NYC is know for having amazing pizza. Yet with every other pizza place claiming to be original, famous, or the best, picking a place to try can be a bit intense. Thank you Time Out New York for yet another amazing foodie article assisting the public in the formidable task of choosing pizza parlors.
The following words and photos are courtesy of Time Out New York.
Best New York pizza: The top 25 pies in the city
Our five-borough tour of the best New York pizza skips from legendary institutions to new-wave joints. Here are the reigning pies in Gotham.
By Mari Uyehara Mon Sep 17 2012
Di Fara Pizza Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
In 1905, Lombardi’s opened as New York’s first pizzeria, bringing the simple Italian dish to Gotham. Owner Gennaro Lombardi helped train a generation of pizzaioli, dispatching thin-crust acolytes all over the city: Patsy Lancieri over to East Harlem with Patsy’s, John Sasso to the West Village with John’s of Bleecker Street, and Anthony Pero out to Coney Island with Totonno’s. Since then, a new generation has ushered in traditional Neapolitan-style pies (Kesté Pizza & Vino), wildly creative toppings (Paulie Gee’s) and, of course, the fried-pizza craze (Forcella). The onetime exotic immigrant food is now synonymous with Gotham, and arguing over the city’s best pizza has become a classic New York pastime. With that in mind, we trekked all over town to find out if old favorites still lived up to their reputation and if new pizzerias could rise to the fierce competition. Here are the best New York pizza spots.
25. Diavolo at Zero Otto Nove
Salerno-born upstart Roberto Paciullo made waves on Arthur Avenue when he challenged red-sauce supremacy with his standout trattoria, which opened in 2007 and spun off a Chelsea offshoot in 2011. The wide-ranging menu features baroque combinations like butternut squash, smoked mozzarella and pancetta, but we favor his diavolo, built on a thin crust, slighty puffed at the edges, with a good chew. Singed lengths of spicy sopressata mingle with swatches of oozing mozzarella and a thick, brawny tomato sauce. 2357 Arthur Ave between 184th and 186th Sts, Bronx (718-220-1027) • 15 W 21st St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-242-0899) • $14.95.
24. Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
This Coney Island institution—founded in 1924 by Gennaro Lombardi apprentice Anthony “Totonno” Pero—was once as famous for its rude service as for its peerless pies. But with Pero’s friendly niece Louise Ciminieri now running the no-frills joint, the mood is decidedly more welcoming. Although two generations of pizzaioli have turned over, the honest pies are still a superb showcase of culinary high art: bubbling browned cheese covers a sweet tangy sauce and ultrathin crust, touched with a whiff of smoke from a historic coal oven. 1524 Neptune Ave between 15th and 16th Sts, Coney Island, Brooklyn (718-372-8606). Small $16.50, large $19.50.
23. The Saint Louie at Speedy Romeo
Pie obsessives—from Slice NY blog founder Adam Kuban to Paulie Gee’s owner Paul Gianonne—rank this wood-fired beaut in the upper echelons of the city’s greatest ‘za creations. The stacked pie, cut into squares, is smothered with tangy San Marzano tomato sauce and molten Provel—a pungent, almost-blue-cheese-like mix of provolone, cheddar, Swiss and liquid smoke, born in St. Louis. It’s blanketed with plump nuggets of anisey homemade pork sausage, crisp-edged strips of sopressata and zippy pickled peppers. Although the inspiration comes from chef-owner JustinBazdarich’s father’s hometown, this balls-out pie de resistance will stir nostalgia for anyone who has shared a pizza overloaded with toppings at cozy family-style joints in the burbs. 376 Classon Ave at Greene Ave, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (718-230-0061). $16.
