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$20 Dinner

Funzi’s Pizzeria Brings Top-Tier Slices to St. Marks Place

The East Village gets some terrific NYC pizza, plus a chill porch to hang out on while you wolf it down.

Slices of burrata, pepperoni, and chicory pizza from Funzi's Pizzeria in New York City.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Kevin Cox, the owner of Funzi's Pizzeria, which just opened on the busiest stretch of St. Marks Place, is the first to admit that making great pizza is really fucking hard.      

"I've opened a lot of restaurants over the last 11 years here in NYC, but it's been primarily burger places and Japanese food places," Cox told Hell Gate. "Pizza is much more difficult. There are so many variables that go into making dough the correct way, and making it consistent throughout the year, as the humidity rises, the temperature changes."

Burrata and pepperoni slices, $4.99 each. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

That's where chef James Jaworski comes in. Cox met Jaworski when he was looking at a location in Williamsburg—a deal that fell through when another pizzeria opened right across the street—and was blown away by his pies. "After I tasted chef James's food, I knew that we could do something special," he said. So when the St. Marks spot opened up, Cox pounced.

Outside of Funzi's. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Jaworski has a strong pizza pedigree. He worked at the Italian restaurant Pasquale Jones right after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, and then with Massimo Laveglia at the great L'Industrie Pizzeria, before joining Cox in the East Village. And, it turns out, he delivers—the pizza at Funzi's is terrific, instantly snagging the joint a spot in the top tier of NYC slice shops. 

The burrata slice, for example, is a worthy replica of what you'd get at L'Industrie—a straight-up gooey, creamy, salty, sexy delight. The pepperoni slice rules as well, all chewy and cheesy and funky. It also showcases the structural integrity of Jaworski's pizza: These are classic NYC folds, with a tangy crust that's just firm and crisp enough to hold the toppings with authority.

Burrata slice, $4.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
Pepperoni slice, a classic NYC fold, $4.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The sleeper hit at Funzi's, and one of the best things I've eaten this year, is the chicory slice, which Jaworski makes with fresh dandelion greens, a lovely dandelion cream, and a whole mess of bacon lardons on top, served with a slice of lemon on the side for squirting. It's a journey for sure, and it's delicious.  

Chicory and lardon slice, $4.99. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Other pizza choices include plain cheese, tomato (no cheese) and white (no tomato). Jaworski also messes around with a bunch of different fried pasta dishes, which are served crackling on the outside and molten within. The fried lasagna I had over the Fourth of July weekend was decent, and I'm stoked to try his cacio e pepe. There are a couple of ancillary dishes as well: a garlicky tangle of sautéed greens, and an enormous, juicy Caesar salad with enough anchovies to keep the party popping.

Caesar salad, $12. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Beverage choices are limited to Coke and Manhattan Special coffee soda, which always hits with a lot more strength and bitterness than I remember. For dessert, there's icebox cake in rotating flavors—I had vanilla soaked pineapple with coconut—that eats like a mound of whipped cream.  

Pineapple coconut icebox cake, $7. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

As for the space, it's wild. Its vibe is distinctly retro—Cox calls the style "Americana"—but it's so packed with random stuff that it's tough to pin it down to any specific era or sensibility. A framed illustration of eyelash-batting seals hangs next to a print of the Mona Lisa, which is next to an action shot of Michael Jordan (what, were there no posters of Reggie Miller lying around?), which is near a corny-ass tableau of an old ad where a vaguely leery man holds a drill adjacent to a shot of a bared breast.

Not sure how I feel about all that, and I know I'm not a fan of the American flags, plural, flying outside (there's also what Cox described as a "bro hang" room downstairs, which, okay), but at least Funzi's front porch is chill, and comes complete with benches, lawn chairs, a fan, various props, and a fine view of the passing parade that is business as usual on St. Marks.  

Porch life at Funzi's. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"We usually have either really funky opera playing out here, or rockabilly, kind of untraditional for St. Marks," Cox told me as I sat munching my slices. "Sitting out here is the most fun part of this for me, being able to interact with people. New Yorkers really don't care, they'll just come right up and be like, 'What the heck are you doing? Is this performance art?'" 

Funzi's, by the way, is named after Cox's son. 

Funzi's Pizzeria is located at 36 St. Marks Place, between Second and Third Avenues, and is currently open daily from noon to 10 p.m.

Chef Jaworski taking a moment to hang some more decor. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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