I PROBABLY NEVER WOULD have made the trek to Chris Iacono’s Giuseppina’s if it wasn’t the sister pizza parlor to the popular Lucali in Carroll Gardens, which is owned by Iacono’s own flesh-and-blood, brother Mark. With a generic awning, the short, dark building didn’t look like much, but I quickly found out that what’s inside warranted every moment it took to get there.
Thanks to bad directions on my first visit, I was 20 minutes late joining my friends at the table, a simple wood job that matched the heavy interior and was decorated with your pizza parlor basics: red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and a pizza tray stand. A friendly waitress with a thick Brooklyn accent and a bright smile brought me water and a glass of the Pinot Noir ($6), which was the only red offered by the glass. (The single white is a $6 glass of a crisp Pinot Grigio.) They didn’t bother to tell us who made it, and that was fine given the limited options. It tasted first-rate and later proved a perfect match for our pie.
Giuseppina’s doesn’t have an extensive menu of food or wine. Scribbled on a dark chalkboard, the short list consists of pizza ($20) and calzones ($10 for a small, $20 for a large). No desserts, appetizers or salads are offered, and the only veggies you get are pizza toppings at $3 each.
Despite the limited choices, we still had a hard time deciding what to get because everything sounded good—and also because if you made your way toward the bathroom, you had to pass the pizza workstation. Here, Iacono mans the pizza counter surrounded by bowls of fresh buffalo mozzarella, piles of perfect-looking mushrooms, a dish of carefully placed artichoke hearts and a bright stack of red, orange and yellow peppers. Everything looked so bright and tasty; we wanted to put it all on our pie.
We finally decided on a pizza dotted with the night’s special, artichoke hearts, as well as basil and garlic. We also got a pie with pepperoni and mushrooms, and splurged for a calzone with more pepperoni, basil and hot peppers. While Iacono expertly stretched out the dough and coated it with a smoky, sweet tomato sauce, piles of dry mozzarella, discs of thick meal and thin slices of Portobello, the restaurant quickly filled up. By 8:30, every table was full with families and young, hungry folks eager for dinner.
And then our food came. It was beautiful.
The large pies had thin, supple crusts with crackly, slightly charred edges that surrounded a perfect balance of cheese, sauce and toppings. I loved the kick of the garlic and basil mixed with the sweet, bright artichoke hearts. The cheese was mellow and fresh, not too oily, but gooey enough to warrant using a fork. Our pepperoni-and-mushroom pie fared just as well, though the smoky meat was the real star, trumping the other toppings. When we got the calzone, I delighted in the oozing ricotta that seeped out and mingled brilliantly with the salty pepperoni and hot, diced peppers—a winning combination everyone agreed on. It’s probably possible to make a bad order at Giuseppina’s, but you would really have to try.
The pizza wasn’t the only part of the experience we were impressed by. The staff demonstrated a sound flow as one woman manned the tables, a teenage boy kept glasses filled with water and Iacono held court over his oven and kept a steady stream of food going.
It’s safe to say that when it comes to Giuseppina’s, I once was lost but now am definitely found.
691 6th Ave. (at 20th St.) Brooklyn, 718-499-5052.