Dino’s is the latest project of Delancey co-owner and pizzaiolo Brandon Pettit, a pizza scholar who knows from wet dough and dry ovens. Pettit also believes in the righteousness of char—the black blisters of crust and topping which are badges of honor back East. I’ve sampled a thick-crusted Sicilian pie at Dino’s which did that tradition proud—its fresh and aged mozzarella cheeses cauterized to maximum swoon, its uncommonly bright sauce topped with generous fistfuls of Grana Padano, all atop a crust whose proximity to fire had caramelized its sugars to transporting complexity. That’s what good char does for pizza.
And what Dino’s cooks sometimes bring off.
Contrary to the opinion of a lot of folks, Dino’s problem isn’t the char—it’s the inconsistency. Because here in Pettit’s intentionally crafted dive at Denny and Olive, whose deep booths and long bar pay homage to the pizza taverns of his native New Jersey, I’ve also sampled a Sicilian square with richly caramelized onions and Zoe’s bacon (toppings are first rate)—and whose black crust crumbled to bitter ash in my mouth.
You can choose thick (square) or thin (round) crust, by the pie or the slice, even delivery. A shareable salad with arugula and fennel ribbons makes a pert companion. And though staffers have been known to lecture disappointed diners that “it’s supposed to be burnt,” Pettit insists that if a pizza lands too far north of the artful scorch, they’ll redo it.
At Dino’s, in short, you take your chances. And though I’ll be taking whatever chance I get to relive that first extraordinary Sicilian cheese—I wouldn’t blame a single burned diner for choosing otherwise.