Inspired by a love of pizza along with the discovery of companies that take NYC tourists out on "pizza tours," such as Scott's Pizza Tours and A Slice of Brooklyn, some friends and I have essentially built a mission out of trying famed pizza shops around New York. We've been to John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street, Artichoke Basille's Pizza, Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, Totonno's (the original one, in Coney Island), Di Fara Pizza, Lucali, L & B Spumoni Gardens, and more. (Pictured above: Large Pie at Lucali's, half pancetta, half mushroom).
Considering the plethora of pizza possibilities in the city, if you ask ten New Yorkers where to get the best pizza, don't be surprised if you get ten different answers. Following are my personal suggestions.
I love the sweet marinara sauce used at pizzeria's like Lombardi's and Spumoni Gardens. If you want to sit and enjoy classic, thin brick oven pizza, then be sure to wait the obligatory hour or so at Lombardi's, supposedly the first pizzeria in America, located at 32 Spring Street, off of Mott Street, in Little Italy. You can't go wrong with the slices at Lombardi's (whole pie orders only, but they do deliver). Always cooked fresh, never burnt, and has a good sauce to cheese ratio.
For a more traditional counter-style experience, head to Spumoni Gardens, located at 2725 86th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. I promise the subway ride is worth it. Ask for one "square" (a sicilian slice) and one "round" (1/8 of a round pie), and you will have in front of you two of the best tasting slices of pizza you'll experience in all of New York City. Between the two, I personally prefer the square slice, but in terms of "round" pizza, which is the most typical slice one thinks of when imagining "New York Pizza," Spumoni's hot, cheese-dripping, foldable, round certainly satisfies. And, while there, don't forget to stop by the Spumoni counter to grab the delicious frozen treat that gave the pizzeria it's namesake. Regular ice cream just won't ever be good enough again once you've had Spumoni.
If you're just a little adventurous, consider trying the "Artichoke" slice at Artichoke Basille's, which recently added two new locations in addition to the original, well-known storefront on E. 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Ave. It's hard to predict when there will be a line. I've gotten lucky on some weekend afternoons. On Friday and Saturday nights, especially as the local bars close, be prepared to wait outside on a long line at the original location, but you may have better luck in Chelsea or Greenwich Village. The must-have "Artichoke" slice is a thick, creamy masterpiece made with spinach, artichoke, cheese (no marinara sauce), and secret ingredients the owners have declined to reveal. This is absolutely one of the best quick dining options in all of New York City. Not surprisingly, both the margherita and the square slices at Artichoke are also superb and rise to the level of some of the best pizza in New York, certainly somewhere in the top ten.
What was I most disappointed by? Grimaldi's Brooklyn Heights location. I have given this location many chances and, despite the hype, I have found that there are simply much better places to go. The pizza is not necessarily bad, but it is just not always that great. On more than one occasion it's even been sort of...soggy. It might indeed receive a higher WGINY rating from me (WGINY is the new acronym suggested by a friend for this blog...get it, "What's Good in New York"?...), if this wasn't New York City and there weren't 1001+ other pizzerias around...
In the future, I hope to be able to try some of the local pizzeria's I have yet to visit that have been recommended by trusted friends/fellow pizza aficionados, including Keste Pizza & Vino, Dean's, Patsy's (I've really been dying to try a slice at Patsy's original 1933 iconic Harlem location), Motorino Pizza, and Fornino Pizza, to name a few. Have another suggestion? Leave a comment.
For more NYC pizza reviews, check out the Slice blog.
Stay tuned this week for Pizza Post Part 2: Where to Find Chicago Deep Dish Pizza in New York...UPDATE: A friend just shared info which led me to this article, explaining how some of the best-known pizza in NYC (such as Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, John's, Coney Island Totonno's and Harlem Patsy's) is made in coal-ovens, which new pizzerias in the city (like Motorino, Keste, Lucali, etc.) are no longer allowed to build by law. Here is a list, as of 2007, of NYC pizzeria's with coal ovens.