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Lost Gem
Zillions Pizza 8121 Pizza undefined

Zillions Pizza

Move over dollar slices! There’s a new Hell’s Kitchen pizza place that tastes like a zillion bucks. Head to W42nd Street, where the team that brought you Steak Frites Bistro is now tossing up marquee-worthy slices at Zillions Pizza. Zillions soft opened last Friday and is already experiencing a busy first few days of business on W42nd Street (just east of 9th Avenue), where they serve up classic pizza flavors and limited edition new specials like the Buffalo Barbecue combo slice and the “Hot Damn”, comprising Italian sausage, fresh ricotta and mozzarella, garlic, chili flakes and habanero honey and fresh breadcrumbs. The people behind the pizzas are restaurateurs Adam Schop and Stéphane Bibeau of 9th Avenue’s Steak Frites Bistro, who have joined forces with the expertise of “Chief Pizza Officer” Bobby Hellen to realize a longtime dream of bringing top-notch flavor to the humble Midtown slice joint. “Adam and I met when I first came to New York, and we’ve been friends ever since, ” said Bobby. The pair frequently crossed paths with their East Village ventures, the (now closed) GG’s and Miss Lily’s 7A Café before deciding to collaborate on a new concept. “French Bistro is close to his heart and I’ve mostly been involved with pizza, ” said Bobby, “So this came together pretty organically. ” When it came to choosing a location, “we went to all the best pizza places around Midtown – Sacco’s, John’s – and there’s a nice little pocket here, ” said Adam of the space for an upmarket slice shop amid the many dollar joints of W42nd Street. “Pizza is near and dear to many, many people and we saw the chance to capture that nostalgic New York pizza counter the way you remember it. ” “It’s all about Times Square – this is closest we can get to Times Square without being on Broadway, ” said Stéphane, who added that they were building on the already historical legacy of the block – including the last vestige of the area’s “Deuce”-era, the shuttered, infamous and potentially haunted pay-by-the-hour Elk Hotel. “We hope the ghosts stay away, ” laughed Adam, “but maybe that will generate a whole new inquiry about this place. ”To create their signature space, the team worked with Brooklyn-based creative agency Farewell NYC to design a modern take on the old school pizza counter. In addition to the requisite plexiglass pie shelf and soda cases, the pizzeria features cheery yellow accents, letterboard price signage, plans for a Polaroid customer photo wall and a standout marquee that evokes the W42nd Street signage of the 1970s and 1980s. “Stranger Things called, they said they want to use our location, ” joked Adam. And that nostalgia goes for the taste as well. “Bobby did an anthropology dig into New York City pizza, looking at different formulas of the dough and ratios of sauce and cheese, ” said Adam. “We tried to recreate the nostalgic childhood feeling of a slice of pizza that’s thin and crispy with salty cheese. ” It’s “our version” of a classic New York slice, said Bobby. Zillions has their own signature cheese blend, sauce blend and a 24-hour fermented dough. “Everything comes from a bread baking technique, ” he added, after experimenting with different flour ratios and mixes to perfect the Zillions slice. “We’re chefs first, ” said Bobby. “We season everything on every level – not too much, but not under seasoned either. ” Adam added, “We’re super keen on predictable outcomes. ”They hope their perfect pizza formula will attract customers as varied as W42nd Street itself – from tourists to local students to late night partiers in search of a superior slice. The team is also aware that they’re sandwiched between two cannabis smoke shops, knowing they may beckon to more than a few folks who come in with the munchies. “It’s like a Seinfeld episode, ” laughed Adam, as Bobby added: “You walk to the left, get hungry and come back here, and then you walk out, forget where you are and come back again! ” The Zillions team also hopes to reach a base of loyal Hell’s Kitchen regulars with a soon-to-be-implemented delivery service. “We want to offer a really quality product for locals, ” added Stéphane, who has lived in the neighborhood for the greater part of 40 years. For now, they’re having a blast perfecting their pies and developing a rapport with neighbors as the newest go-to slice joint. “It’s really such a cross-section, ” said Bobby. “You meet all kinds of people! ” Zillions Pizza is located at 360 W42nd Street between 8th and 9th Avenue and is open every day from 11am. The closing hours will be updated, but for now they are “open late! ” This article originally appeared on W42ST. nyc

More places on 42nd Street

Lost Gem
Chez Josephine 1 Brunch French undefined

Chez Josephine

Manuel Uzhca's story reads like a fairytale. He came to New York from Ecuador when he was seventeen with absolutely nothing to his name and spent time as a dishwasher in a number of restaurants. He met Jean-Claude Baker when both were working at Pronto, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. In 2011, Jean-Claude offered Manuel the position of manager at Chez Josephine — little did Manuel know that only four years later, the restaurant would belong to him. Manuel still recalls the day that Jean-Claude asked him to bring in his passport. Confused by his request, Manuel chose not to comply. Jean-Claude teased Manuel by saying, “If you don't bring your passport, that means you don't want my restaurant. ” The next day, still perplexed, Manuel presented his passport. Jean-Claude marched the two of them to the bank and added Manuel's name to his account, giving him permission to sign checks for the restaurant. Shortly after, Jean-Claude announced that he was retiring, but Manuel did not take him seriously. Jean-Claude then told him that he was leaving and insisted, “I won't be back. ” Jean-Claude proceeded to his attorney's office, changed his will, and went off to the Hamptons. He called Manuel to make sure that everything was in order at the restaurant, and then, very sadly, Jean-Claude took his own life. “I did not believe I owned the place, not even when they showed me the will, ” Manuel declared. Jean-Claude was the last of the children adopted into singer-dancer Josephine Baker’s “Rainbow Tribe, ” created with a mission of racial harmony. He lived and performed with her for a time before making his way to New York and eventually opening this restaurant. It quickly became a haven for Broadway clientele, known for its charming and colorful ambiance as much as its haute cuisine. Since taking over in 2015, Manuel has continued running this famed French restaurant exactly how Jean-Claude left it — paying homage to Josephine Baker, who captured the Parisian imagination in the 1920s and did not let go for decades.