September 22, 2019

Upside Pizza Will Get a Smaller Sibling in Brooklyn

Upside Pizza Will Get a Smaller Sibling in Brooklyn


The way Noam Grossman sees it, he’s not just another guy selling just another New York slice.

“At the end of the day, yes, it’s still a slice of pizza,” said Mr. Grossman, 28, speaking like someone who knows he’s onto something good yet doesn’t want to boast. “But out of all the slices of pizza you could find, this is where you want to be.”

Mr. Grossman and his business partners, Eli and Oren Halali, brothers who cornered the quick-and-slick dollar-slice market in Midtown Manhattan with their 2 Bros. chain, turned heads in January by opening Upside Pizza, which specializes in from-scratch pies made with wild yeast and mozzarella pulled in-house. Upside, a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, charges $3 to $5 per slice, and draws long lines at lunchtime.

Now, they are planning a new restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn, which Mr. Grossman described as “a pizza wasteland.” The new place, set to open in August at 345 Adams Street, will be a smaller, simpler operation, its tiny kitchen requiring their menu offer more stripped-down slices. “Think like, Upside’s little brother,” Mr. Grossman said.

Unlike Upside, which is standing room only, the Brooklyn outpost will have nine seats, a bar and benches outside.

“It’s going to be an exercise in making pizza in a submarine,” said Anthony Falco, 39, an international pizza consultant who created the menu with input from Mr. Grossman, and helped him develop his technique and sourdough starter.

The new restaurant won’t be called Upside. Mr. Grossman said he would give the new slices the name only if they were as good as an Upside slice. There’s not enough room in the new kitchen to perform the kind of flavor gymnastics they do in Midtown.

[Sam Sifton teaches you how to make pizza in this NYT Cooking guide.]

Upside’s signature slice, for instance, features mushrooms with white wine and lemon curds. The refrigerator in Brooklyn can’t hold enough raw mushrooms to replicate it, even if they do shrink when cooked.

Instead, the new place will be named a variation on Mr. Grossman’s: Norm’s.

“Any time that I’ve introduced myself to someone,” he said, “someone who has never heard the name Noam before, I’d get, ‘Oh, Norm!’ I’m not going to go through this N-O-A-M, Nancy-Oscar-Adam-Mary stuff. Norm. Norm is fine.”

Norm’s electric oven can get hotter than Upside’s $50,000 contraption which, according to Mr. Falco, is “built like a tank and fully lined in stone.” At Upside, the cheese pizza has four cheeses (three added before it goes into the oven, one after it comes out). At Norm’s, Mr. Grossman thinks he’ll be able to do only one or two.

“Norm’s is just going to be straight up,” he said, flipping a little silver pizza he wears on a long chain around his neck. “We’re going to let the ingredients speak for themselves, similar to what we do here. But it’s going to just be less steps, less complexity.”

Mr. Grossman will still make dough using the three-year-old, wild-yeast sourdough starter that anchors the taste and crust at Upside. He calls it Tibby.

“That is the backbone of this place,” Mr. Grossman said, nodding toward Tibby, bubbling in its vat. “For the first three months, I didn’t let a single person touch it. I just didn’t trust anyone else, which meant that I’d stay until 1, 2 in the morning to feed it.”

Half a year into his new life as a pizzaiolo, Mr. Grossman is still getting used to his almost-accidental success. Before starting Upside, he had never worked as a hired chef. He is not Italian. His parents aren’t particularly good cooks.

Still, he said, “there was something about nourishing people and having someone taste something that I made. A pizza shop just seemed like somewhere between not opening a restaurant and opening a restaurant.”

Norm’s isn’t the only venture on Mr. Grossman’s horizon. In the Upside basement, he is experimenting with milling his own flour from organic, farm-raised wheat berries. He is looking at spaces in downtown Manhattan to open another Upside. Elevating the standard slice is still his main priority, but he has time to play around.

“I’m in a serious relationship right now,” he said, biting into a thick, square slice of Upside’s pepperoni pie. “And now, I’m about to have a mistress.”

Norm’s, 345 Adams Street, Downtown Brooklyn, 718-643-6676, normspizza.com. (Opens in August)



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