Once upon a time a lack of good pizza was a valid gripe about New Orleans. But no longer. From artisan Neapolitan to blue collar Chicago deep dish to thin, foldable New York-style slices, the Big Easy now provides. To this list you can add Zee’s Pizzeria, which dishes out their New England-style pies from their brick-lined Montague ovens in the heart of Uptown.
Owner Zander White’s love of pizza reaches back into his New England childhood, when he and his father would experiment in their home kitchen with store-bought dough. They moved to New Orleans when he was still a kid, and as he grew up so did his love for the hobby. Along the way he decided to tackle the dough. “Building on dough made by other people, I just felt we could never call it ours,” Zander said. Throughout his career in the film industry he threw pizza parties for his friends on the weekends, perfecting his craft. Then the pandemic hit, putting his career on hold but throwing his pizza making into overdrive. He began selling it to friends out of his back door, making enough money to cover the costs.
The next logical step was a pop-up, and Zony Mash provided the platform and gear. The brewery/community hub, which has served as an important springboard for several new restaurants, offered up the use of their tricked-out pizza trailer. “I saw that trailer and fell in love,” Zander said. At home he’d been limited by oven capacity. With this mobile propane-fueled pizza rig, he’d only be limited by staffing. “Zoney was our incubator. Without them I don’t think we’d be here right now.”
Finally in late summer he took the leap to full-time restauranteur. “I had one requirement – it had to be Uptown.” Having gone to Loyola and also having lived up east, he knew a substantial segment of the students at Tulane and Loyola were from there and aprowl for a taste of home. When the spot on Baronne presented itself, he pounced.
The restaurant is small-town, East Coast casual. Simple furnishings set the tone and white and red checkerboard is a featured design cue. Regarding the pizza, Smith starts with a low-hydration dough. “It gets a little bit of char on it, kind of like a New Haven-style,” he says, but White uses a gas oven rather than coal so it is a bit of a hybrid. “The comparison I like to use is a place in West Haven called Zuppardi’s.” Cooked at a high gas temp and thanks to their stretching technique, the dough is crisp but still has chew and foldability. “And it can support toppings.”
The Red Top Margherita – with garlic butter, shredded and fresh mozzarella and the red sauce on top – is the most popular choice. Fresh basil gives it herbaceousness and the optional anchovies (recommended) lend a salty umami pop. The Bambino, with its onions, pepperoni and sausage, will satisfy meat lovers while a rotating cast of specialty pies gives good reasons for return visits. Try the Bye Felicia, with its pepperoni, ricotta and hot honey for zip. If you are just looking for slices, they sell them in both Red Top and Pepperoni. Garlic Knots with marinara for dipping make for a sharable snack.
It’s a little slice of New England comfort tucked in a residential pocket of Uptown. For locals it is a great additional option in New Orleans’ pizza game. And for those from the Northeast, it’s a little piece of home.
Zee’s Pizzeria, 3914 Baronne Street, Uptown. (504) 766-6056. zeespizzeria.com.
About the Chef
Owner Zander White grew up making pizza with his dad in New England. “We lived in the middle of nowhere and the closest place to get pies was an hour away,” White recalls. His father was borderline obsessed – “Sometimes he’d pick he up from school with slices in the car and be like, ‘hey try this one.’” They moved to New Orleans when he was 10, bringing their love of pizza with them. The pandemic turbocharged his passion, enabled by a popular pop-up at Zony Mash, until finally he opened the doors to his brick and mortar on Baronne Street this summer.