Best Slice in Manhattan--Sal and Carmine's
- Dan Sonenberg Sep 24, 1998 12:59 AM
I just don't understand why I never see anything
written anywhere about Sal and Carmine's, the pizza
shop between 101st and 102nd on Broadway. This place
features two Italian brothers turning out the absolute
best pies I've found in the city (including all the
thin-crust pizzas that I find to be generally
insipid--particularly John's and Pazzi's (UWS
versions anyway)). There is no weak link in a Sal and
Carmine's slice, and if you're used to the typical NYC
cardboard crust, you are in for a shock here. Their
cheese isn't goopy, and it isn't overused. AND, for
the diet conscious, this is the only NYC style pizza
that I've found that stands up to leaving off the
cheese (as is actually not all that uncommon in Italy).
The other day I heard Carmine saying it was almost time
for the brothers to retire...it would be a real
tragedy, and perhaps a secret tragedy, as this place
seems wildly underexposed to me. Please, try it! Best
thing to do, sneak up and peak in the window...wait
until there is no regular cheese pie on the counter
(they do them one at a time). This means a fresh one's
coming, and for some reason a fresh one at C&S's makes
a big difference--a fresh pie there is like a living
entity and I assure you, you will rapture.
re: Barry Strugatz
Sal & Carmine's serves a good slice, but it is by no
means ignored in the food press. Ed Levine has written
about Sal & Carmine's in "New York Eats," (one
of the only places you would expect to see
coverage of a pizzeria) and--to the extent this
matters--I have mentioned it online. To say it's the
best pizzeria in New York, however, strikes me as a bit
of a stretch.
re: Steven Shaw
Maybe it's not the best pizzeria in New York, but I
think it is significantly better than other pizzerias
(and I'm basically focusing on New York style, pizza
by the slice) that seem to me to get more press--take
Vinnie's for instance. Zagat drools all over them, and
I find their pizza consistently disappointing--over
cheesed, seldom fresh out of the oven, way, way
I probably don't eat enough pizza to be the end-all
judge on what the best pizzeria in NYC is, but I say
with confidence that it's the best slice I've found.
So what's better??
re: Dan Sonenberg
Um, er, ah, well, I was going to say Vinnie's--but I
guess I won't convince you there! Vinnie's is
definitely a cheese-oriented pizzeria, so you have to
view the 11th St. & Sixth Ave. Ray's (this tends to be
a love-it-or-hate-it proposition) as a good pizzeria
in order to be in the Vinnie's camp. I disagree that
it is rarely hot--I've found that Vinnie's is one of
the only pizzerias in New York where turnover is so
high that you get a still-hot, un-reheated slice most
of the time. Not that there's anything wrong with
reheating--many New York pizza afficianado's prefer it
Other good pizzerias on the Upper West Side, in my
experience, are Freddy & Pepper's (about a block up
Amsterdam from Vinnie's--between 74th & 75th, I
think), La Traviata (on 68th just west of Columbus),
and, if you want to get a whole pie, Polistina's, on
Broadway. Also very popular (although not necessarily
to my liking as much) is V&T, up near Columbia. And,
although I am in a minority on this, I actually kind
of like the pizza at Big Nick's (both locations).
re: Steven Shaw
Maybe I've just been unlucky with Vinny's. I've only
been there three times, and to me it ranged from okay
to really less-than-okay. Interestingly, I actually
find a big difference between the reheated slice and
the fresh out of the oven slice at Sal and Carmine's.
When I walk by and see that no plain cheese pie is out,
I'm tempted to get a slice even if I'm not hungry. I
liked some of the exotic offerings at Freddie and
Peppers, but have not yet tried Polistina's or V&T's
(despite all I've heard about the latter.)
But...in the realm of the gourmet thin crusted pizza, I
was horribly, horribly disappointed by the John's near
Lincoln Center. I ate there with my then girlfriend
who is lactose intolerant and cannot eat cheese. I
actually think that a great way to test a pizza's
quality is to try it without cheese (often with a
veggie topping...or even just plain!). It's very easy
for mediocre ingredients to hide, at least somewhat,
behind gobs of mozerella (or something filling that
role). The sauce at John's tasted simply dreadful to
me--it had a bitter, garlic powdery aftertaste, and all
the fullness of flavor of say, Ronzoni. The crust was
eh... I haven't been to the Bleeker St. John's, and I
assume it MUST be significantly better.
