i love pizza. i’ve always loved pizza. it was a weekly staple in my house growing up, and a regular part of our late-night routines after going out in college.
and for the past 5+ years, i can count on 1-2 fingers the amount of time i let myself eat it in a year.

when i decided to change my eating habits a few years ago and embark on a “eat as healthy as possible at all times” lifestyle, i knew a few things just had to go, and pizza was one of them. i know this seems crazy, as the “all things in moderation” mantra works for most people, but i made the executive decision that pizza must be banished from my diet.

it seems nearly blasphemous to reject pizza living in NYC, supposedly the home of the best pizza in the country, but i can honestly say that it doesn’t even tempt me. the only time i’ve had pizza since i moved here was on Jess’ birthday dinner in January, when i took her to Mario Batali’s Otto and we ordered a Margherita, which she asserted was just like the pizzas in Italy: thin crust, lots of smooth sauce, and slices of fresh mozarella. it was totally delicious, and exactly how i like my pizza (pile on the sauce, please).

so when my friend Chelsea decided she wanted to celebrate her first NYC birthday at the Artichoke in Chelsea (17th St. and 10th Ave), i figured i could splurge again and limit my pizza-eating to friends’ special birthday shindigs. and i have to say — from start to finish, this place was really great. i had a blast.

a big crew of us gathered to celebrate lovely Miss Chelsea’s birthday.

Chelsea & Carter

i don’t think any of us had been there, and it was a cute little sit-down pizza place with a lively atmosphere and a friendly vibe. the wait staff was great and accommodated our big party by setting up a table in the back, and we liked how we could look into the kitchen and watch the pizza-makers at work a-twirling.

a few of the girls, meshing together Orange County, Seattle, Upstate NY (yes, i know, boring comparatively!) & San Diego:

“We can take another if you want to smile, Shawna…”

then there was the food.

we started w/ some breadstick (unphotographed, but let me say, their marinara sauce was fab) & a stuffed artichoke (we had to try their namesake dishes!) with breadcrumbs, parsley & pignoli nuts,

Stuffed Artichoke

and then moved on to three (yes, we ordered way too much) huge pizzas:

the Margherita (olive oil, plum tomato, fresh basil and a blend of cheeses),

mmmm Margherita

the Artichoke (artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozarella & pecorino romano cheese… basically a heart attack on a silver platter), which was like an artichoke dip pizza,


and a Meatball Parm Pie that went unphotoed. as i’ve mentioned before, i’m a biased blogger…so i just said no to the meat pix.

i tried a little of the Stuffed Artichoke (tasty, but i don’t think i could eat more than a few bites), a little of the breadstick & sauce (really good), and had a half a slice of the Margherita pizza…which might be the best pizza i’ve ever had in my life. yes, it’s quite possible that i just haven’t had pizza in a long time so i was blown away, but it’s also more possible that this pizza was seriously amazing. & i’m going with that.

the funniest part of the evening ensued when one of the cooks (we happened to be sitting right next to the kitchen) saw me taking a bunch of pictures and came over to our table with a clean apron in hand, motioning for me to get up and go to him. being an obedient girl, i complied, wondering if i was getting in trouble for stealing the secrets of the Artichoke pizza-making by documenting them on a camera phone.

nope, he didn’t yell at me. instead, this happened:

new career, day 1.

he put me to work!

yes, that’s right guys, you’re looking at the newest pizza maker at Artichoke! (notice the speed of my hands as compared to his…clearly, i have a looooot to learn. but at least i was the best dressed pie crafter…that’s gotta count for something, no?)

can i tell you how much fun this was? he admitted he had been hoping to embarrass me, but clearly that back-fired, because i loved every second of it (and probably hammed it up a lot more than he was anticipating), and a group of my friends crowded around the glass to take pictures and cheer me on. it was a pretty unforgettable moment for a non-pizza-eating pizza-lover.

first we spread out the dough,

so you just want me to play with this, like play-dough, right?

then he showed me how to break up and arrange the cheese (two different kinds),

how's the apron look? cute, right?

stopping to pause for pictures along the way, of course…

and then we ladled on the sauce.

please, i’m trying to concentrate here.
i opted to skip the whole “throw the dough in the air” step, and he actually had already spread out a pizza dough for me to top with cheese & sauce…but he put this pizza right in the oven just the way i’d created it, so i feel kiiinda special about my once-in-a-lifetime experience as a guest chef at Artichoke.
“are people really going to eat this pie?” i asked as he slid it into the oven, and he smiled.
“oh definitely,” he said. “it’s going next door to the guys at 1 Oak.”
so, guys at 1 Oak — if you just happened to have the best Margherita pizza from Artichoke of your life last night, well…you’re welcome.
we had a fabulous time at Artichoke and were super impressed with both the food and the service (not to mention the level of FUN!). needless to say, it was awarded a “two thumbs-up” by all.

can you duck, please? this is now my kitchen.

hope you had a fabulous birthday, Chels! and thanks for picking such a fun spot.