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New midtown pizzeria Upside looks to elevate the standard slice

It collaborated with Roberta's founding pizza maker for its pies, set in a throwback vibe.

Upside Pizza makes a variety of Sicilian and

Upside Pizza makes a variety of Sicilian and round pies using 100 percent naturally leavened dough. Photo Credit: Molly Tavoletti

For pizza, the area around the Port Authority is mostly populated by the dollar slice. But one shop is looking to elevate the grab-and-go experience.

Upside Pizza opened this month at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 39th Street, with Roberta’s founding pizza maker behind the pies.

Since leaving the Bushwick pizzeria, Anthony Falco has become an “international pizza consultant,” working with restaurants across the globe. Upside, founded by Noam Grossman (previously of Dig Inn and B. Good), approached him on Instagram — “which is where I get almost all of my consulting inquiries from,” Falco said — about collaborating on a 1990s-inspired slice joint.

“I loved the idea of a throwback slice shop, but the thing I love to hear from a prospective client is that they want to be the best,” Falco said. “The combination of high-quality pizza and classic ’90s vibes was a no-brainer for me to be involved.”

Also intriguing to Falco was the use of 100-percent naturally leavened dough, made with a sourdough starter and unbleached, unbromated flour (and no commercial yeast) and using a special water filtration system to control flavor and fermentation. From start to finish, it can take up to 72 hours to make each pie.

“When Noam said he wanted to go for all-natural fermentation I was really into that challenge,” Falco said. “All my clients use sourdough starter but most choose to use a hybrid of commercial and natural leavening. I can't think of another all-naturally-leavened slice shop in NYC.”

The pies, which include both round and Sicilian varieties, are topped with house-made ingredients like fresh mozzarella, sausage, pickled peppers and spice blends. Slices cost $3 to $5. They’re baked in a Montague Hearth Bake brick oven, which is rarely used in NYC pizzerias and was a favorite of the legendary Pizzeria Beddia in Philadelphia (which gained a national rep when Bon Appétit called its pies the best in America), Grossman said.

“It is completely brick-lined, top to bottom and on the sides, giving off the perfect balance of heat while baking pies,” he said.  

As for the ’90s vibes, the tiny 330-square-foot corner shop channels the decade in the colors (including a red-and-pink checkered wall and neon pink-and-black tabletops) and logo, and the hip-hop on the speakers.

“For the vision of the shop, we were inspired by being a kid in the '90s, when hip-hop and sports reigned supreme, and local slice joints were the best spots for communal gatherings,” Grossman said.

Upside is the latest in a string of slice shop openings in the city, including second locations for Sauce Pizzeria and Made in New York Pizza (helmed by an ex-employee of Prince Street Pizza, which also has a second location in the works). Among more formal pizzeria fare, there’s Violet, the new East Village grilled pizza spot from the Emily team, and the coal-fired pizzeria Massa’s (owned by a descendant of Patsy Grimaldi) in Long Island City.

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