22. Margherita at Sottocasa
Chef-owner Luca Arrigoni learned to punch dough alongside pizza maestro Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté), before opening this rustic Boerum Hill restaurant in 2011. Arrigoni’s Margherita is a superb rendition: Creamy puddles of mozzarella and a simple fresh tomato sauce crown a buoyant round of dough. A wood-fired brick Acunto oven scorches the thin pizzas at the edges and lends them a hint of smoke. The old master would be proud. 298 Atlantic Ave between Hoyt and Smith Sts, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-852-8758). $11.
21. Baked Potato pie at PeteZaaz
The short menu at this urbanist slice joint reads like a list of fantasy stoner snacks dreamed up in a ganja-smoke haze. The thin, crackery crusts may lack pronounced flavor, but they’re vehicles, sturdily built to deliver baroque combos of local produce, artisanal cheeses and meats to your mouth. While other creations rotate in and out, our favorite, the Baked Potato pie, has become a signature. Gooey white cheddar, thick slices of purple potato and crispy bits of bacon are scattered atop a crisp crust. It’s finished with a cooling pool of tangy crème fraîche in the middle and smattering of sharp chopped scallion: hangover grub in its highest form. 766 Classon Ave between Park and Sterling Pls, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-9229). $17.
20. Vodka pie at Joe & Pat’s Pizzeria and Restaurant
A trio of young men—uniformly wearing backward caps, white tees and stud earrings—pat down rounds of dough in the front of this family-run pie shop, a required stop on the Staten Island pizza junket since it opened in 1960. The must-order pie is the Vodka. The junky favorite achieves an almost restrained elegance here: Cracker-thin crusts with a soft interior are covered with just enough of creamy vodka-spiked tomato sauce and stretchy, salty mozzarella. 1758 Victory Blvd between Manor Rd and Winthrop Pl, Staten Island (718-981-0887). Small $15, large $17.
19. Bacon pie at Best Pizza
The crews behind Roberta’s and Brooklyn Star collaborated on this stellar homage to the classic New York slice joint, here updated with backpacker hip-hop and a Williamsburg clientele arriving by skateboard. The über-thin crust has an alkaline zip, good browning and hearty chew; the tomato sauce is fresh and bright; and the thin web of punchy cheese is in perfect proportion, all earning it best-in-class status for the old-school-style pie. Take yours to the next level and add the sweet pieces of slightly smoked slab bacon, which play nicely against the full rosettes of heady basil. 33 Havemeyer St between North 7th and 8th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-2210). Pie $24.
18. Plain pie at John’s of Bleecker Street
Scratched-wood booths, a bright neon-red sign and tattered floors outfit this charmingly shabby New York icon, which opened in 1929 and still buzzes with both tourists and locals. Cooked at 850 degrees in a coal-fired brick oven, the pizza has stood the test of time. A super-thin crust has just enough flop. Blanketed with sweet tomato and blistered, gooey cheese, the top-notch pie tastes of pure New York. 278 Bleecker St at Jones St (212-243-1680). Small $14.50, large $16.50.
17. Sicilian at Artichoke Basille
Forget the gloopy spinach-artichoke special that’s the namesake of this burgeoning pizza chainlet, from Staten Island natives Francis Garcia and Sal Basile. The superior order here is the Sicilian, which achieves a dexterous balance of tangy sauce, gooey mozzarella punched up with robust Parm, and a buttery, almost shortbreadlike, crust. The heaving slice is the kind of drunk food you would be just as happy to eat in broad daylight. 328 E 14th St between First and Second Aves (212-228-2004) • 111 MacDougal St between Bleecker St and Minetta Ln (646-278-6100) • 457 W 17th St at Tenth Ave (212-792-9200) • Slice $4, pie $26
16. Old-fashioned pie at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar
It’s worth braving the Wall Street clientele and dreadful trance music for the fabulous square pie at this Financial District pizzeria, from Nick Angelis of the famed Nick’s in Queens. A sheet pan of airy crust, glossy with oil and browned with char, drips with a robust tomato sauce and burnished blend of mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Load on the toppings—crisp porky pepperoni, meaty mushrooms, coins of fennel sausage—the substantial crust can handle any amount of gut-busting gluttony. 54 Stone St between Pearl and William Sts (212-248-3838). $18.50.
