Stephen and I had some of our first dates at Brick Oven Gallery, a humble little Italian joint on Havemeyer Street. It was known for its 130-year-old brick oven, out of which came some of the tastiest, most unassuming artisanal pizza around. BOG was here before Fornino, and long before Motorino. We’d often see Kenny, the chef/owner, wandering around the neighborhood in the mornings. He’s not a flashy guy, at all, so you’d never know he was behind such a delicious spot–except for the BOG t-shirt he always seemed to be wearing.
Brick Oven Gallery was forced to close last summer, a victim of Williamsburg real estate greed (Kenny’s lease expired, and the proposed rent increase was astounding). But Kenny’s ties to old-school Williamsburg run deep–he’s a native son–and his peeps rallied round and found him a new spot just down the street, as well as funding for the build-out. Kenny’s Trattoria opened last fall, serving Kenny’s terrific pastas (made with Savino’s Quality Pasta). But since, of course, he couldn’t take that oven with him, Kenny was forced to skip the most popular section of his old menu.
We-ell, I was in there tonight, picking up some takeout (Spaghetti Carciofo for me, Rigatoni Bolognese for Stephen), and got to chatting with Kenny. Turns out he’s spent much of the last year trying to get a new brick oven installed in the backyard. More than six months were lost, just chasing permits. He told me that installation is due to happen, finally, within the next two weeks (god willing). The oven itself is custom-built, and based on photographs the oven guy took of the one Kenny used all those years at BOG. Even if installation does happen as scheduled, it’ll probably be a few more weeks before it’s fully operational, though; I’d assume mid-late October for anything resembling BOG pizza.
BOG, by the way, is now The Brooklyn Star, and while chef Joaquin Baca, a Momofuku alum, is making a valiant effort to take advantage of that oven, apparently she’s a tough old broad. Kenny told me he had a hell of a time getting the temp below 600 degrees; hard to imagine cooking anything but pizza with such an extreme blast of heat.
And if you’re local and noticed Vertuccio’s, that new brick oven pizza joint in the old Mamalu space… I have nothing good to say about their pizza. Cheap-tasting, terrible cheese, and a burned–I mean BURNED–crust. Skip.
Kenny’s Trattoria is at 7 Withers Street, but that address is deceiving: It’s at the corner of N. 9th & Havemeyer Streets