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Sunnyside - The Fruitless Search For A Decent Slice of Pizza

22 months into my stay here in Sunnyside and I have relatively few complaints. The variety of solid food choices in the area is amongst the best in the city. The Mexican food in particular is excellent from De Mole to Los Vagabundos (aka the 41st Taco truck). And it is because of these great choices that one could overlook the fact that the neighborhood is wont of perhaps the most basic staple of the food delivery circuit. Unfortunately I have reached my breaking point and I can hold my tongue no longer: I want a good slice of pizza in Sunnyside and I want it now.

The pizza options in Sunnyside are as plentiful as they are horrible, and I've tried them all: Marabella, Donatos, Skillman's famous (infamous), Rosario's, Gabriella's, La bella, Lentini and even the sloopy mess that the cafeteria formerly known as the Cheesesteak Factory produced. What's amazing about all of these options is that they all share the same deficiency, namely the sauce. The sauce, in almost every instance, is "sweet," and not in a good way. It is as if eveyr pizza place in Sunnyside buys its sauce from the same wholesaler (there is no way they make this stuff themselves). This wholesaler must be blackmailing all of them (or is run by the mob) because the sauce is horrible and the complaints are many (just do a search for Sunnyside and pizza and you'll see what I mean). The pizzas also generally lack any rigidity and are sometimes undercooked, but the consistent flaw in every pie is the sauce. It's very troubling and something must be done.

So in finishing this rant I have come up with two optionss for anyone who chooses to read this: 1. Suggest a pizza place in the greater Sunnyside area that offers pizza that can even be considered palatable (traditional pizza only as opposed to "Mexican Pizzas" or "Turkish Pizza," though I do love both). I am willing to try anything within delivery range (as far east as 55th, north to 37th, west to 33rd and south to 50th). I will only try the place based on positive personal experiences; and 2. Open your own pizza place in Sunnyside. You will make a killing. I have honestly considered speaking with the proprietors of a couple of my old favorites from Manhattan and funding or franchising one of them in Sunnyside (the former Cheesesteak Factory or the old Korean place between the church and CVS being my two locations of choice). Unfortunately I have no experience in making pizza or managing a pizza place so the idea flamed out rather quickly. From what I understand this problem has gone on far too long. It is time for change and the benefits to all are almost limitless.

Please help. Sunnyside needs you.

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    1. There is little doubt that pizza sucks in our nabe. Brace yourself for some defense of bad Sunnyside pizza to come, soon, in this thread.
      There is little doubt that a really good pizza place would do well.
      Here's what I think is going on. While there are some amazing "old school" pizza places in NYC, there really aren't that many great ones in Queens. It's just not a slam dunk that there will be one in any given neighborhood. And the great pizza makers, they're not looking to open more joints. They're doing just fine as is. Your post implies some sort of limitless supply of good pizzerias. I don't think that's the case, at least not in our borough, and it explains why there's not one in our nabe.

      1. Not a decent Pizza anywhere in Jackson Heights and most other communities in Queens except for FH's & Astoria. This is also a problem in the other Boro's. When Dom De Marco (DiFara's) decides to retire he should open a Pizza School and pass on his Art to all the pizza owners who make horrible pizza which is at least 95% of NYC Pizzeria's. I know, I know, I'm dreaming. I have to believe that it's just as easy to make a good pizza than a bad one. The Pizza place around the corner just raised prices to $2.50. I told him, "I wouldn't mind paying $2.50 if it was good pizza." This is an Italian born Pizza owner. I would gladly pay far more than $2.50 for a DiFara quality pizza if we had it here in JH's. Snarls, I feel your outrage. It's completely justified. Oh, how I would like to see a John's or Patsy's open in JH's. Imagine if they opened across from the 74th St Station (E, F, G, R, V, W, & 7).
        This would be the very best location is all of Queens with so many subways plus the number of people who enter and exist this heavy traffic station.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mike V

          Rosa's on Fresh Pond Road can be very good. They have a good fresh mozz slice, good sicilian with the onions, a decent grandma, a very good chicken caesar, --there is also a new place, Michealangelo's in Forest Hills, closer to Kew Gardens on QB that has pizza similiar to Rosa, just more pricey. And, for pies, I still like Nick's, but I don't like Dee's (too sweet and yeasty).

