The pizza “landscape” in New York can be an intricate one to maneuver. The city has its own world-famous style of pie, of course, and is also home to the many types brought here by out-of-town transplants: Chicago deep dish, New Haven apizza, Detroit blue steel-baked, and Neapolitan/Neo-Neapolitan (to name just a few).
The poster child pie for handcrafted pizza on the East Coast, it’s easy to find Neapolitan-type pizza around Manhattan and Brooklyn—Kesté, Apizza Regionale, and Ribalta are just some of the biggest names in the game right now. But these spots make bespoke pies with bespoke-level prices, and thrive in the already artisan-obsessed neighborhoods they plant themselves in, surely not entirely by accident.
Parkside, on the Prospect Lefferts Gardens stretch of Flatbush, offers similar Neapolitan-esque pies—accompanied by a strong-enough-to-stand-alone cocktail program—and like its better-known colleagues, has assimilated itself well into the fabric of the community.
The red sauce options are flavorful and satisfying, but the chef’s creativity really comes through on his white pies. There’s one with mozzarella, butternut squash, kale, sautéed onions, and pomegranate molasses; another with with caciocavallo, sliced potato, pistachio pesto, and rosemary; and yet another with mozzarella with housemade lamb sausage, crispy onions and mint. If you want a red pie, the vodka sauced-based Ruby with mozzarella and pancetta is rich and wonderfully salty, and the Margherita is also totally “worth it,” which is the true mark of a good pizza chef.
Supplementing your gluten intake with the small plates is also crucial here, as the roasted octopus is tender without being mushy, and the mashed potatoes it’s served atop is a refreshing departure from the seemingly intractable marriage of cephalopods and roasted fingerlings in the 212 and 718. The burrata is simple and gratifying, as are the meatballs. Be an adult and get some green things on your plate, too, with the apple and spinach salad that’s given a luxurious finish with a sprinkling of French feta, which is a creamier and saltier version of its Greek counterpart.
So what’s different about them--what’s Parkside’s appeal, aside from the delicious pies? The answer is two-pronged, really, and they’re related.
First off, there’s the ambitious cocktail menu. The kitchen doesn’t have a monopoly on creativity in this intriguing pizzeria-bar hybrid, as from behind the bar comes concoction like Lift The Stick (house mamajuana, Bolivian singani, pineapple, lemon, green tea, milk wash); Campers Dinner (brown butter-washed corn whiskey, Amontillado sherry, honey); and Muddy Waters (Fernet Vallet, Amaro Averna, Pumpkin Spice Syrup, Lemon)
And that’s kind of the trick to Parkside that you won’t find written on the menu: it wants to be whatever you need it to be. Need to take a date somewhere for impressive cocktails that won’t cost you your entire paycheck? Want to take the family in for a better-than-Famous-Ray’s pizza experience? Need a long copper bar to belly-up to with a friend for a few pints? Maybe you’re walking home from the train a bit late and you want to pick up some takeout that’s many steps above the noodle place on your corner? Parkside satisfies all of these requests, and with quiet pride and efficiency.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens has yet to be turned into the likes of glittery NoLIta and the Vegan oasis that is Williamsburg, and you can bask in Parkside’s lack of preciousness as you sit and chew the excellent garlic knots at a cozy table on a chilly Friday night. A local band keeps the crowd at the bar entertained while families and Tinder dates share expertly crafted pies, and you can’t help but wonder why anyone waits in that infamously long line at Roberta’s.