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Apparently the city needs one more pizza joint.

230 Ninth Ave., at 24th St.
(212) 243-1105
Dinner, Tues.-Sat., 5-11 p.m.; lunch, Tues.-Sat., noon-3 p.m. Closed Sun. & Mon.
CUISINE Pizzeria
VIBE Casual Chelsea chaos
OCCASION Group dinner, neighborhood bites
DON’T-MISS DISH Pizza bianca, pizza flambé, chocolate breadcrumb torte
PRICE Appetizers, $5; entrees, $15; dessert, $5.
RESERVATIONS  Not accepted

There must be as many pizza ­places in NYC as there are ATMs. And
­everyone’s got a favorite slice. Talk about a tough culinary genre to
break into. Who makes the best crust? Who uses the freshest sauce? Who
creates the perfect ratio of cheese to sauce to crust?

People argue about these things all day long.

the local Ray’s. Some say there’s no better pizza than the pie at Di
Fara in Midwood, Brooklyn. Others love Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton St. And
then there’s the original Totonno’s in Coney Island.

So does the city really need another pizza parlor? Apparently, we do.

name is Company in Chelsea, which was created by Jim Lahey, the
accidental bread man. He went off to Italy to become a sculptor of
stone and came home a sculptor of dough — specifically rustic,
artisanal breads from Tuscany. He became wildly popular at Sullivan
Street Bakery, where he baked dark, airy breads with a dazzling,
crunchy but thin crust.

Some of New York’s finest restaurants
depend on Lahey for their nightly bread baskets, so much so that
Jean-Georges Vongerichten has backed him at Company. You could always
identify Sullivan Street bread in a bread basket. It was an augury of a
good meal or at least good taste on the restaurateur’s part.

that mastery and slide it under a ­pizza. What you get is a salty,
bubbly crust that manages to be chewy, crunchy and crusty at the same
time. You might argue that the idea for Company ­started with the pizza
­bianca at Sullivan Street Bakery. It earned Lahey a lot of street
cred. The version he bakes at Company is slightly saltier. Like all the
crusts at Company, it’s always perfect.

But it’s the only thing that’s always perfect at Company.

Unfortunately, pizza isn’t just crust. And it isn’t just sauce. And
it isn’t just toppings. It’s the quality of these things and their
ratio that make a great pizza. From day one, Company has been mobbed.
Crowds hover near the door. They jam the tiny bar, waiting for a seat
at one of the tables. They huddle around the hostess like Sullivan St.
zombies. Which would make sense if the pizza were consistently
terrific, but it’s not.

People care about toppings, too. Where’s
the sauce? And where’s the flavor, especially in the Margherita pizza —
the true measure of any good pizza place? The Popeye pizza sounds like
a good idea, but it’s really just baby spinach leaves on excellent

Two of Company’s pizzas really work —  and I mean
really. One is the Flambé pizza, which comes topped with bechamel,
caramelized onions and thick smoky lardons. The other is the Boscaiola
— the everything pizza, Lahey calls it — which comes with, well,
everything, including a wonderful, fiery pork sausage.

As for
the rest of the menu, skip the salads entirely. Nobody likes to eat
tortured radicchio pelted by shitake slivers. Nobody wants to look at a
lamentable butter lettuce. Order the toasts, they’re ­perfectly fine.

what else would be good in a bread maker’s joint? The Tuscan bread soup
called Ribollita and the chocolate breadcrumb torte. But don’t miss the
gelati. They’re homemade, and they’re excellent.

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