Daniel Krystal, a devoted pizzaiolo and Montreal native, is about to give Griffintown a taste of New York-style pizza. The name and address of the chef's new restaurant are under wraps for now—it will be located somewhere on Notre-Dame Ouest. Krystal, who last made pizzas at Magpie Amherst, Macchina, and Artigiani, did not plan to do New York-style from the outset: "I've been doing Neapolitan wood-fired pizza for years. That's the style I know, and love, but the space I was offered has an electric oven. I'm a firm believer that if you are going to do something you need to do it right, and there's no right way to do Neapolitan pizza without a wood oven. It's just not possible to get the cook time to that 90 to 120-second window that makes all the difference. That being said, New York-style pizza is possible in an electric oven, and I would rather be making great New York pizza than bad Neapolitan. So we ran with the concept of trying to make the best New York-style pizza possible."
Krystal's chosen some good role models for his new venture. "There's a well-known place called Joe's in New York that is not wood-fired, that opened in the 1970s. I looked at what they have, and am basing a lot off of that. My inspiration when it comes to pizza in general is Anthony Mangieri [of San Francisco's Una Pizza Napoletana], who believes in simplicity. The more you try to hide the simple beauty of properly cooked dough in subpar ingredients, the more you stifle yourself. Good pizza is about being patient and making the best dough possible, and topping it with the best things you can afford, without masking anything. That is something I hope to do at my new place."
New York-style pizza is an umbrella term, hints Krystal, who regularly updates his Instagram with photos of his pizza prowess. "There are several styles of pizza that come out of New York. The first is the real old school, coal-fired stuff from the turn of the century, made by immigrants from Naples. It's beautiful, but I don't have a coal oven. Then there is the Sicilian square pizza, that I will sometimes do as a special. To make that right, a lot has to do with how long the dough has fermented at room temperature, and how long it is cooked before it is topped. But when it is right it's almost like what you wish those tomato bakery pizzas were, but are not, if that makes any sense? And, finally, the classic New York slice. It's big and floppy, but the toppings don't all run off. It's thin, but slightly crispy, still fluffy, and with just a hint of chew. The toppings are sparse, but not minimalist like in Naples. That is ideal, but, unfortunately, somewhere along the way the quality of the ingredients went downhill. I'd like to change that at my restaurant."
When Krystal's Griffintown pizzeria opens, expect 14" pies, rather than the classic 18". "It gives you a slice that you really have to fold. The toppings are all much higher quality than you typically find. There are only going to be six pizzas on the menu, two of which will change on a regular basis. One is a pizza of the day, the other will have a different kind of cured meat. When New York-style pizza is done right, it can be better than most of the places out there that are calling themselves Neapolitan today."