Among the tags, sketches, and declarations of love permanently scrawled in Sharpie on Bodega Pizza’s bathroom walls, one customer’s optimistic sentiment reads, “This proves that gentrification comes & goes but culture remains forever.” It’s a contemplative assessment of the lively pie parlor, a longtime dream of Washington Heights resident Jose Morales.
Until the beginning of this year, the L-shaped room was home to Apt. 78, Morales’s boisterous nightlife venue and community hub that ultimately proved unsustainable. He gave the façade a mustard-yellow makeover and installed a custom-built wood-burning oven. In late June, it re-emerged as another kind of cultural nucleus, albeit one that centers around simple, modestly priced Neapolitan pizzas rather than impromptu dance-offs.
With help from Rome native Francesco Bentrovato, head pizzaiolo Eziquiel Marquez (most recently of 10 Devoe in Williamsburg) bakes a selection of ten-inch signature pizzas ($12–$16) with occasionally winking names, like the Jay Z–themed “Picasso Baby” pie, with wide flaps of pepperoni, or the “Summer of 86,” a nod to Mets fans that lays broccoli rabe over spicy pork sausage and cherry tomatoes. These aren’t archetypally puffy and airy pies, however. The kitchen keeps crusts cracker-thin, and Bodega Pizza’s sweet sauce is the standard margherita’s most prominent feature. In a concession to contemporary diets, you can order whole-wheat or gluten-free crusts, and the menu lists two vegan pizzas (opt for the Vegan 2.0, which eschews fake Daiya cheese).