        2. The only pizza I've liked is the grandma slice at Peppino's in Woodside on 61st st, only when it's cooked really well done. I've had it not so great, but when it's been crisp and the onions caramelized just so, I'd say it can be pretty good. We've ordered it and asked for it well-done and that improves the chances.

          I was at Donato's not too long ago and thought just that, somebody should buy them out, get rid of the white table cloth and start making some classic simple pizza a-la Lucali's or my dearly departed Leonardos (underrated brick oven on Court st, now Dunkin Donuts). The location is so perfect.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Widmark

            I think Peppino's grandma slice is better than pretty good. It's really good. Definitely one of the best slices in Queens. I also like their marinara slice, the one that looks like a round Sicilian with tomato sauce.

            I'd suggest to the OP to get on the 7 Express and try a slice at Peppino's.

            1. re: E Eto

              And to take it a step further, I believe that the Peppino's grandma is better than really good - well-done certainly the key, but it is also substantial in size and the toppings meld perfectly...one of the only slices left where you can taste that classic olive oil / iron pan burnishment...which is why a blackened corner or side slice is golden, IMO.

              1. re: Mike R.

                i'll agree with the others here that the grandma slice at Peppino's is worth having, as is the whole grandma pie. i haven't tried anything else there, because nothing else looks worth trying, although my friend says that the regular slices are OK. probably not worth going outside your range for, but i think the grandma slice IS worth going outside of your range.


                1. re: charlie_b

                  What exactly is a Grandma slice? I've only ever ordered plain from Peppinos and been disappointed, I'm curious about this Grandma slice.

                  1. re: CKOne

                    slice says "Essentially a thin-crust Sicilian pie." but at Peppinos, you get less cheese and lots of onions, which tend to carmelize and blacken and if you're lucky make a sticky goo on the bottom of the crust that is about as tasty as food gets.

                      1. re: E Eto

                        yeah, that's the stuff, and Eric's link to the photo is worth a thousand words. but i'll add these: a good amount of olive oil, lots of sauteed to carmelized onions, tomato chunks, mozzerella slices, and fresh basil.

                        they usually have it somewhere on the counter, towards the center.


                2. re: E Eto

                  There's a Pepinos in Jackson Heights now, too. It took over the Thomas Pizza spot on 37th Ave near 76th St. across from the Met.

                  1. re: seneca

                    Early reports say it's not the same as the Woodside Peppino's.

                    1. re: E Eto

                      Guess it depends on what you mean as "the same". It is in fact the same owners. The thread you are linking to doesn't dispute this, but the people who posted in that thread clearly were unhappy with the product they got at the JH branch vs the Woodside one.

                      But I happen to like the Pepinos in JH.

                3. re: Widmark

                  Sigh. I remember Leonardos on Court St. That was good pizza!

                4. Oh, I grew up in Sunnyside and understand the lack of decent pizza there. I used to love Sal's on 44th and Greenpoint a long time ago (25-30 years ago). But the place is not there anymore.

                  I think your best option is Sapori d'Ischia in Woodside. It's not the standard NY slice joint, but a very good Italian restaurant located in the middle of nowhere. Their robiola, truffle oil and prosciutto pizza is very good. I think they also have a margharita as well if you're a pizza purist.

                  1. While I find Lentini's and Donato's acceptable, I agree that there is a lot of lackluster pizza here in the neighborhood. My old roommate and I used to order from Woodside pizza occasionally - it's on 61st and QB, I think, but they do deliver to Sunnyside. If you haven't tried them, you may want to give it a go. It's been a while, so I can't remember if their sauce was sweeter than or comparable to any of the other usual suspects.

