Nov 1, 2016
Ops, the Goddess of Abundance (and Pizza), Giveth Unto Bushwick
I walked into Ops, a Neapolitan-inspired pizza bar and restaurant in Bushwick early in October. The late afternoon sun cut through front windows and onto a wooden bar, illuminating bottles of Amaro and organic wine behind it. Friends who had just completed the build-out, sat on stools facing the clay-tiled oven and inhaling fresh baked sourdough crusts with Marinara and Margherita toppings. Ops’s floor plan is not much larger than a home whose kitchen, dining, and living room all flow in and out of each other and become the same thing. Due to that and the notable silence—the first day of rest after partners Mike Fadem and Marie Tribouilloy led three soft-open nights—it felt more like an exceptionally-designed country residence than Brooklyn’s latest destination for wood-fired pies.
Fadem stood near the stove and wore a T-shirt that read “Una Pizza Napoletana,” a popular restaurant in San Francisco. “I forgot you were coming today, I’m really self-conscious to be wearing this pizza T-shirt,” said Fadem, smiling. On days he thought no one was looking, he still selected pizza-dedicated clothing. Fadem spent the past several years managing Andrew Tarlow’s Roman’s in Fort Greene, where he met his partner at Ops, Tribouilloy. At Roman’s, Fadem threw himself into researching the best recipes for sourdough pizza. The winning combinations had been baked and served that weekend. “It was wild… and totally fun,” Fadem assessed, adding the last part hastily because, in the first post-open moments, he also looked like a new dad: happy but mildly shellshocked.
Tribouilloy stood nearby and I complimented her patterns: a plaid blazer, a red-striped shirt, and a green neck scarf. “All my clothes are all over the floor,” said Tribouilloy, who had also spent time in various front- and back-of-house roles at Tarlow’s Marlow & Sons and Achilles Heel. She’d randomly picked up the pieces that made her outfit that morning and put them on, yet the result was flawless. “It only happens one percent of the time, but it’s really nice when it happens,” she said with satisfaction. Then I noted the warm wood ceiling. Its reclaimed boards were covered in a faded green, which matched a muted-moss tile on the wall. “It’s funny, we installed it without knowing the wood would have any green in it,” said Tribouilloy, again delighted.
Despite the owners’ apparent nonchalance, the space itself was meticualously planned. It sits next door to Variety Coffee, whose owner, Gavin Compton—also an Ops co-owner—is friends with Fadem and knew about his long-held hope to open a pizza place. And though neither Fadem nor Tribouilloy are designers, they managed to give Ops outstanding Feng Shui. “I wanted the place to be totally unpretentious and welcoming, and inviting and comfortable for anyone,” said Fadem, which is a theme that pairs well with its name: Ops is the Roman goddess of the harvest, and of abundance and generosity, Tribouilloy explains.
I asked how Tarlow felt, having lost two of his long-standing employees.
“Devastation,” Fadem said, joking. “No, he’s been really supportive. You know, it’s not great to lose people, but he’s so used to it at this point, he’s been doing it for so long.”
Tribouilloy guesses that Tarlow has birthed an entire constellation of spin-off restaurants in New York City and beyond. “He creates a relationship with you that is based on trust,” she says, “which is rare especially for someone who has so many businesses.” Tarlow wants his employees to inspire him, said Fadem. Clearly, though, that works both ways. Like Roman’s (and other Tarlow businesses), Ops is gratuity-free. “He’s like the orchestrator. He let’s everyone just kind of do things.”
For Fadem, that meant he had the freedom at Roman’s to research something he had a very strong opinion about: how not to make shitty pizza. “Most of the time, people are like, they just love pizza—which I do, but I’m also critical of it,” he explained. Above all he was critical of dough. Fadem uses starter, as opposed to store-bought yeast. It gives the bread more depth of flavor and breaks down more easily in the stomach—especially great so that you can eat more of it and feel less full. And Fadem is not joking when he says bread has always been his favorite food. His medium-thick tangy crust at Ops is outstanding.
For her part, Tribouilloy prepares all the antipasti dishes. She’ll rotate four or five on a regular basis: marinated vegetables, lentils, and heavier dishes like sausage, beans, and broth in the colder months; in addition to meat and cheese plates. She is also adding dessert: house-made Nutella spread served over focaccia, pistachio olive oil cake, and maybe a semifreddo.
“She is French, she loves dessert,” Fadem cuts in, smiling. Which is a lucky attribute for him, but the appreciation is mutual. “I wouldn’t do [the restaurant] with someone else,” said Tribouilloy, who, prior to Ops, had considered returning to France.
We just finished eating Fadem’s pizza and Tribouilloy’s lentils and greens, and were drinking some sparkling red wine. Both looked exhausted. “It feels like my brain is overheating,” Tribouilly dramatized, probably just slightly. “There are moments when no one knows what I’m talking about,”—Fadem jumped in—“And her English turns into this funny English.”
“I kind of pick one word out of all the words I know,” Tribouilley says, as she finishes her wine. “Oh, shit, we shouldn’t have drunk this early, it’s no good.”
I suggest it’s great. She needed to relax—maybe watch some Netflix?
“I’m watching that British baking show about pizza,” she admits, and then realizes that, along with Fadem and his pizza T-shirt, they had no pizza shame.
“Oh no,” she says, “We’re so nerdy. It’s kind of all I wanna do.”
“We have to do it,” Fadem corrected, which is wonderful for all of us, because the pies—and veggies, and wine, and home—we all get to enjoy because of that are generous, and very good.
Photos by Jane Bruce
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