Posted by: Jeffsayyes | March 29, 2010

Forest Hills Pizza Exploratory Tour

My associate and I took on Forest Hills. It’s an historic neighborhood, old school to the max, so I was expecting big things out of it. It never really had Italian heritage, but it’s always been known to have some of the highest quality everything of the city. I came with a few pizzeria’s to explore: A&J, Lillian, and Dee’s.

A&J  (11)

I immediately saw that on the menu A&J is now called New A&J. “Hey, what was wrong with the old one?” They apparently needed either a makeover or a better lawyer because they are now officially “New A&J’s”. Make’s me wonder if I’m at the right one.

The address was the same and the pizza was good. Not great, but good. Good enough that I’d appreciate it on my block. But that block would be the longest distance I’d travel for a slice here. The regular is salty and greasy with a thin layer of common cheese. The bubbling is appreciated up and down the slice, darkening a few peaks where the cheese keeps it’s coverage.

The crust is identifiably cardboard. Stiff and flavorless, with only a slightly commendable texture. I don’t mind leaving this crust to rot on my plate. And in movements to the garbage can, I feel no quitter’s remorse. Good-bye crust, I say. Goodnight.

A&J  (5)

A&J  (9)

The Sicilian looked exceptional and tasted acceptable. The top exceeding the bottom’s worth by far. A Sicilian should spotlight a soft, gooey crust, not be used as an extension of their own cardboard standard. I’m being harsh, but this is important. A fucked Sicilian is a big deal.

The ambiance is a cross between mall and Dunkin Donuts, with the 1×1 grey tiled floor and neon accents throughout. The staff didn’t seem to care, and the large dining room allows the customers to sit peacefully away from each other.

A return trip would be warranted on vegetarian days only. Their Kosher selection is plentiful, as is the rest of the menu. Other than that, I would pass it up. It’s not a terrible slice at all, just not worth the space in my stomach.

A&J  (2)

Lillian Pizzeria sits in a mini-mall deep inside the neighborhood. Walking there feels like you’re lost, and arriving feels like an oasis, where the trees begin to part and you see the hint of Lillian at the corner.

Lillians (3)
Lillians (4)

And when you go in, all the workers are old. Hardworking and old. They were probably old when it opened in the 70s. That’s fine, because it’s a good slice. And their attention to detail is charming. The man took 5 minutes to fill my fountain coke and didn’t even think about ice.

Lillians (10)

Their crust get’s gnarly with character, especially on the Sicilian slice. A good flour dusting with an appreciated cheese topping, it seems like the staff never thought about cutting corners to Polly-O. The menu is proud of the pizza dough made on premises, but the standout for me was the sauce. Not too anything other than satisfying.

Lillians (8)
Lillians
Lillians (13)

I don’t know if this was a mistake or that’s just how they are, but the broccoli pinwheels looked great. Smushed down deep, soft and golden. I’d love to go back there for one. If I return and they are upright, I will be disappointed.
Lillians (5)

And you can’t get away from Raymond here. Across the city, it’s known as Ray Romano’s favorite slice. Sitting here, it’s nearly impossible not to mention his name in conversation. Even as you go to pay, a Ray article proclaiming them the best is taped next to the register.

Prices are fine oh fine, nothing outrageous like the 12 dollar veal parm hero at A&J’s. Here, it’s $7.25. That’s reasonable. Large pie is $13, that’s reasonable.

The pizza’s good, yes. And if you live in the scenic neighborhood of Forest Hills, they are the best and something to be proud of. But I live 3 towns away, so Ray’s favorite has nothing to do with me, no matter how much I like his new show.

Lillians (7)

Walking down Metropolitan is a trip down someone else’s memory lane. It’s quiet there, hiding gems like Eddie’s sweet show and the G&N Collector’s Den. The Den was a cute store, with a cuter staff, but the merch is killer with startlingly low prices. The neighborhood reflects their selection, and as more and more of the old neighborhood moves out, their collection gets a boost.