15. Pizza Patate at Sullivan St Bakery
It’s all about the bread at Jim Lahey’s celebrated bakery. The impeccable Roman-style square—silky dough pocked with air bubbles and sporting a baguettelike chew—would be good enough on its own. But wisps of golden potatoes, crunchy brown just at the edges, along with curls of sweet onion and fragrant rosemary, put this virtuous slab of pizza over the top. 533 W 47th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-265-5580) • 236 Ninth Ave between 24th and 25th Sts (212-929-5900). Slice $3.50, pie $27.
14. Square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens
Since 1939, this Bensonhurst original—where muscle-bound Brooklynites with deep accents gather in the outdoor patio—has served one of the best Sicilian slices in town. Candy-sweet tomato sauce is generously slathered over tall, doughy rectangles with a crunchy browned bottom. It’s finished with squares of melted mozzarella and zippy strands of Parm. 2725 86th St between 10th and 11th Sts, Gravesend, Brooklyn (718-372-8400). Slice $2.25, half tray $19, full tray $36.
13. Bee Sting at Roberta’s
Among food cognoscenti, the composed plates at indie favorite Roberta’s may have eclipsed its pies of late. The wily pizzaioli here rotate playfully named creations on and off the dinner menu as the seasons change; but our favorite of the signature pies, the Bee Sting, is a brunch mainstay (you can order it off-menu at other meal times). Fitting, since like breakfast sausage drenched in maple syrup, this excellent pie showcases the classic combo of savory pork with sweetness, here punched up with a spicy kick. On a foundation of stretchy mozzarella and velvety tomato sauce, a drizzle of honey melds with paper-thin coins of hot soppressata and chili flakes for a spicy-sweet-tangy mélange. 261 Moore St between Bogart and White Sts, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-1118). $15.
12. Meatball pie at Nick’s Pizza
Nick Angelis’s classy Queens pizzeria—done up nicely with tall arched windows, bronzed tin ceilings and a gleaming copper espresso machine—defies New York’s pizza categories. It’s neither Neapolitan-style (pulled from a wood-burning hearth), nor old-school New York (baked in a coal-fired oven). But the ’za—built on light, thin crusts scorched on the bottom in a regular ol’ gas-assisted oven—is excellent all the same. The meatball pie, topped with flat, brown slices, may not look like much, but those tender full moons are packed with beefy flavor. Spread atop supple rounds of mozzarella and an oregano-fragrant tomato sauce, it’s our favorite version in town. 108-26 Ascan Ave between Austin and Burns Sts, Forest Hills, Queens (718-263-1126). Small $15.50, large $17.50.
11. Sausage pie at Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern
“In crust we trust” is the pizza-box slogan of this family-style pizzeria—a Staten Island fixture since 1937 that keeps Frank Sinatra on the jukebox and friendly locals at the granite bar. The toppings are fine: The sauce is sparse and sweet, the cheese is mild, and the sweet Italian sausage is properly juicy. But it’s the unique crust, browned to perfection in a roaring brick oven, that endows this pizzeria with a mythmaking legacy: A flat round, crunchy with breadcrumbs, sports a crackling crenulated texture unlike any other in the city. 524 Port Richmond Ave at Hooker Pl, Staten Island (718-442-9401). $14.50.
10. Regular pie at Rubirosa
Born of pizza royalty at Staten Island’s lauded Joe & Pat’s, Angelo Pappalardo did a turn in fine dining (Esca) before planting a flag for the forgotten borough in Nolita. Pappalardo does the family legacy proud with these expertly charred thin-crust pies. As at the original, the Vodka version is unimpeachable, but you shouldn’t miss the outstanding plain pizza, crafted from a 50-year-old recipe: Generous discs of lush mozzarella and a thick swatch of bright tomato sauce hug a pliant crust that crackles at the edges. 235 Mulberry St between Prince and Spring Sts (212-965-0500). Small $16, large $24.