                    I prefer Donatos to all other neighborhood options, but I agree that their sauce is a touch sweet - however, I grew up with Papa John's, whose sauce is pure sugar, so I don't really mind. Oddly enough, if you order a side of marinara to go with garlic knots or something like that from Donatos, it's an entirely different sauce and it's not half bad - you might ask if they could use that sauce on your pizza the next time you order. Also, I have a habit of doctoring every pizza I order with caramelized red onions, green olives and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, which hides a multitude of sins!

                    1. Peppino's is OK. I order delivery from there occasionally, and like a lot of places they have a tendency to undercook their pies for delivery - I guess in the interest of speed. So I often ask for my pies well-done, which they're usually pretty good about. But you do run the risk of getting, as I did one time, a pie that's all black on the bottom.

                      The best pizza in this whole part of Queens is Rosa's in Maspeth (get any of their Sicilian variations) on 69th St. just north of Grand Ave. and the LIE, but it's a real hassle to get to if you don't have a car.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Woodside Al

                        I have to disagree on the Rosa's recommendation. I think they're OK, but nothing special. I've tried many of their pizzas trying to find what other CH posters think is so special, and just haven't found it. And Rosa's grandma slice is pretty bad, especially compared to the one at Peppino's. I like the round Sicilian pies at Peppino's better than the Sicilians at Rosas as well.

                        1. re: E Eto

                          I didn't like the Grandma at Rosa's in Maspeth, but the pizza that's all onions who's name starts with an Sf that I can never remember was good, and the eggplant slice was really good.

                          1. re: Widmark

                            I think it's sfingione. Onions and bread crumbs and sauce on a sicilian crust. Maybe a little cheese. I haven't tried that one at Rosa's but the crust of their sicilian didn't impress me. Have you tried the sfingione at Peppino's. It's not bad, but I like the marinara slice better.

                            1. re: E Eto

                              I've only ever had the Grandma at peppinos.

                          2. re: E Eto

                            Rosa's Sicilians are much closer to the style one gets on L.I. or at L&B in Brooklyn, slightly gummy texture, tomato-y sauce on the top, not much cheese. Peppino's is quite bit closer to the standard Sicilian style served in NYC pizzerias, but better than most. But they are rather different styles. Perhaps a matter of taste?

                          3. re: Woodside Al

                            Does Peppino's deliver to Sunnyside (46th St.)? I'd definitely be interested in trying it, but we almost never go out for pizza - it's our go-to for delivery nights!

                          4. Bad pizza with that damn sweet and not in a good way sauce is becoming the norm. I could have lived on pizza when I was younger (and I grew up in Astoria) and now I groan when the husband suggests it because good pizza is just too hard to find.

                            1. I second the abundant suggestions for Peppino's on 61st. I would add that, in addition to the grandma, the regular cheese slice (either from the typical round pie or the Sicilian) is top notch. Some of the thick crust selections are excellent too (had a bite of the eggplant parm looking slice and it was delicious). The one enduring mystery about Peppino's is the popularity of the 'salad slice', which seems to be thick crust pizza topped with grilled chicken and lettuce. It is rare for me to go in there and not see at least one person order a salad slice. Any explanations?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: elbev

                                I've not had it at Peppino's, but I used to frequent a brew pub in college that served a "pizza salad" that I liked a lot. It wasn't thick crust, though - it was basically a personal sized thinner-crust pizza (with whatever toppings you wanted), topped with a nice tangy caesar salad (sans croutons). You could pick up the whole thing, fold it like a giant taco and eat. It sounds like an odd combination but it was actually really good. Not sure how I'd like it with a thicker crust pizza, though. I'd be willing to give it a go, I guess!

                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  Sounds interesting, could be worth a try. I think there is some caesar dressing on there as well, now that I think about it.

