The renowned old-school pizzeria is operating two concession stands in the famous arena
Though he spent years cooking big meals for friends and family, Paul Giannone (1974 Photography) knew that if he were to start a restaurant after a long career in IT consulting, he had to hit "a home run," he says. In 2010 he opened Paulie Gee's, a Neapolitan-inspired pizzeria in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. Rave reviews, crowds and licensing agreements with pizza-makers in Baltimore, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, followed. But Giannone—who spends nearly all of his time at work, greeting diners and fussing over details ("The restaurant is my life," he says)—resisted expanding on his own until last year, when he opened Paulie Gee's Slice Shop.
Located around the corner from the original Paulie Gee's, the Slice Shop sells more traditional New York pizza, optimized for takeout—since, as Giannone says, "there is no better smell than the smell of pizza on the cardboard takeout box." The Slice Shop resembles a small corner spot upon entering, much like the "little half-pizzerias," he recalls from his Brooklyn childhood. But past the counter is an eat-in restaurant with wood paneling, green barstools, orange bench seating and a glass garage-style door that floods the room with light. A shrine to Giannone's beloved New York Yankees, the space is decked out with vintage team memorabilia. Giannone carefully curates the music—no contemporary pop—and plays it audibly to add to the old-school ambiance.
Popular menu items include the Freddy Prince, a square slice that Eater called "required eating for NYC slice connoisseurs"; the Mootz, one of the "best white slices in NYC," according to Adam Kuban, founder of the pizza blog Slice (now part of Serious Eats); and the Hellboy, topped with pepperoni and Mike's Hot Honey. (The widely sold condiment, created by former employee Mike Kurtz, was originally produced in the Paulie Gee's kitchen.) These slices have earned the pizzeria high praise—it is #9 on Time Out New York's "100 Best Restaurants in New York Right Now," and topped its "Absolute Best Pizza in NYC" list last spring.
Now, a little over a year after opening the Slice Shop, Giannone is going for the third feat in his hat trick: he recently announced that his lauded slices are being sold at Madison Square Garden during Rangers and Knicks games (two New York teams that Giannone roots for), concerts and other events taking place in the arena. Two full-service concession stands (one behind Section 116 and one behind Section 224) serve most of the Slice Shop's slices: plain cheese, pepperoni, the Freddy Prince, the Hellboy and Hellboy^2 (a square version of the typically triangular slice) and, soon, the Vegan Vidalia. Giannone is "excited at how friggin' good" the slices are at this off-site location and is hoping to open a third stand at "MSGee" soon.
Did he hit the home run he'd aimed for? "Yeah," Giannone says. "Grand slam!"
A version of this article appears in the fall/winter 2019 Visual Arts Journal.