The deconstructed, neo-industrial, well-graffitied space says, in an accent that betrays its hipster roots, “We’re putting all our passion in our pies. We don’t have time or space for anything else.”
And that is just fine with us. We don’t care if the nonchalant design cost Chef/Owner David DiBari every penny he had or next to nothing—we’re there for the pies. Besides, this is DiBari’s modus operandi: The décor at The Cookery, the four-star Dobbs Ferry restaurant that established him as the edgy, talented darling of the Westchester food scene, is also anti-fussy, though less stridently so.
The Parlor started as a food truck called DoughNation. DiBari says he wanted to share his love of pizza with the community; he drove the truck to farmers’ markets and private parties, spreading love with toppings like fontina and green tomato jam, Nutella with raspberry powder and marshmallows, and the more classic Margherita. Hungry customers enthusiastically formed long lines, despite his sign warning them against asking for any customization. (The sign reads: “There are absolutely no substitutions—don’t ask * No, you can’t have extra anything. * You can’t have half pie this, half pie that.* You can’t have it extra-crispy.* You can’t hold anything unless you are allergic. And then I will need to see a doctor’s note.”) DiBari’s pizza was a hit, either despite his “the customer does not come first” attitude or maybe because of it. And so the road led him back to Dobbs Ferry, to build a brick-and-mortar pizza place on Cedar Street.
And there we sat, on salvaged school chairs at wooden tables lit by bare bulbs, amidst hipsters and moms, drinking wine from a tap. We watched two tweens intensely discussing a phone call during which it was revealed that someone liked someone else—while deftly snipping slices of pizza with the shears provided with every pie for the task.
It begins with the crust, which is neither thin nor thick, but hits the sweet spot in between that has enough heft to hold all manner of topping, but does not force itself into center stage. The crust is chewy with a slight, soft doughiness in the thickest spots. Best of all, it is mottled with pocks of char that give it hints of smoky, warm, burnt-toast flavor.
But crusts can be turned—put them in the company of a nefarious topping, and they move to the dark side. No matter how good that topping may be on its own, without balance between it and its topping, the pizza is just cooked dough with stuff on it.
It is unlikely DiBari would let that happen. Whether or not you happen to like the flavor combinations, the pizza toppings—from lightest to most hearty—all fit well with the crust. Among the lightest was the arugula, garlic, and mozzarella with an anchovy vinaigrette. As was the case with several toppings, this was on the salty side—but that is to be expected when one orders anything with anchovy vinaigrette.
The cacio e pepe pie was also quite salty, but, in this case, our table unanimously felt it was a little overwhelming, although we all liked it enough to keep eating. True to the dish on which the idea is based, the crust was topped with lots of Parmesan and pecorino, garlic, and a nice hit of black pepper—the latter of which had enough heat to help balance some, but not quite enough, of the saltiness.
Many of the pies we tried were specials, and the menu is constantly changing. So we’ll tell you about the potato, pepper, and egg pizza, which we would order again and again, but there is no guarantee it will still be on the menu when you go. (You can only hope.) This pie was similar to one we’ve had in Albuquerque made with local hatch chilies and sold as “breakfast pizza.” Thin slices of potato and roasted mild peppers cover the surface and a gently cooked egg, its yolk just begging to be burst open, sits in the center. The pay-off, of course, is the yolk running in small rivers across the pizza, dressing each bite with thick, yellow creaminess.
If the potato, pepper, and egg pie is beguiling, the clam pizza is racy. Tender, briny clams are tempered ever so slightly by a hint of lemon, and then exploited with chili flakes. This may be the clam pizza that gives Frank Pepe’s a run for its money.
House-made sausage and roasted broccoli with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella is a classic, robustly flavorful, and hearty combination that was perfect on a cold winter night. While the pies are all supposed to be individual, we could easily see this as a satisfying meal for two. We preferred the sausage to the house-smoked pepperoni; in the pepperoni, the smoke dominated the flavors of the meat.
The Parlor offers tasty starters and a few desserts as well. Given the choice, we’ll stick with starters, like the uber-creamy house-made burrata, whose nearly liquid center was brought back to earth by nutty and slightly bitter shaved Brussels sprouts; the woodsy oysters, cooked in the pizza oven and topped with browned butter and pickled herbs; or the strategically charred roasted broccoli with frisée. The much-talked-about parlor pocket—pizza dough encasing a soft-boiled egg and ricotta—sounded and looked far more interesting than it tasted.
One good dessert stood above the others: a creamy, salted-caramel panna cotta with bacon crumble hit the balance of salty, smoky, and sweet right where we live, but a cannoli cake ball was pasty and dull and a bacon-oatmeal cookie was burned at the edges and tasted mostly of bacon fat.
But we weren’t there for dessert—we were there for the pies. Those pies that we keep thinking about and talking about; the pies we’ll come back for.