April 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Railroad Pizza: From Cuts to Slices

Levi Aronow is a barber. He went to school to be a barber. He owns The Railroad Barber (409 Troy Avenue) in Crown Heights. As you might expect of a successful barber, Aronow decided to expand his brand. But unlike most barbers, he decided to expand his brand to include … pizza.

And this isn’t the kind of pizza you can find on every street corner. This is high-quality Neapolitan-style pizza that’s made fresh to order. The crust is crisp and paper thin, the sauces are made fresh, the cheese is melted perfectly, and you don’t have to be waited on in a fancy dairy restaurant to get it.

But how did Aronow go from cutting hair to stretching dough?

It started slowly at first. His brother, Tzemach, had been making his own pizza at home in Israel for friends. During COVID, both brothers relocated to Florida and started Dunwell Pizza Co. as a kind of food truck that eventually hit the road and did catering for parties. When Levi Aronow returned to Brooklyn, he decided to open a brick-and-mortar place that made the same style pizza. Personal pies only, high-quality ingredients, and great flavors.

As much as the pizza itself differs from its standard New York-style counterpart, it’s arguable that Railroad resembles your average pizza place even less. First of all, the menu is small. So small that you could walk in and somebody behind the counter could explain everything to you in 30 seconds or less.

Alfredo Pie with Roasted Garlic, Jalapeno, and Dates.

Second, there’s no register for that person behind the counter to use. In fact, they can’t even really take your order. For that you’ll have to use one of the kiosks or order online. Want to order over the phone? Not an option because they don’t have a phone.

“If you have to call and ask a question, then we haven’t made it easy enough,” said Aronow about the unique model. “Our goal is simplicity.”

The third difference you’re likely to notice is the machines. There’s an electric dough press, an automated fryer, and two countertop pizza ovens. Once you order, your pizza is constructed in about 90 seconds, it’s in the oven for about 90 seconds, and then it’s all yours.

Pesto Pie with Kalamata Olives and Feta

When I was invited to Railroad, I sampled everything they had to offer. The menu consists of three types of pizza, three types of fries, and two types of zeppoli.

The pizza types are divided by sauce. There’s a pie with San Marzano tomato sauce, one with pesto sauce, and an inventive pie with alfredo sauce. The pesto and alfredo pies have “recommended” toppings, but you can also select for yourself if you wish.

Even the plain pie is fantastic. It’s every bit the quality you might get in a nice dairy restaurant, but it costs just $14 (and there’s a combo option that adds fries and a drink for $20). The pesto pie comes with feta and kalamata olives and will give you a real taste of Greece. Lastly, the alfredo pie comes with a roasted garlic jalapeño chutney and dates. The balance of the creaminess, sweetness, and spicy kick really come together nicely.

Plain Fries

The fries come plain (sea salt), seasoned (a non-spicy house blend) or truffle (parmesan cheese to go along with the truffle oil). The texture is unsurprisingly flawless due to the automated fryer. My favorite was the truffle, but if that’s not your thing, both of the others were superb as well.

The zeppoli are interestingly made of the exact same dough as the pizza crust (more streamlining!) and with good reason. Back when Levi was working with Dunwell, they made churros as a dessert option. At one event, they faced a crowd with a big sweet tooth and ran out of churro dough. But with plenty of pizza dough and cinnamon sugar topping left, they improvised.

San Marzano Tomato Pie

Railroad offers both cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar as choices, and you really can’t go wrong. Also using the automated fryer, the result is a fritter that you can’t have just one of.

Having opened multiple locations in Crown Heights in less than a year, Aronow’s goal was to prove his business model. Each location is small, but many orders are takeout or delivery. His most recent spot took six weeks from the time he got the keys until the time he opened the doors. Most restaurants would take six months in a heartbeat. Each location needs two employees (one making food, the other manning the oven), with a third only necessary in the busiest of times.

Sesasoned Fries.

Trying to bring Neapolitan-style wpizza to the masses for an affordable price is only really possible because of the business model. The fact that every order is filled so quickly means that everything can be made fresh and people aren’t waiting for long. That translates to virtually zero food waste. Given rising costs, that’s a massive savings that the business is able to pass down to the customer. Using high-quality ingredients is much easier to justify when almost nothing is going in the garbage.

Aronow is looking for investors to spread Railroad’s brand throughout the tri-state area, so it might be only a matter of time until there’s a Railroad location near you.

Truffle Fries

Railroad Pizza

Dairy—Counter Service

Sunday-Thursday: Noon-10.p.m.

Friday: 11a.m.-3 p.m.

Saturday: 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m.

Zeppolis with Cinnamon Sugar

587 Empire Boulevard

227 Kingston Avenue

857 East New York Avenue

Brooklyn, NY

 

Railroad.pizza

Beis Din of Crown Heights Vaad Hakashrus (CHK)

Zeppolis with Powdered Sugar

Nati Burnside is a freelance writer living in Fair Lawn and is a man of many interests. He can be reached at [email protected].

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