By pile driver and earthmover, Tulane Avenue is being transformed by large construction projects. Meanwhile, a much more modest effort has already achieved its own transformation in one little pocket along that stretch. It's Pizzicare, and from the pizza itself to its slice-centric format this place makes a convincing local outpost for New York pizza culture.
Inside this bright and smartly designed pizzeria, marble slabs and glass cases hold a dozen or so different pies ready to have a slice put in the oven for fast service. It's quick and cheap — two attributes that make the slice indispensible street food in New York — but aficionados of this style will always wonder first about the crust.
Pizzicare's is thin but sturdy. It holds its form while retaining enough pliancy for the careful origami of folding and bending that's required to manage the plate-sized slices of a classic New York-style pie. Also important is the surrounding lip of crust, with its oven-darkened domes and bubbles adding texture and puffiness.
Lightly applied red sauce is barely noticeable, and Pizzicare slices serve as canvases for the twin trends of handmade meats and local vegetables. That isn't surprising since the team behind Pizzicare — Jeff Baron and Bart Bell — also run Crescent Pie & Sausage Co., a Mid-City restaurant for artisanal and locally harvested ingredients. Baron also owns the Dough Bowl, a slice specialist he opened Uptown more than a decade ago after a short stint working on Wall Street, where he fell in thrall of New York pizza in the first place.
Located in a recently constructed strip mall, Pizzicare is a beacon on the developing strip, and it does seem a few steps ahead of its neighborhood's progress. The pizzeria tends to be slow at night. But at lunch it often bustles with CBD workers and lawyers briefly sprung from the nearby courthouses for a quick slice or two. Those slices are topped with chopped Brussels sprouts and translucently thin discs of salty pancetta, or with bits of paneed chicken and bitter, bright green broccoli rabe, or with crumbled hot sausage and a spicy parade of peppadews, jalapenos and poblanos.
Since opening last summer, Pizzicare has grown into a much fuller vision of what a pizzeria can be. Its manager, Andy Mossbrook, recently added thick-crust Sicilian pizza and stuffed pizzas.
The rest of the menu is limited — mainly bread sticks, calzones and basic salads. One way to get your greens and grease all at once is the NOLA Roots Garden Pie. It's a tribute to NOLA Green Roots, a nonprofit urban farming network, and this pizza boasts a salad bar's worth of seasonal local produce.
Local is good, as we are often reminded these days. But as Pizzicare demonstrates with its point-fold-and-eat homage to New York slice culture, sometimes inspiration from afar is pretty good too.