I tried Patsy's on the UWS, but now, thanks to Jim, I
know that that's not a real Patsy's. Thank goodness,
because it just plain old sucked.
There are two thin-crust pizzas that I've tried that
were pretty good. One was at a pizzeria not far from
NYU Medical Center--in the east 30s. It was called
Christine's or something. The other was the Cafe
Picasso, which I think is on Bleeker St. But none of
it comes close to the stuff you get in Italy in just an
average place...at least not for me.
re: John Knoesel
John, last time you posted about Sacco (a month or two
ago), I ran out and tried a slice the next day. It was
very good, but I can't sign on to your ringing
endorsement. It's a top-notch neighborhood pizza
joint--the slices are quite similar, in fact, to those
at Sal & Carmine's and the local joints in several
other neighborhoods--but I wouldn't necessarily make
it a destination the way I would, say, the Patsy's in
Harlem or Sally's and Pepe's in New Haven.
Basically, within Manhattan (below Harlem), there are
not many pizzerias I'd recommend traveling for. John's
is no longer what it once was (even the original store
has suffered), the Patsy's branches are mediocre, the
Manhattan Totonno's is weak, and most other places are
undistinguished. I like Pintaile's (I've advocated it
as Manhattan's best gourmet-style pizza) and Vinnie's
(my favorite by-the-slice-style pizza), but, even
there, I wouldn't necessarily recommend a trip from
the TriBeCa to get a slice at Vinnie's. I might travel
to eat at La Pizza Fresca, more out of my affinity for
its authenticity than for its excellence, or at
Candido (my pick as Manhattan's closest analog to the
way Totonno's used to be) if you can arrange with the
chow-gods to arrive on a good day, and I've heard
reliable reports that Lombardi's may be worth a
detour, but that's about it.
re: Pete Feliz
I agree with Steve on La Pizza Fresca. They seem very
proud of their official sanction by the Neopolitan
Pizza commission, and it's true that all of their
ingredients taste very fresh and the pies have a
certain authenticity to them. But they seem to lack a
certain fire that their Italian counterparts have.
It's as if the parts are somehow greater than the
I look forward to trying Pintaile's.
re: Dan Sonenberg
I had a slice at the new Pintailles, a new one at 4th
and 12th. Lousy, really lousy, thought I had been
ripped off at $1.75. Gone in two bites. I'd rather eat
As for downtown, TWO BOOTS. Go to the original for the
whole pie, if you can. The Bayou Beast...andouille,
crawdads and jalapenos...but the slice places across
the street at A and 4th or Greenwich and 7th are just
They will be opening a slice place in the new Grand
Central food court next month. This is great news, as
it puts one near work, too, but I suspect success will
be their ruination.
re: Steven Shaw
I had a slice at Vinnie's yesterday at Vinnie's (lunchtime -- they were quite busy). It was really, really, really, really, really bad. There was quite a bit of traffic but the cheese had congealed. It was extremely greasy but, mysteriously, dabs of napkins revealed little oil that could be extracted.
I used to like Vinnie's, but it has been years since I had a slice there. Perhaps it was a fluke, but I worry about any place that could serve as bad a slice as that.
Do they still serve the Chilean sauce at Freddy & Peppers that used to be featured when it was Freddy and Pepe's?
re: Dan Sonenberg
Growing up in Brookyln I got used to a few basic
things from my New York Pizza:
1) Enough stringy cheese to get good "cheese-pulls"
but not so much that its just a slab of molten
lactose. Moreover, the cheese should taste like a good
combination of Moz. Parmesian, and some other cheeses
2) Tangy tomato sauce. The Sauce should taste like
3) A crust that is not too thin (like the new designer
pizzas) and not as thick as sicillian. It should be
crispy on the bottom and chewey on the top. And it
should have enough flavor that eating the last bit,
without the sauce, should be a pleasure, not a chore.
The place I've found in Manhattan that comes closest
to this ideal is Ben's Pizza on the corner of Spring &
Thompson. Just be sure to get the slice re-heated to
crisp the bottom. It is consistantly tasty. I hope you
like it too!
Just wanted to tell you that at your (and the alpha
dog's) recommendation, I tried Sal & Carmine's a
couple of months ago.
And I'm hooked. It's now my favorite by-the-slice
place in Manhattan. And you are absolutely right --
get 'em while they are hot. I've ordered whole pies
to take to friends nearby and they are sublime. I
find the plain slices to be the most satisfying by
Thanks for the wonderful tip.