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Best Slice in Manhattan--Sal and Carmine's

  • d
  • Dan Sonenberg Sep 24, 1998 12:59 AM
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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.

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  1. b
    Barry Strugatz

    Are these the same guys who had their shop on Bdway & 95th, around the corner from the Thalia in the 1970's and 80's? If so they are great...I had many a sllice there.

    15 Replies
    1. 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.

      1. re: Steven Shaw
        d
        Dan Sonenberg

        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
        overhyped.

        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??

        1. 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
          that way.

          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).

          1. re: Steven Shaw
            d
            Dan Sonenberg

            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.

            1. re: Dan Sonenberg

              In the thin-crust category, two decent entries: Mona
              Lisa in the Village, and Pintaille's in the low 90's on
              the east side (though the latter's is sometimes
              cracker-like, which I find annoying).

              1. re: peter s.

                You guys need to get a life.
                GO TO SACCO'S 54th @ 9th.
                Then go across the street to Ned Kelly's and have a
                couple of pints with a shot or 2
                Regards, JK

                1. 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.

                  1. re: Steven Shaw

                    I'm hearing more and more bad reports about John's. Sad. Lombardi's is quite good, and Totonno's on Coney Island was great the last time I went. I'm not crazy about Candido's, the crust tasted too sweet. Fortified with sugar.

                    Pete

                    1. re: Pete Feliz
                      d
                      Dan Sonenberg

                      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
                      whole.

                      I look forward to trying Pintaile's.

                      1. 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
                        Domino's.

                        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
                        fine.

                        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.

                        --Bob

                    2. re: Steven Shaw
                      d
                      Dave Feldman

                      Steven,

                      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?

                      Dave

              2. re: Steven Shaw

                Have a slice with anchovies at Sacco's 54th @ 9th Ave.
                This is a slice.
                Cut the crap, talk to Joe or Dominic, and ask for it
                well done.
                This is pizza like we grew up with in the outer
                boroughs.
                Regards, JK

              3. 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
                too.

                2) Tangy tomato sauce. The Sauce should taste like
                fresh tomatoes.

                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!

            2. re: Barry Strugatz
              d
              Dan Sonenberg

              Yes, same guys from 95th. They've been at it for years
              and years.

              1. re: Barry Strugatz
                j
                Jamie Alexander

                Most definately the best pizza in the city. I could not
                have made it through grad school without S&C's.

              2. d
                Dave Feldman

                Dan,

                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
                far.

                Thanks for the wonderful tip.