The second stop in my very own personal subway series is the Astoria stop. The Neptune Diner is the obvious choice so I avoid it and walk over to the south side of the stop which is populated largely with the usual chains: Subway, the Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins combo and a Burger King. I decide that strolling west on Astoria Boulevard will be most fruitful option. I pass on the Hall Bakery and Golden Chicken Chinese because I want a glass of wine. Another half a block later I hit upon Basil Brick Oven Pizza.
I have been here once before many months ago. They just expanded in May and the space is warm and comfortable. The waitress seems confused that I’m here alone. I tell her ‘one’ at the door and have to explain again at the table. She gives me an odd look. I can’t tell if its a language issue or if she is actually confused that I’m eating alone. I suppose when I was 21 I probably never thought to eat out alone on purpose. Happily, I know better now.
I order a glass of Pinto Grigio and it arrives with a little bread and oil with balsamic. The balsamic is surprisingly flavorful, with a nice thick consistency and it is delicious. As you’d expect, the menu is largely pizza. There are a couple antipasti (mussels, shrimp scampi, and a misto with the usual suspects) and salads (like caprese, poached pear with walnuts and goat cheese). I go for the shrimp which is described as – “in Scampi sauce with fresh oregano and focaccia.” The rest of the menu features 4 pastas and almost a dozen panini but people clearly come for the pizza. There must be about 30 or 35 on the menu. For the first time in a long time I wish I had a partner in crime so I could order more than one pizza.
The shrimp is amazing. Buttery, garlicky sauce with just enough fresh oregano. The bread is super crisp and thin. I already know I’ll be back just for this. As I munch through the 6 huge shrimp, I debate pizza options. I am focusing on the more unusual ones. I am seriously tempted by the ‘La Viennese’ with homemade mozzarella, hot dog, egg. Parmesan and basil, or the pumpkin walnut, or the yellow fin tuna and carmelized onions. But possibly the true test of pizza is a simple Margarita…the pressure is on to choose well. I split the difference and order the prouscitto and argula pizza and a glass of chianti.
As I look around the restaurant I realize its a ‘date night’. There are classic older Astorian married couples, young gay theater guys, and a really awkward double date. As I wait for my pizza I read a little David Rakoff – so smart and funny- and pause to look out the window. Whoa! It’s a field of herbs, peaches, and figs! Now I have serious envy, which takes me to one of my many other Astorian garden envies, our neighbors at Gardenfreude.
The pizza arrives. My pizza! Its stunning. I grab a slice fold it in half, take a bite, and wonder if there is a ‘Mr Basil Brick Oven Pizza’ and if he’s single. Its just that good. Thin crispy crust, lovely fresh mozzarella, a rosette of prouscuitto on top as well as sheets that have been baked on top. The argula is a nice bitter counterpoint to the sweet tomato sauce and cheese. Can’t type… Eating. Also realizing that while they deliver to me the crust would never be as perfect as it is here (but it may be worth experimenting on).
I officially rescind the suggestion that I should be here with someone so I could order more than one pizza because I don’t want to share. Clearly, its been stupidity on my part to have this place drop off my radar. I’ll just keep coming back alone until I work my way thru that insanely long pizza menu.
Basil Brick Oven Pizza
28-17 Astoria Blvd.