                              2. I lived in Sunnyside for 3 years, and hung out there for 10 - and I concur, no good pizza to be found. Maybe LIC, in all it's sprouting yuppiedom, has produced a good pizzeria? I dunno, haven't been down there in awhile.
                                As far as Queens generally, Bayside, Whitestone & Flushing still have good pizza! Sickly sweet sauce is a growing problem, though, I must admit.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Donna Lee

                                  Please, please share where that good pizza is in Bayside, Whitestone, or Flushing, because it's certainly nowhere I've found. We used to like Matese on Franny Lew for Grandma, but it's gone far downhill since they remodeled a year or 2 ago, and I can't justify the $22 for a pie.

                                  1. re: irishnyc

                                    Not a destination place, but the pizza parlor in Flushing’s Pathmark shopping center (Whitestone Expressway at Farrington Street) is much better than the average neighborhood place. I’ve been there 50+ times and don’t recall being disappointed (it’s a 20 minute walk for me, and there are at least 6 other places much closer that I usually bypass).

                                    It’s a pain to get to w/o a car, but it’s worth a visit if going to a movie at the Whitestone Multiplex (5 minute walk), or maybe a game at Shea (15 minute walk or a 5 minute ride on the Q25 from the Main Street (last) stop on the 7).

                                    I went to Cascarino’s (College Point Boulevard at 14th Avenue, really out of the way, 20 minutes from Main Street on the Q65) once several years ago and thought it was on par with the Pathmark place, but obviously don’t know if that was a representative visit.

                                    1. re: irishnyc

                                      That pizza parlor in Flushing by the Whitestone bridge is Amore. I stopped in here by accident and the place just smelled right, the slices were snapped up the second they were out of the oven, there is no waiting or reheating a slice, that is how good it is. If you want pizza that you remember from the 60s and 70s, pizza that you can fold and is still served on a piece of wax paper, this is it. It has excellent sauce, cheese, and the right amount of oil. Their dinners are good too, but the pie is wonderful.

                                  2. Well, I share your frustration with the pizza in the nabe (& the lack of decent fried chicken as well). Frankly I'm not going to go 20 blocks to Woodside for a slice or delivery when I'm hungry. My local goto in Sunnyside has become Marabellas grandma pie. Not worthy of a post on it's own merits, same sauce, but fresh mozzarella & a sprinkle of herbs when it arrives makes it the relative best I've found.
                                    Now if someone knows of some good fried chicken......

                                    1. Although I can't say that all of the pizza pies at Marabella's are great, they do make a few specialty pizzas that are excellent. My favorites are the mondello pizza (arugula, prosciutto, fresh mozarella, parmesan, and a tasty red sauce) and the quattrogsto (artichoke and ham). Their grandma pizza is also pretty good. Their plain cheese slice is just okay, though

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ChicaDIficil

                                        BTW - Is Gabriella's open anymore.. was closed everytime I drove by this week

                                      2. Still no decent slice of pizza in Sunnyside, probably Rosario's is the best. But I did a little mini-tasing of nearby whole-pie establishments. Sapori D'ischia in Woodside, Manetta's in L.I.C. and Bella Via in L.I.C. Sapori D and Manetta's have personal size pizza's and Bella Via's is a smal pie, enough for 2.

                                        All 3 were pretty good--much better than anything you'll get in Sunnyside.

                                        Bella Via was the best due to the crust. It's airier, while the other 2 crusts are much flater and drier. I tried the marghetrita and prociutto/arugula. I don't recommend the prociutto pizza. They don't slice the prociutto thin enough so when you bit into a piece of prociutto the whole thing rips off half the pie. Stick w/the marghertita, which though a bit heavy, had a good sauce and, as mentioned, great chewy crust.

                                        Sapori D'ischia - crust thin and a bit dry, but not bad. I got the Margherita, which oddly have very little cheese. It was almost entirely sauce. Fortunately the sauce was very good. Not too sweet and fresh tasting. I rate it middle of the pack.

                                        Manetta's - also tried the Margherita. The crust was like Sapori's, but worse. Too dry. The sauce was decent and it had more cheese than Sapori's, but I think this was the loser of the bunch.

                                        1. Rosario's on Skillman btwn 50th and 51st is by far the best I've tasted around the area. Hands down.

                                          Try his Sicilian Slice as well. Awesome.

