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If I were stranded on an island and could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be pizza. I’ve tried many slices of pizza during my 29 years on this planet and have thus become a tough critic when it comes to the cheesy, doughy goodness. My love for pizza runs deep so I’m always willing to sink my teeth into a new pie.

This time however, it was an unique, oblong-shaped pie from &pizza. I had heard of this pizza unicorn but until it came to New York City, I hadn’t had the pleasure of making its acquaintance.

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The &pizza first New York location opened this summer at 15 West 28th Street and soon to follow was this newest spot Astor Place (740 Broadway). Over the last five years &pizza made a name in locations like Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. After much success in these market, it was time to carve out a slice of pizza heaven in the Big Apple.

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&pizza’s CEO, cofounder, and creative director, Michael Lastoria, is a serial entrepreneur who is known for building companies on four core principles: design-driven, culture-centric, brand-led, and most importantly, morally sound. His pizza joints embody these principles and can be felt by everyone from the customer to the employees.

The &pizza concept is simple, but impactful in every way. The counter service experience starts when you walk into the restaurant which is sleek and sophisticated, yet funky thanks to the tasteful graffiti designs that homage to the city’s art scene.

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When you arrive you walk down a fast-casual style line and choose from an array of toppings. First order of business though is choosing the dough – traditional, ancient grain or gluten free. After the dough it’s time your “behind the counterpart” ladles sauce (classic tomato; spicy tomato; buffalo sauce; garlic ricotta; mushroom truffle; basil pesto) onto your dough. Things then get cheesy with mozzarella, shredded mozzarella or a vegan mozzarella.

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Then comes your unlimited – yes, I said unlimited – choice of toppings. And these aren’t run of the mill, especially when it comes to freshness. Vegetable options include broccoli, jalapeno, grilled onion, mushroom, pineapple and spicy chickpea while proteins are pepperoni, beef meatball, chicken, Italian sausage, egg yolk, salami, shrimp, bacon or vegan sausage. Now is the time that your little oddly shaped pie goes through a convection oven to bake in just under two minutes Think of it as the high-powered Easy-Bake Oven of your adult dreams. Once the semi-thin crust is baked through you have some more tough decisions in the form of more toppings. These include:

Basil; kalamata olive; sun-dried tomato; banana pepper; pickled red onion; red pepper flakes; goat cheese; feta cheese; Parmesan; fig balsamic; MQ’s Original BBQ Sauce; buffalo sauce; garlic oil; red pepper chili oil; ranch; basil pesto; olive oil; hot honey and black pepper.

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If the thought of making so many choices on an empty stomach scared you, there are fully customizable signature HIT pies like the American Honey (spicy tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, arugula, red pepper flakes, goat cheese, Mike’s Hot Honey) and the Moonstruck (mushroom truffle, garlic ricotta, mozzarella, mushroom, grilled onion, goat cheese, fig balsamic), as well as the brand’s newest limited-time best seller, the Dirty Bird (garlic ricotta, shredded mozzarella, jalapeño, chicken, buffalo sauce made in collaboration with 8 Myles, ranch, banana pepper, romaine, blue cheese and red pepper flakes).

Now that your pizza is complete, you pay a mere $11 (including tax) while they box it up in an easy to carry container. Before you leave hastily to take you pizza home, consider eating at the restaurant. The Astor Place shop features custom sculptural installation created by NYC-based talent Jason Woodside – Woodside’s works have graced exterior walls in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sydney and Paris and past commissions and collaborations include work with Adidas, Saatchi&Saatchi, WeWork, Google, the New Museum, and Jeffrey Deitch.  In addition to the installation, an abstract pattern of Astor Place adorns the storefront signage and extend onto a dynamic light feature within the restaurant.

– Lauren