribution. he insisted that i just take the two leftover slices from their last pie. i again assert that i would prefer the fresh one and he seriously wouldnt budge. that obviously pissed me off but i wouldnt have cared if the pizza was amazing. i'd say that i prefer the lucali slice over artichoke (but not by much) and the difara slice over both (by a more sizable margin).

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: prcentauri

                                        Just about every square slice I've had from DiFara was oily and burnt. That's why I like them!

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          this was oilier and blackened. to each their own i guess.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            yeah but dom's oily square oil is from olive oil & ARTICHOKE'S is from too much cheese oil so its gross-er.

                                            *** omg did i just say/invent "cheese oil?" err, sorry :) ***

                                        2. Went last night, thinking that (fool that I am) I could avoid a wait by going in the rain. Apparently it wasn't raining enough - I still ended up waiting 25 - 30 minutes. Someone who works in the restaurant next door popped over and asked, while I was waiting, what the deal was. She couldn't believe the food was so good to have spawned all these lines. When Artichoke had just opened, there were no customers there, and the place didn't seem to have much potential, although she's glad they're doing so well now. I said I couldn't say how good it was yet, because it was my first visit, but that positive reviews have been springing up all over the internet.

                                          The spinach and artichoke pizzas were flying out of the oven (the squares were sitting around a lot longer), and each slice of them was huge. But they looked a little too wet for my taste - call me a coward, but I don't think I will like creamed spinach on toast very much, even though the women behind me called them "the best thing ever." So I went for a square instead (the couple in front of me had taken the last round slice, damn them).

                                          No problems with over-oily crust. Edges were a little burnt, but bottom was fine, even after they rewarmed it. The crust was really crisp, almost hard (the kind that scrapes up your hard palate a little) - I tend to prefer a softer crust in general. The thickness of the crust on the square and the rounds actually reminded me of the kind of crusts they serve with pizzas in New Haven, although not as flavorful as those.

                                          My main complaint was the paucity of flavors in the toppings. The sauce cried out for spices, and a little sweetness; it was too sour and a little bitter. The cheese was mostly bland - just a little kick from a few bits of the grated cheese that looked like parmesan.

                                          Overall: not very impressed. But I wish them well, and I am glad there is more local competition for UPN.

                                          1. I just went for the first time. It was closed this afternoon and opened at 8PM and I was the 2nd person on the line. I got a square slice and round slice, both fresh out of the oven. Both crusts had a great char, but the crust on both slices was too thick for my taste. But, I think the tomato sauce is the best I have had, perfect freshness, consistency and sweetness. The cheese was fine. Would it be better with fresh mozz, maybe. Overall, if they get a thinner crust, I would say this could be up there with DiFara, but not yet.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                              I gave it another try and I am beginning to see what the hype is about. Honestly, I usually try to not be a conformist, but the sicilian had a much more even crust this time and it was perfectly charred without being burnt. The round slice was crunchy and had great cheese balance and I am in love with the sauce.

                                              Had a bite of my friend's artichoke and spinach, and, while I love it, I think I love it more because the artichoke and spinach is such a great flavor and I would like it no matter what kind of bread it was on.

                                            2. Thinking of taking a walk over there tonight but with the hit or miss hours, just wondering if they'd still be serving around 11. Anyone even know?

                                              1. i got a plain slice at artichoke this afternoon, and i was so disappointed. i was shocked by the short line and decided to give it a try. the sauce flavor was ok but there was waaayy to much on it, making the whole thing a liquidy mess. i thought it could have used more cheese, but it would have been ok if the sauce wasn't so overpowering. also, the crust was a bit underdone. i know so many people love it...did i just get a bad slice or is it just not my style of pizza?

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: littlebites

                                                  Well, i can't argue that it is a messy slice. But, the fact it was underdone is very surprising. The crust, if anything, is usually a bit overdone for most people's tastes (it tends to be almost crunchy).

                                                2. I tried to go on Saturday at about 4pm. There was a line about 30 people long, a sign on a paper plate saying "back in 3 hours" (of course, when the sign was put on the door, I'll never know because it didn't say), the serving window was open, and it looked like people were getting served. But, after waiting about 15 minutes, and watching only 2 people walk away with pizza, we bailed, and walked around to Momofuku for some ramen.

                                                  1. Finally tried Artichoke today. It was interesting. When I got there, there was only one pizza out that was ready, so I just got a slice of that thinking it was the artichoke pizza since that's what everyone was saying. It seemed like it was just spinach with one little piece of artichoke on top of the slice. It was also extremely cheesy/creamy. Was that alfredo sauce? I thought it was way too creamy and messy. With all that said, I'm surprised the guy only gave me one paper plate. It definitely didn't hold up the slice.

                                                    But for something that HUGE and filling, $3 is cheap. A thin slice with one topping at all the average pizza joints are at least $3 now. But I hope the sicilian slices and other round slices are better than the artichoke/spinach because that one was way too rich for me.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: phr208

                                                      You should definitely go back and try the round and sicilian. I agree, the artichoke/ spinach is very rich and a bit too much for my tastes.

                                                      1. re: phr208

                                                        Wasn't it originally $2.50? I think I actually witnessed the price increase midline one day.

                                                      2. I passed by several times, but I was wondering when the line is at its shortest. I really hate lines and traffic.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: designerboy01

                                                          I think you are living in the wrong city if you hate lines and traffic. It is hard to say when the line is shortest b/c they have such odd and inconsistent hours. I have gone around 8:30PM on a Wednesday and I only had to wait about 15 minutes. Also, if you order a pie as opposed to waiting for a slice, you can call it in and then just pick it up. Usually takes about 30 mins.

                                                          1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                                            Nah, I've lived here a long time and have learned the ins and outs of this City to avoid lines and traffic tie ups. There is always a way. Looks like I'm going to call in and order a pie....see! Thanks for the tip!

                                                            1. re: designerboy01

                                                              touche. Very well played.

                                                          2. re: designerboy01

                                                            i went around 2:30pm yesterday, and i ordered as soon as i stepped in, but there were a bunch of people waiting for their orders. i wouldn't be surprised if they had just opened right before i got there because there wasn't any pizza out yet.

                                                          3. In addition to a square and a round slice last night (pre-Memorial day no line!) I bought one of their giant loaves of bread to take home for 3 bucks!!! Their bread is Platonic and deserving of a whole separate discussion. Needless to say I picked apart and ate most of the loaf in the car before I got home.