Like clockwork, hordes of local schoolkids flood Brooklyn Pizza Crew shortly after three, queuing up for their daily two slice and a soda special. Couple this throwback tableau with the Nostrand Avenue newcomer’s standard issue striped awning—along with delivery bikes chained in a jumble outside—and it reads like the kind of no-frills neighborhood spot that could have easily existed here for years, unassertively tucked between a discount grocery store and nail salon.
In fact, save for an impressive graffiti mural from artist Meres One, there’s no way of inferring Brooklyn Pizza Crew boasts any sort of pedigree; unless you bother googling the business while awaiting a re-heat on your slice. Then, you’ll discover owner Nino Coniglio doesn’t merely run a slew of other restaurants (Williamsburg Pizza, 310 Bowery Bar, and an outpost in the Barclay’s Center), but he’s a major contender on the competitive pie-slinging circuit as well: At the Annual International Pizza Expo in March, he was crowned “World’s Pizza Maker of the Year.”
But while you’ll occasionally find Coniglio clad in chef’s whites at 310 Bowery, shaving gold-crusted truffles over Instagram-baiting pies for fans like Tony Hawk, the Gravesend native has remained true to his roots at Brooklyn Pizza Crew—reverting to the kind of everyman, commonplace parlor he might have haunted himself as a kid.
Sure, even the basic margarita boasts housemade mozzarella and San Marzano-based sauce, and beyond-marinara varieties include stuffed artichoke, apple-bacon and a Sicilian sfincione studded anchovies and breadcrumbs, but you can actually buy anything by the $3-4 wedge, instead of assuming the cost of an entire pie. And as for the pre-teens who’ve readily become regulars, they don’t especially care that the exceptional crumb structure on their grandma square is due to Caputo’s 00 Americana flour and a wild yeast starter culture named Vicki, put through multi-day hot and cold fermentations, and blistered in an original Bari oven from the ‘50’s. Of greater importance is that an establishment has recently popped up in their neighborhood that they can actually enjoy and afford.
Johnny-come-lately restaurants often express (genuine) desire to counter gentrification with food with less than convincing results. So it’s a credit to Brooklyn Pizza Crew that they’ve managed to bridge the divide between old and new residents, by comfortably catering to both.
758 Nostrand Ave., Crown Heights
Photos by Maggie Shannon