DeFazio’s Pizza at The Empire State Plaza

It seems like there are a lot of new food trucks taking advantage of the lesser restrictions of the Empire State Plaza, breathing some new life into the Capitol outdoor lunch dining scene, previously only held down by the trucks surrounding West Capitol Park. While Capital Q has been at the ESP at least a few years now, newcomers like Slidin’ Dirty (among others) are really shaking things up on the plaza compared to the Park. But when I saw DeFazio’s was bringing a wood-fired oven and cautioned lunch goers that “charring and blistering of the crust was to be expected” my interest was piqued.

Now, those of you who have stuck around here for awhile know that I’m a little bit obsessed when it comes to pizza. I LOVE “blistered and charred” pizza more than the average person. In fact, I expect it. I cook my pizzas at home under a broiler on an 1/8″ piece of steel preheated for an hour at 550 degrees with about a 3-3:30 minute cook time. Anything longer than that and things are going too slow for me.

The problem is rarely do you find this style of pizza in the Capital District, and while DeFazio’s is still very good pizza, they tout their “authentic Italian wood fired oven” yet all of the pizza I’ve had from there looks like conventional New York style pizza from a conventional pizza oven rather than the beauty of a neopolitan pizza from wood-fired oven. Check out the pictures from the final in last year’s AOA Tournament of Pizza. If you didn’t know which pizza was DeFazio’s and which was Marisa’s, would you be able to identify the one done in a wood-fired oven? I couldn’t.

And that’s my biggest issue with DeFazio’s pizza. It’s missing the key characteristics I look for in a wood-fired pie. So, when I don’t feel like turning my kitchen into an inferno at home, I generally head to Bacchus when I go out for pizza because it’s much closer to my expectations of a pizza done in a traditional high-temperature domed wood-fired oven. Which brings me back to this sign right here. “Charring”. “Blistering”. My cup of tea. I knew what I was having for lunch.

I ordered my pepperoni pizza with the guidance that I wasn’t afraid nor a stranger to a good char and to feel free to let it happen. The dough was par-cooked, I’m guessing about 5 mins in the DeFazio’s oven but was assembled on site at the Empire State Plaza. I have no qualms about this, as I’m sure it speeds up the delivery of the pizza for those of us with half-hour lunch breaks, but generally I would prefer to see fresh dough. Let’s take a look at this puppy getting made.




Into the oven:

While I waited for my pizza to finish I checked out some of DeFazio’s other offerings:

All looked great, but the stromboli might be the best deal going for lunch truck dining at the Capitol. Eight bucks for what is easily two meals worth of meat and cheese filled dough:

I’m not gonna lie, it took a while for my pizza to come out. The pizzaiolo did his best to try to get some char on the crust, leaving it in longer than three other orders that came in after mine, and even cranking up the heat with some extra wood. Alas, charring, blistering and a beautifully raised cornicione was not in my future that day, although I suspect all of that has something to do with par-cooking of the dough.

Granted, there was some wonderful coloring on the edge of the underbelly, but with the extra time in the oven it was starting to go from a sought after “crunch” leaning towards a not so desirable “toughness”. (This wasn’t the case on the pies taken out earlier than mine.)

So, did DeFazio’s pizza satisfy my need for the perfect wood-fired pizza? That’s a negative Ghost Rider. Does that mean I wouldn’t recommend it? Hell no! I’m just being my usual, pain in the ass self here, with higher expectations than what’s feasible given the prep, time contraints and equipment being used with their style of pizza. Not to mention it’s a great deal at $6 bucks for more pizza one should probably eat in a single sitting. Taking all of that into consideration, DeFazio’s pizza at the Empire State Plaza is still the best pizza available within walking distance of the Capitol. Yes, that means better than Sapienza’s, you overzealous State-worker Sapienza fans, and probably the best pizza miles from here, to boot. Check them out.

5 thoughts on “DeFazio’s Pizza at The Empire State Plaza

  1. That looks pretty great. I’d be enormously fat if I worked down by the ESP, that’s for sure. I just tried grilling a pizza for the first time last weekend. It didn’t come out so well (mostly because I think the grill was still kind of funky, so it stuck a bit), but I tried using a cast iron skillet on the grill and that worked pretty well. Gonna check out this baking steel thing, though. Looks neat.

    1. This biggest issue with grilling pizza is that you’re using direct heat on the bottom of the pizza while using indirect heat on the crust, cheese and toppings. The amount of headspace in the domes of most grills, charcoal and gas, will apply a much lower temperature on the topside of the pie. That being the case, you’re always going to either overcook the underbelly, or have just plain melted cheese on top, with minimal to no browning of any meats. (ie. I wouldn’t hesitate to put raw sausage on a pizza under a broiler but there’s no way I would do that on one on a traditional grill.)

      The one solution to that would be to place the pizza on a baking steel or stone, and also minimize the headspace in the grill by creating a lower ceiling over the pizza with aluminum foil or a wide enough pizza stone (plus aluminum foil to cover the gaps) so that the ceiling of the grill is now only a few inches above the pizza. Once I get my KettlePizza insert for my Weber, and do some tinkering to get it just perfect, I’ll have a post on my setup for this.

      1. Look forward to it! The recipe I saw suggested grilling one side, flipping it, putting on the toppings and then placing it back on the grill. From a logistical standpoint (and with a husband who likes an unholy amount of tomato sauce and toppings on his pizza) it didn’t work out too well. I ended up sliding the foil on to the griddle and maneuvering the foil out from underneath it.

  2. Over at Serious Eats, they recently ran the Kettle Pizza thought it’s paces. The one main hack seems to be using a pizza steel to decrease the dome height.

    Any chance you’ve been to Harvest & Hearth? I’ve been meaning to get there for pizza. I believe they have a Le Panyol wood fired oven there. One of these days…

    1. That’s exactly what I’ll do for mine. I had previously planned to prop the pizza steel up on fire bricks on either side of the pizza, but using a second cooking grate just seems so much easier. If the rain holds up I plan on giving it my first try tonight, otherwise it will have to be tomorrow.

      I’ve never heard of Harvest & Hearth. Not too many pictures on their website or Facebook, but the ones that are there look promising. Are reviews generally positive?

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