There's No Arguing Taste? | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

There's No Arguing Taste?

There's No Arguing Taste?

The pizza offered at Basil (left) and Calabria (right). Courtesy Basil Pizza & Wine Bar and Calabria.

Rabbinical court passes verdict in Brooklyn pizza war

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In a story that could only happen in New York (or maybe in Israel) a pizzeria war has erupted in Hasidic Crown Heights. At the center of the dispute is Daniel Branover of Basil Pizza & Wine Bar, an eatery that's been serving the neighborhood since 2010, and Shemi Harel, owner of Calabria, a new pizza shop that recently opened across the street. 

While neither competing restaurants nor the activities of the rabbinical court is anything new, this religiously-tinged pizza feud has caught the attention of the wider world. Basil's Branover took Calabria's Harel to a Bet Din in Brooklyn because he felt that Calabria was operating in a way that undercut his business by selling similar style pizza for less money. 

“They did everything that was against Jewish code, and that’s the reason I went after them,” Branover told the New York Times. Branover's business partner Clara Perez also accused Harel's team of surreptitiously acquiring Basil's recipe information from employees and of stealing customers who were waiting for tables. Harel, who willingly went to the Bet Din to state his case, dismisses these accusations, emphasizing how different Calabria is in terms of its ambiance and even in the kind of pizza it serves. 

The members of the rabbinical court, which the Times noted do not typically "hang around restaurants" visited both establishments to better understand the case. In the end they deemed that Harel would have to offer "regular pizza" which they see as "New York-style pizza," perhaps neglecting that the name Calabria is meant to evoke Calabria, Italy. 

For its part, Calabria's website reads "Calabria brings this typical Italian “Fast Food” to Crown Heights made the "New York style" way," while serving rectangular, not triangular slices. 

The Forward noted that "Basil says it never wanted to put its rival out of business — and simply asked for its neighbor to play fairly according to Jewish law." 

However, according to the Times, Branover now plans to file a civil suit.

Time will tell which pizzeria will attract the dollars and devotion of the neighborhood's foodies. 

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