9. Slice at Sal & Carmine Pizza
Upper West Siders poured a little marinara out when legendary pie maker Sal Malanga passed away in 2009. But his brother Carmine and grandsons Luciano and George still carry on the family tradition for this hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, which opened in 1959. From the outside, Sal and Carmine looks like any no-frills slice joint, but step into the back and you’ll see vintage Christian Dior adverts and Walasse Ting prints hanging on the shabby walls—a touch of unexpected refinement in a seemingly generic spot. Likewise, there’s more than meets the eye with the humble slice. The stiff crust, thin layer of concentrated sauce and shredded mozzarella form something greater than the sume of their parts: a flawless harmony, hitting all the right notes of saltiness, tang and chew. 2671 Broadway between 101st and 102nd Sts (212-663-7651). $3.
8. Montanara Starita at Don Antonio by Starita
Pizza dream team Roberto Caporuscio (Kesté) and his mentor Antonio Starita—who opened their midtown gem in February 2012—weren’t the first to unveil the montanara. But theirs takes top honors in this fried-pizza-crazy town. Here, a round of dough is plunged in roiling oil to develop a fluffy, moist crumb and a darkly tanned exterior—the Italian-stallion kissing cousin to that sweet country-fair favorite, funnel cake. With melted pellets of smoked buffalo mozzarella and rich tomato sauce, the flavors of smoke, fruit and cream mingle together in a wood-burning oven. 309 W 50th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (646-719-1043). $12.
7. Regular pie at Di Fara Pizza
No pizza is worth a two-hour wait. But pizza pilgrims don’t trek to this far-out Brooklyn neighborhood for the ‘’za alone. Sure, the pie here is wonderful, one of the best in the city as it has been since 1965: The chewy, charred crust is topped with swirls of bright tomato sauce, a lacing of superior mozzarella and grated Parm, snips of basil and a golden sheen of olive oil. But the pizza obsessives—a motley cross-section of camera-toting tourists, rotund goodfellas and young Brooklynites—are here to watch Dom De Marco. He’s the last of a generation of dough-pushing titans—including Gennaro Lombardi, Patsy Grimaldi and Anthony “Totonno” Pero—who were devoted not to building pizzeria empires, but to making pies, day in and day out. Moving at a glacial pace, DeMarco hunches over each pie, ladling sauce and sprinkling cheese, seemingly oblivious to the hungry hordes: Make time to witness the twilight of an era before it’s gone. 1424 Ave J at 15th St, Midwood, Brooklyn (718-258-1367). Slice $5, pie $28.
6. Brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie at Motorino
Given his background, the ascent of Mathieu Palombino—a Belgium-born, French-trained toque—to become one of the city’s most heralded pizzaioli wasn’t a predictable one, but his stature since opening his Williamsburg pie shop in 2008 is now undeniable. His East Village pizzeria—the lone location since the flagship shuttered in 2011—showcases a first-rate crust: stretchy, fluffy at the edges and splotched with char on the bottom. Faithful renditions of Neapolitan forms are first-rate, but it’s the brussels-sprouts-and-pancetta pie that deserves entry into the pizza pantheon. Thick with fior di latte, the creative round gets a fresh hit of bitterness from sleek brussels sprouts leaves, slight heat from thin garlic slices and smoky pork from tender pancetta cubes. 349 E 12th St between First and Second Aves (212-777-2644). $16.
5. Margherita at Kesté Pizza & Vino
In a city lousy with Neapolitan-style pizzerias, Kesté broke through the noise when it started slinging its own superb rounds in 2009. Chef-owner Roberto Caporuscio is the president of the U.S. branch of the highly regarded Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani—the certifying organization for aspiring Neapolitan-style pizzaioli—making him a veritableprofessor of pie. His ingredient list is a lesson in proper sourcing: a slow-mixed dough made Caputo 00 flour, a simple, sweet San Marzano tomato sauce and pools of homemade mozzarella. And his puffy crust—speckled with tiny, burnished bubbles—is a winning testament to years spent mastering technique. No matter what you top it with, this world-class pie sings. 271 Bleecker St between Cornelia and Jones Sts, New York, NY (212-243-1500). $13.
