The basic feeling in Brooklyn is that there's already a pizza saturation, that we're going to keep trying to reinvent the wheel to the point that it becomes square again, that the last thing we need is another adorable little hipster pizza joint with funny toppings. . . but no one's saying that about Emily in Clinton Hill. Made famous by its crowd-sourced pizza oven funded via a Kickstarter campaign led by Emily herself for longtime pizza chef/owner/husband Matt Hyland, Emily is an adorable little hipster pizza joint on a quiet street next to an equally adorable bar (Hanson Dry) that's really enjoying the nightly crowd of people needing someplace to spend the half-hour wait to get in for a pie. It's candlelit and packed tight with tables for two, and the service is the sort that lets you know the staff has a real interest in this place succeeding, partly because Emily is providing a lot of it.
The menu is full of fresh pasta (spaghetti with kale pesto, lemon poppy ricotta cavatelli) and small plates (Korean fried pig ears, Fernet & lavender cured trout) that make the restaurant more of a general Italian eatery than just a pizzeria. I tried the crispy Brussels sprouts with apples, chilis, black sesame, and fish sauce and found it all very complex with its notes of sweetness and funk. But the reason to visit Emily is the pizza crust. It's light. It's airy. It's crisp, but it's also chewy. In short, it's exactly what you want the crust to be when you think of NYC wood-fired pizza but almost never is. This is the crust of dreams, the kind you still reminisce about days and weeks after you've eaten it, the kind that makes other crusts seem flat and cardboardy and disappointing.
The pizza menu is divided into those with red sauce and those without and ranges from very classic (the Classic is red sauce, mozzarella, and basil) to the Midwestern at heart (the Camp Randall is red sauce, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and cheese curds) to vitamin-minded (the Angelina is fontina, ricotta, lemon, and kale). Brunch has weekend-appropriate options in the way of pizzas, like the Not-A-Bagel with cured trout, crema, onion, and an everything bagel sprinkle, or the North Maple, with fontina, mozzarella, bacon, pecans, and maple syrup. I tried the Colony, unable to resist the call of red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pickled chilis, and honey. The pizza wasn't at all what I expected, but what it was was this perfectly-balanced pie where neither the spiciness of the jalapenos nor the sweetness of the honey overcame the other. What I thought would be a mess of conflicting flavors was harmony and bliss on homemade mozzarella.
A giant, gooey, sloppy s'mores calzone was the star of the dessert menu. Mine was on the house because I happened to mention to Emily that I'm her neighbor, but I was already planning to order it (and had been from the moment I read the menu weeks before). It was that same handmade crust, stuffed with so much marshmallow, chocolate, and graham cracker crumbs that my dinner date and I had spilled enough onto our plates by the end of it to make an entire second calzone.
There really are so many pizzerias in NYC that you leave most of them saying, "Yep, that was pizza." I left Emily saying, "Now THAT was pizza."
– Katie Ett, donuts4dinner.com