Patsy’s pies prove pleasant, if not perfect.

When I reviewed Kebap G the other day, I neglected to mention that it was the SECOND meal of the day – indeed, the second lunchtime meal of the day. What gives? I’m not usually prone to noshing my way through a neighborhood, but the Kebap G visit was at least partially necessitated by the unbearable lightness of the day’s first feast: Patsy’s, the original 1933 coal-oven pizzeria that must be one of the last remnants of the old Italian East Harlem.

Patsy’s is one of those places that, like Roberto’s, attracts a rather more upscale crowd than the nabe would suggest – many arrive in livery cabs and depart in livery cabs, and, in these times, particularly, I’d ordinarily lament such tactics as sad at best, disturbing at worst.

Of course, when WE got off the bus, we immediately heard what certainly sounded like gunshots coming from one of the public houses across 1st Avenue. I’m not being suburban and paranoid here – gunshots have a certain kind of metallic report that doesn’t sound like backfire (I’ll admit, though, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a gun range), and when they arrive in sets of three with neighborhood-local onlookers looking on, a little freaked, you don’t really want any more confirmation of authenticity.

The atmosphere of the meal was a little less steely and a little more mellow, but nonetheless bizarre. Patsy’s looks like it last underwent a reno around the same time as Peter Luger’s – dark wood walls up to about 3 feet, and plain white walls from there to the ceiling. Furniture and flooring are neat but plain. The atmosphere, I felt, could have benefited from some of the genius that gave the restaurant the funky old neon sign in the front window. Perhaps agreeing with me, one of the patrons seated behind us kept periodically bursting into tears.

Or maybe they were tears of joy stemming from the excellent pizza. We opted for a fresh mozzarella and basil pie, which, to my great annoyance, cost $6 more ($3 per extra ingredient) than the $11 plain pie. Is there any way that mozz and basil should cost $3 each? I say no, especially considering the extra sogginess that the fresh mozz imparts on the pie. Alas, should you follow our route, your crust will droop; at least this time it’s not from an careless slosh of olive oil, courtesy of your (drunk?) pizzaioli. In fact, our pie was virtually grease-free, which I think accounted for my continued appetite after consuming over half of one. Hear that, Pizza Hut? You’d sell twice as many pies if they were greaseless – get on that!

A reminder: it’s Sunday, your waitress will inform you that you have only pizza and salad to choose from, so don’t go up there expecting to sample the veal piccata. Then again, I’m not sure why you’d go to a pizzeria and order anything but the pie, anyway. Be smart!

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