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Apr 30, 2008 01:27 PM

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 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.