G&N collectors den (2)
G&N collectors den

What a dream date it would be to go to the Collector’s Den, Eddie’s Sweet Shop, and Dee’s Pizza…

Dees (2)

Dee’s is a nice place. Prices are reasonable for the contemporary decor and they’ve recently expanded to two full rooms and a backyard patio. They need it, because, even after moving down the block from what is now Danny Brown’s, their lines can be out the door on a weeknights and weekends thanks to their hard work, passion and pride.

Inside, one room houses the brick oven, and the other a full and encouraged bar. Without utilizing alcohol the house-steeped ice tea gets a full nod of approval over the coke. At $2.50 with free refills, I suggest you make the most out of it.

We took the recommendation of the waitresses and ordered a pie with pepperoni on top among the 25+ pizzas to choose from. It was a mistake. The pepperoni overpowered the pie, perhaps affecting my opinion of the pie as a whole. The cheese and the sauce, though in a respectable abundance, seemed lost. It’s a wood burning oven, but it could easily be gas. The oven is too clean to catch any pleasant surprises like leftover char. Even the smoke was minimal in the dough. It’s a good pie though, incomparable to anything, with it’s cornmeal speckled fluffy crust.

The passion of the staff and the menu make it obvious they pay attention to their ingredients. We had 3 members of the staff wax poetic about their favorite pizzas and the menu proudly displays their depth of a pizza topping. But that’s an issue at Dee’s. There is too much emphasis on the tops of the pies, plus ordering one is difficult. Looking at the pizza menu, it baffles me how they can put their New Orleans pie 2nd on the list of pizzas, then have Dee’s Favorite 3rd. There’s no order to it whatsoever. The proper way to show the menu is basic atop, then one-ingredient pies, then Special of the house, then experimental pies. Dee’s Favorite (Fresh Mozzarella – Tomato Sauce – Sweet Ground Sausage – Roasted Red Peppers – Portabella 15.) on top would be fine too, but no way do you put it number 3 under an obscure pie like New Orleans (Fresh Mozzarella – Plum Tomato Sauce – Cajun Shrimp – Green Onions 13). You have to work with one crescendo when ordering a menu. Either at the 1st quarter point, at the end, or at the top. I’d like to see it narrowed down to 5 or 10 pizzas, perhaps rotating by month. It would make the chefs seem more specialized, localized and focused. Think about it, Dee.

Dees (3)

Dees (6)

It’s a nice date place and won’t break the bank, because it’s priced and it tastes how an Armenian-influenced Queens artisanal pizzeria should. The restaurant is much deeper than pizza though, and while peering onto other tables seeing loaded salads and pastas, my respect was induced. It’s easy to say Dee’s serves the best pie in the area (as long as you don’t bring Nick’s into the equation, which is very much a different pie, though in the same league). Dee’s, I give my apologies and congratulations, you’re one of the best in Forest Hills, but you’re not making the tour.

Dees (10)

New A&J Pizza
7137 Austin St
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 520-9018

Lillian Pizza
9601 69th Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 520-8749

Dee’s Pizza
107-23 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 793-7553

G&N Collector’s Den
10221 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375-6731
(718) 261-3019

Eddie’s Sweet Shop
105-29 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11367
(718) 520-8514

Links:
FH Exploratory Tour pictures
Watch Ray’s new show, Men of a Certain Age
Lillian Pizza discussion board
Lillian Pizza review from eateryRow


Responses

  1. You didn’t go to Nick’s on Ascan? That’s far and away the best pizza in Forest Hills. It was #11 on New York Magazine’s best pizza of the city list.

    Thanks for the tip about Lillians. Didn’t even know that one existed.

  2. yeah, we went to Nick’s on last year’s Queens pizza tour.
    http://iwantmorefood.com/2009/07/27/queens-food-tour-wrap-up/

    It’s definitely a great pie and up there with the best of Queens. These exploratory tours I’m researching places for this year’s tour – where the only one to continue to this year is John’s in Elmhurst.

  3. […] all checks. And even the love, it appears to be there. It reminds me of the previously incomparable Dee’s Pizza in Forest Hills. Unfortunately, this mini-chain based in Staten Island, tolerable because they keep it relatively […]


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