I saw Nicole Russell’s pizzas on Instagram and had the pleasure of meeting her at the 92nd Street Y but didn’t fully understand her operation until I saw it for myself. Last Dragon Pizza is every pizza lover’s dream. It’s as much a distillation of her childhood nostalgia as it is a culmination of her adult reality.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway, Nicole would feed recovery workers her homemade pizza. The reaction was tremendous and workers started paying her for product. She honed her craft and started offering a limited number of pizzas on select days. When time came to pick a name, she knew exactly what to do. Nicole remembers going with her sister to see The Last Dragon, a kung fu movie featuring a pizzeria owned by a black family. It stuck with her and thus the “pizzeria” had its name. Nicole would make pizza under the moniker that referenced both the experience she shared with her sister and the film itself.
Last Dragon Pizza is truly unique. It’s not a brick-and-mortar pizzeria but it’s not a mobile unit either. Customers place orders on her website, indicating what day and time they intend to pick it up, knowing only that it’s located in Rockaway. Nicole then texts or emails you the pick-up address when the pie is ready for curbside pickup. I went down to Rockaway to experience it the magic with Serhan (of Boston Pizza and his own Instagram) and PSG (we’re in the photo below). We had placed our order the day before and set about on an epic adventure to reap the rewards.
You can see from the photo at the top of this post that Nicole’s pizza is legit. The Sicilian is really good. I had a feeling it would be killer because Sicilian is baked at a lower temperature than most Neapolitan inspired pizzas, so the home oven she uses would be right on the money. We also got the Kiss Mi Converse (a pizza with jerk chicken, onions, scallions, and yellow peppers) and some jerk chicken wings. Most people pick up the pizza and jet away, but Nicole invited us inside.
She even let me make a pizza with her lovely dough! It open super easily because she uses a blend of high protein and all purpose flour. The pair of pizza stones she uses are the typical round type with built-in handle bars. Or maybe they were rectangular. Oh well, whatever they were they worked great. I think it’s the Emile Henry stone.
I really love what Nicole’s doing with her love of pizza. It’s inspiring to see someone doing something they love and constantly tweaking to improve. She’s working on ways to streamline her process so she can make even better and more consistent pizzas. If you’re anywhere near Rockaway or feel like taking a road trip, you have to check her out. And if you’re not he other side of the country, she ships nationwide! Thank you Nicole for your hospitality, I know we’ll be back for more!