Pizza Problems- Where Did The Great Pizza Shops Go?
Just venting here-
I remember being a kid in NY and eating regularly at
these great Pizza shops. The kinds where the front
part is an oasis of pizzas by the slice, italian ices,
zeppoles and in the back is the "dining room" where
the italian wait staff in their black vests serve up
hearty italian red sauced fare along with (if you wish)
pizza in the dining room.
Where did these places go? Do they exist anymore?
It's a sad case to always walk into a place (especially in Manhattan) and think it has potential
to grab some of that old magic and then leave sorrowly
disappointed with a bad taste in your mouth of the
fake mozzarella cheese and sauce from a jar.
I don't care what ANYONE says about Grimaldi's (they're great - whatever), but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE Anna Maria Pizza near the corner of North 7th and Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (with L train 1 short block away). To put it mildly, this is the kind of pie that you will crave like a drug.
If you haven't been there you're probably thinking that this is another one of those johnny-come-lately, over-hyped, pretentious Williamsburg dining establishments. This is not at all the case. I think they've been in their location for at least five years, and until last year I kept passing them by because their frontage was never particularly captivating.
If you like a pizza place that offers a wide selection of unique topping combos that make your mouth practically EXPLODE with their flavors, this is it! My favorite (and I think their house special) is one with pesto, roasted garlic (MANY cloves), sun-dried tomatoes, and ricotta. You may have had this same pie somewhere else before, but I'm telling you that these guys use the freshest ingredients or something - it is simply delectable!
I don't live or work ANYWHERE near Williamsburg, but there are nights when I am craving their pizza so badly that I must travel there to have a couple of slices for dinner.
re: Adrian J. Taylor
Anna Maria? No way.
That is the pizza place that has recent arrivals craving a mushy slice of pizza topped with something ridiculous like "barbequed" chicken or a greek salad. Come on...
Take the L two stops further to Graham Avenue and get a slice from the pizza place at the Northeast corner of the Graham/Metropolitan intersection. The sauce is so nonstandard that it's closer to sour than to sweet. There is actual basil on that pizza.
They also have good, crisp sicilian slices topped with real proper toppings like oily, garlicky eggplant and roasted red peppers; and I'm especially fond of the (probably homemade, or at least locally produced) cavatelli, which can be topped with broccoli rabe (for five bucks!).
One wholesaler has, for the past couple decades, had a lock on supplying slice pizzerias in the NYC area. They all use the flavorless gluey cheese, the overly sweet obnoxious tomato sauce, and the hyperbleached dough from this one company (the same one that supplies school lunchroom pizza, hence slice pizza's descent to that quality). These ingredients have gotten steadily worse over the years, and the deterioration has been so gradual that few seem to have noticed. If you make slice pizza (with very few exceptions), that's what you've got to work with. No other choice. You can doctor those ingredients up as best you can, and those that do are the "better" pizzerias.
That company does NOT supply whole-pie places, and this is what led to the explosion of brick oven and other whole pie venues over the past 20 years. But for slices of regular pizza, there are few choices. NYC pizza is no longer superior to pizza in other cities. Not at all.
>>>Where did these places go? Do they exist anymore?
As far as Manhattan goes, the places you describe have gone the way of the subway token. What's left there doesn't even resemble "New York pizza." If you're willing to cross the river--in any direction, except Jersey--there are plenty of "neighborhood places" that offer just what you're talking about. I won't begin to list them.
For my money, Patsy's in East Harlem has the best pie in Manhattan.