Dining

Mystic Pizza

Go for the mushroom pie; stay for the tasting menu
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table
Chef Sean Telo of 21 Greenpoint

By now, you’ve probably heard about the weekend Bill Murray tended bar at his son Homer’s new restaurant in Brooklyn. It was only a few weeks ago that the legendary actor and comedian was pouring drinks and shooting tequila at 21 Greenpoint, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to buzzworthy happenings at this revamped space.

Despite the flood of press coverage and Instagrams capturing the action, we’re here to fill you in on the countless other reasons to visit 21 Greenpoint—A-lister behind the bar or not.

The space is full of cozy nooks that will make you want to linger. Start with a drink at the U-shaped bar, move to a high-top to catch up with friends and, later, grab a table in the back and settle in for a meal. Just make sure to check out the open kitchen and the serious wood-burning oven that’s churning out some of the best pizza in New York.

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Chef Sean Telo, formerly of Extra Fancy, almost left NYC were it not for said pizza. He was contemplating a return to Atlanta, where he had previously worked at Miller Union, when Murray—Homer, that is—approached him to lead the kitchen at 21 Greenpoint. Telo stayed on the condition that pizza would be part of the equation.

“It’s one of the hardest things you have to do as a cook,” Telo says of the art of pizza slinging. “It’s challenging, but it’s also fun.” The kind of dough Telo is making requires multiple phases of proofing and portioning before it even gets rolled out. And then there’s having the right oven, which is crucial. Luckily, 21 Greenpoint already had a wood-burning oven perfect for baking Telo’s light and fluffy pies, like the mushroom pie with pesto sauce and a garlic-butter crust (see the recipe).

But pizza isn’t the only way this chef, who landed on Brooklyn magazine’s “30 -Under -30" list last year, is challenging himself and wooing diners at the new restaurant. On his menu, which changes daily, you might find anything from smoked salmon pastrami bites to lamb tartare or eggplant fries with hot pepper oil and feta. All of which have been made with as little waste as possible, and the waste that does accumulate gets saved for a special weekend service.

Every Sunday, 21 Greenpoint serves a $21 six-to-seven-course tasting menu made with the week’s scraps. Hence the shockingly low price tag. The menu changes throughout the day, which means you could go in for a leisurely lunch and find a whole different set of dishes coming out of the kitchen by dinnertime. For example, biscuits and honey from the early afternoon might turn into focaccia with tomato sauce later in the evening.

Telo credits his two-plus years working with Steven Satterfield at Miller Union for giving him the confidence he needed to run a kitchen that uses what the restaurant calls “overlooked edibles” so effectively. And Sunday isn't the only day “scraps” come into to play either. During the rest of the week, you'll find “ugly vegetable” crudités and merguez sausage made with fat discarded from a tartare dish. The mushroom pizza’s herbaceous pesto contains oft-overlooked parsley stems, and if you're lucky, the garlic butter might even be flavored with truffle, thanks to Telo striking a deal with a purveyor for white truffle remnants that get left in the bags.

The chef is the first to admit that this kind of resourcefulness isn’t a new concept in restaurant kitchens. But by shifting the practices chefs routinely follow from the kitchen to the table, he’s showing the fruits of food waste in action and inviting a larger conversation. This innovation also happens to be an amazing deal for diners and a really smart business decision for the restaurant. 21 Greenpoint may have opened with a bang, but this kitchen is clearly playing the long game.

  • Chef Sean Telo stretching pizza dough.

  • This green herb sauce is one of a few magic ingredients in this pizza.

  • Telo flouring his pizza peel, getting ready to slide the pie into the oven.

  • The (magic) mushroom pie before it goes into the oven.

  • The pizza oven's name is Gina. Don't ask why.

  • Pizza cooking to perfection in the wood-fired oven.

  • Almost ready . . .

  • Make way for a new masterpiece: 21 Greenpoint's mushroom pie.

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