4. Anise and Anephew at Paulie Gee’s
Chef-owner Paul Giannone may be Brooklyn’s only pizzaiolo to make appearances in the pages of both gourmet glossies and the AARP’s magazine. While his peers looked toward retirement on the horizon, the then-56-year-old left a career in IT consulting to follow a lifelong passion, opening a rustic pizza tavern in 2010. Creative wood-fired pies—like the Hellboy and Greenpointer—on artfully scorched crusts won over legions of fans, and beat out young bucks for TONY’s 2011 Food & Drink Award for Best Pizza. His homage to anise is a masterwork. Fennel four ways might sound like overkill, but Giannone’s gentle melding is a symphony. Milky fior di latte plays off sweet anisette-spiked cream and tender braised fennel, while superlative Berkshire guanciale and fennel fronds punch it up with pork and fresh herb flavors. 60 Greenpoint Ave between Franklin and West Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (347-987-3747). $17.
3. Regular pie at Patsy’s Pizzeria
History hasn’t dulled the shine of this legendary pie shop. Opened in 1933 by one of New York’s pizza OGs, Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri, the spot served as training ground for Patsy Grimaldi, and a haunt for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Behind the iconic neon-red sign, the joint still turns out excellent thin-crust pies. Each pizza—pulled from a coal-fired oven with old-school bona fides—has the perfect ratio of scorch-spotted crust, tangy sauce, creamy mozzarella and salty Parm. Head straight to the East Harlem original: The leaden versions at the spin-off locations just don’t compare. 287-91 First Ave between 117th and 118th Sts (212-534-9783). $12.
2. Clam pie at Franny’s
Before there was Roberta’s or Paulie Gee’s or any of the locavore Italian joints that have proliferated recently in Kings County, there was Franny’s. The trailblazing Prospect Heights spot, run by husband-and-wife team Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, opened it in 2004. It practically pioneered the nouveau-Brooklyn-pizza genre: ambitious pies made with righteous ingredients and time-honored techniques. Among its superlative options, we adore the stunning clam pie. The chewy crust—blistered with a hearth-scented char—is cloaked in lush cream and studded with fresh, meaty clams and pristine parsley leaves. Chili flakes lend a balancing spice. 295 Flatbush Ave between Prospect Pl and St. Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-0221). $17.
1. Pie with basil at Lucali
In the annals of New York’s pizza history, the pie maker has been better known as a humble flour-dusted artisan, not a swoonworthy celebrity toque. Credit Mark Iacono, a veritable pizzaiolo lothario, for figuring out how to embody both. The mythology of the Carroll Gardens native combines acts of small-town heroism (he turned to the pizza biz to save the space that was once his childhood candy shop) and classic bad-boy romance (who could forget his headline-making knife fight over a mafiosa wife in 2011?). And his transportive pizzeria—romantically staged with tobacco-stained walls, dangling boxing mitts and strumming guitar music—demands waits up to three hours. Locals vie with the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z (who skipped the Grammys for a slice) for one of the weathered-wood tables in view of Iacono, brawny in a white tee and punching out dough by candlelight. But its wild popularity is more than hype: Iacono’s pizza is flawless—a thin and crispy crust boasts a char-speckled bottom and pleasant chew. He blankets it with two types of mozzarella (buffalo and low-moisture), plus long gratings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, all boosted by a bright, long-simmered sauce. Then he showers the round with a bouquet of basil rosettes, giving each transcendent bite an anisey perfume. 575 Henry St between Carroll St and 1st Pl, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-858-4086). $24.