It's a shame that more restaurants don't have excellent names. People love to say, "Hey, that'd be a great name for a band!" but rarely, "Hey, that'd be a great name for a restaurant." As a result, most new restaurants end up being called something like "The [Insert A Random Non-English Noun]" or "[Insert A Random Workshop Tool] & [Insert A Random Obscure Animal]."
So props to Houdini Kitchen Laboratory for having one of the best names in the restaurant business.
Before we made it there, we'd heard Houdini described as the new Roberta's and as the current "spirit animal" of Ridgewood. Fair enough. A few years ago, Roberta's, located where Williamsburg spills into Bushwick, became the poster child of Bushwick's growing restaurant scene. And Houdini, located where Bushwick spills into Ridgewood and crosses the border from Brooklyn to Queens (can we not call it Quooklyn, please?), holds a similar role as reigning pizza place hangout of the neighborhood.
But a sweet name and some parallels to a beloved spot with two hour waits does not a great restaurant make. Fortunately, Houdini has a lot more going for it. First and foremost, Houdini has great pizza - from a simple pie featuring some of the creamiest mozzarella we've ever witnessed to others topped with impressively fresh vegetables and quality cured meats. The space, which you enter through an almost-hidden opening on a nearly silent street, is also a highlight. High ceilings. Long, spaced-out tables. An old factory vibe. And, in warmer months, an Outdoor/Patio Situation to be reckoned with. Add that to big $12 pizzas and a few bottles of wine under $30, and it's easy to forget you're in New York. Getting there may mean a few extra stops on the L train, and note: it's cash only, but, at least for now, you certainly won't be quoted an hour once you get there.
Ultimately, despite the Houdini reference, nothing going on here is really magic: it's just very good pizza in a very good space.
This is not your typical pizza place caesar: it comes with big, long lettuce leaves and pumpkin seeds. All caesar salads should have pumpkin seeds. The croutons? Pizza crusts.
A simple margherita pie, but with regular mozzarella swapped out for creamy stracciatella. This pizza is straight up soupy in the best of ways, and a must-order.
If you like your pizza topped with all kinds of veggies, this is the way to go. Here, you'll get what's essentially an everything under the kitchen sink pizza, with zucchini, eggplant, shallots, escarole and goat cheese. Very good.
And here's your spicy, meaty option option. Your classic tomato sauce and mozzarella, topped with habanero pepper and spicy cured pork loin. You will not lose here.