Is Artichoke The Shake Shack of New York Pizza?

Artichoke Basille's Grandma Slice, On A Good Day

Forget the sloppy, gloppy, artichoke-dip-on-a-crust signature slice from Artichoke Basille's. Forget, even, their excellent-if-too-thick regular slices. It's the square pie that has us going back for more. Oily, crisp, and nearly deep-fried on the bottom with a triple play of cheese—a layer of Polly-O aged mozz on the bottom, dots of fresh mozzarella on top, and a dusting of Pecorino Romano after they leave the oven—they're cooked to a deep char with fresh tomato sauce and plenty of basil, garlic, and olive oil.

On a good day, they're sublime. On a bad day, they can border on too greasy and crisp without enough chew, but are still worth a bite. Ask for a corner slice to get an extra helping of the crisp, nearly blackened shreds of cheese that come in contact with the edges of the pan.

Artichoke: 328 East 14th Street, New York NY 10003 (b/n First and Second avenues; map); 212-228-2004;

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Eater just published a no-holds-barred smackdown of Artichoke Basille's $5-a-slice pizza over on his blog. To quote:

Let's together agree on what Artichoke is. It's like Shake Shack, really, if instead of perfect burgers, Shake Shack's headline offering was huge piles of melted butter and cream on tasteless crackers.


Indeed, Artichoke is Shake Shack insomuch people are willing to wait on massive lines for three to five minutes of gustatory bliss. Although -- sorry one more point of comparison -- at Shake Shack there is a payoff and at Artichoke the only post-game emotion is the empty feeling that you have gotten a little fatter for no good reason.

He goes on to mention that the Staten Island Slice is actually worth the money, but immediately continues by pointing out that "if you disagree with what's being said here, you need to take a good long hard look at yourself. You do not know pizza like you think you do. That's sad, but fixable. Go to Ben's, have a $3 slice, call me and tell me I'm wrong."

I didn't call him, but I did think he's wrong and pointed it out to him over on Twitter. Here's how the exchange went down:

  • @TheFoodLab: I... disagree with you, buddy. Artichoke might not be $5 good, but it's still really good. also not fair to compare artichoke pizza to a NY slice. different beast/different needs. 1 craving doesn't satisfy the other.

@BenLeventhal: What craving does Artichoke satisfy, exactly?

@TheFoodLab: The craving for foldable, holdable olive-oil-y, slightly charred lasagna. Also - their grandma slices are very good. One of the best in the city, I'd even say.

@BenLeventhal: Don't start w that, sir. Grandma slice isn't even in the conversation. Unless 10 Cars water crackers stacked is your thing.

@TheFoodLab: 20 deliciously olive oil-soaked carrs crackers w/ crusty charred cheese, yes. I am with you that the crusts there could use more chew. But it's still a pretty damn big slice for $5

@BenLeventhal: Size matters why?

@TheFoodLab: If you're calling them out on a value proposition, size definitely matters.

@BenLeventhal: I'm calling them out on the proposition top to bottom. If I want two slices, I'll buy two slices.

@TheFoodLab: point is that what artichoke serves isn't NY-style pizza, so comparing the two is utterly pointless.

That's the end of the online dustup thus far and I appreciate Ben's defense of the good old fashioned New York slice—it's what I grew up on, after all—but I stand strongly by my words: Artichoke's pizza is absolutely not good New York pizza, but it does its own thing in an extremely tasty way. Comparing a thick, crunchy olive-oily, lightly charred, Pecorino-dusted slice of Artichoke's pizza to the crisp, pliant, industrial-grade mozzarella, bright-sauced New York pizza of Ben's is a pointless comparison to make. They don't really compete in the same sphere.

Either way, it's a fun read and an interesting take on the line-up-for-anything culture in New York.

I know there's a lot of mixed opinion about Artichoke out there, so tell me what you think: Artichoke, yay or nay?