                                          1. This may not be too helpful but a new place opened on Greenpoint south of Qns Blvd.

                                            Unfortunately I cant remember the name or exact location. It's on a south east corner, I'm pretty sure 43st. Been there about 6 weeks? When I drive by again I'll post more details; but no intention of trying it. Tho it looks nice inside.

                                            Thing is I work down on Review ave and go to Marchini's si I've no reason to hit any of those other spots. Unfortunately for most of you Marchini's is quite out of the way unless you work down here in no mans land. But who knows how far they deliver?

                                            Marchini's is on 48th south of the LIE across from the UPS depot. I think it's Maspeth. Very yum grandma slice and daily specials are huge and delish. Great guys working there too.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: 2slices

                                              I drove by. It's on Greenpoint and 43rd, its called "singas Famous", next door to The Harp pub. Never tried it, just an FYI. From the outside it looks nice and new.

                                              1. re: 2slices

                                                Singas might actually be the worst pizza ever made. It's also expensive and takes forever, since they don't do individual slices.

                                                I was pleasantly surprised tonight when I tried the pizza at Mangal for the first time. It's underseasoned (well, not really seasoned at all), but some oregano helps with that. I think they use the same dough they use for the Turkish breads, so the crust is really good.

                                                1. re: pothead

                                                  I eat at Mangal 3 times a week. Including yesterday, tho have never order the pizza. The turkish food is tops! I think I've mentioned it in at least 3 other threads since finding it 5 weeks ago.

                                                  1. re: 2slices

                                                    Have you tried Turkish Grill, three blocks down? I've always liked it much better than Mangal (I too repeat myself in saying this), although it's more of a sit-down place. The bread is so good, I could eat it all day long.

                                                  2. re: pothead

                                                    yeah, pothead, Singas always reminds me of my HS cafeteria pizza even though it's made by Pakistanis

                                              2. Try the sausage pizza at La Flor (Roosevelt Ave. near 52nd). Reliable and crispy, if not authentic Italian.

                                                1. Though I'm not 100% sold yet, my search for a decent slice may be fruitless no longer. The pizza served at Mediterraneo on 46th St. and Queens Blvd is BY FAR the best I've had in the area. I've tried them now half a dozen times and they have yet to disappoint. Great crust, decent sauce and consistent performance with what appears to be REAL mozzarella cheese! The pizza is still not quite as good as some of the better places near where I lived in Manhattan, but compared to its competitors it is terrific. I've also begun experimenting with their pasta menu and while I prefer Donato's, Mediterraneo is not bad and features pretty much any italian option you could imagine.

                                                  I'll keep on looking and hoping that a very good pizza place sets up shop in our hood, but for now I am very comfortable suggesting that those still looking give Mediterraneo a try.

                                                  4621 Queens Blvd
                                                  (718) 433-1100‎

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Snarls

                                                    I was pretty jazzed on Mediterraneo a few years ago - the chicken and broccoli pizza was especially good. In recent trips, I've seen a dip in quality, although I agree that the crust is the closest you'll find to real crust in this area. I disagree about the sauce, though - not tasty.

                                                    Just this week I, too, expanded my search, ordering a plain pie from Rosario's. The thinness of the crust and the crust-sauce-cheese ratio were all perfect; the flavors, however, were not, with only the cheese earning taste points. Still, all in all, not a bad slice - for Sunnyside.

                                                  2. Perhaps making your own pizza is the way to go for you. I love La Bella and that new joint Singa's is okay but a little expensive. We like our sauces sweet in NYC! Did you try the pizza in Sidetracks? they serve it Patsy's style - u might like. good luck.

                                                    1. Unfortunately, Rosario's Pizza on Skillman has shut down. Anthony, the owner couldn't afford the increased rent and business just wasn't strong enough to keep things going.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: rhydewithdis

                                                        He'll hit the road with his band.
                                                        The pizza was okay ( I hit mine with anchovies which tends to upgrade most mediocre slices) but the banter was always interesting
                                                        I enjoyed my visits there.