During most of my lifetime, the downtown-to-Mid-City stretch of Tulane Avenue looked faded and forlorn, dominated by low-rent motels, faded office buildings, and the bail bonds operations clustered around the criminal courthouse at Tulane and Broad. Post-Katrina, new residential and commercial developments dot the Avenue, giving the neighborhood a transitional feel and a bit more foot traffic.
Pizzicare, the newest pizza endeavor by Jeff Baron and Bart Bell (also of Crescent Sausage and Pie and the Dough Bowl) sits right in the middle of Tulane Avenue’s renaissance. (Step through the doors and you’ll forget that you can’t make a left turn for practially a mile along Tulane.) White marble countertops, metal chairs, and a wrap-around, glass-front pizza case give Pizzicare (3001 Tulane Avenue) a modern look and feel.
The pies are thin-crust, New York style, with enough crunch and structure to make a Northeasterner happy. At lunch, four or five specialty pizzas are available by the slice in addition to the whole pies, along with garlic knots, calzones, and pizza sticks. (See the whole menu here.) I sampled a spinach/artichoke/black olive slice, which was a tad salty (a switch to oil-cured olives rather than brine-cured ones might tame the salinity), but with an impeccable crust. It reminded me of the Dough Bowl’s best days, and, like the Dough Bowl’s pizza, the reheated slice developed an appealing crispy texture. In addition to typical toppings, Pizzicare’s specialty pies feature Crescent Sausage’s andouille, pancetta and brussels sprouts, breaded chicken and broccoli rabe, and a pepper pie combining peppadews, jalapenos, poblanos, and sausage.
Pepperoni sticks, an intriguingly named appetizer, turned out to be pepperoni strips encased in dough, baked until crisp, and sprinkled with Italian seasoning. Served with a cup of marinara (though Baron intends eventually to offer nacho cheese as a dipping sauce), the pizza sticks were crazy good, greasy, and addictive: the distilled essence of American-style pepperoni pizza. If you’re the sort of person who steals pepperoni off of other people’s slices and mooches uneaten crust edges from your dining companions, then the pepperoni stick just might rank as your new, most favorite food.
While the idea of the pepperoni stick may sound like it emerged from a fast-food test kitchen or Sysco product development meeting, the sticks are anything but mass produced. As of yesterday, the sticks were handmade to order, with a wonderfully irregular shape and varied texture caused by the pepperoni’s tendency to split out of the dough.
Pizzicare’s only been open since the 11th, so it’s still a work in progress. Still, the important things are in place: quality ingredients and an excellent crust. If you’re craving a New York slice, hurry on over.