Pizza in Manhattan
Seattle 'hound heading to NYC in a couple of weeks. Will be staying in the Bryant Park neighborhood. What pizza is not to be missed? I want the quintessential NY style pizza experience that can't be had in the Pacific Northwest. Mille grazie!
In my opinion, Grimaldi's is the best but its just over the Brooklyn Bridge. Take the subway to the bridge, walk over, have Grimaldi's and Brooklyn Ice Cream Company. Makes for a great night.
It depends on how you define quintessential NY style pizza experience.
Gas oven? Coal oven? You want a pie or just a slice to go? Are you the type of person who loads on the toppings? If you *must* stay in Manhattan you don't have that many choices as a lot of well-known pizzerias are coasting on past glories.
Grimaldi's has the best sauce but is often soggy off the bat and there's usually a huge line. I have heard you can ask for it well-done though if the kitchen isn't slammed. Lombardi's has a huge line too and also gets soggy too quickly. John's of Bleecker has been making the crust too thick lately and the cheese is the really cheap stuff and piled on too high. That said, it also often has a large line. I think when they really get it nice and charred the bell peppers they use are great, though. Skip the John's in Times Square.
My tops are Patsy's of East Harlem and ONLY that Patsy's location (but at times the oven isn't hot enough and the sauce is too sweet), Totonno's in Coney Island and ONLY that Totonno's, and Una Pizza Napoletana in the East Village which is not actually NY style (although I wish he was a little more generous with toppings).
Personally I find there are two NY styles: the gas oven cheesy and greasy slice, and the coal oven, more delicate, beautifully charred style (a NY and Naples-style hybrid).
Totonno's and Una Pizza are pies only. Totonno's pies can feed 2-3 people. Una Pizza's pies can feed 1 hungry person or 2 non-hungry people. Una Pizza is Naples style but serves some of the best pie in town. No extraneous toppings allowed as he is a purist: fresh dough, mozzarella imported from Italy, sea salt, fresh basil, tomato sauce, that's it. Totonno's is NY-Naples style (a hybrid) and coal oven but out of the way for tourists.
Most reputable pizza places don't do slices. Di Fara and Patsy's are notable exceptions. But non-New Yorkers often don't know this.
Una Pizza is pricier than the others (possible out of towner sticker shock ahead at $21 a pie) and there are no extra toppings per se (pepperoni, mushrooms, etc) and for the love of God don't ask him for BBQ chicken or anything.
Totonno's has multiple locations but I can only recommend the Coney Island one.
Thank you, Kathryn, for your very specific and well-conceived response. I've been duly educated, since I'm a neophyte at such matters. All the chatter in the Pacific Northwest is about how you can't get decent, NY-style pizza out here (with a notable exception of Apizza Scholls in Portland, Ore. - a coal-fired operation that I've yet to try). For the record, my preferences gear towards thin crust with fewer toppings, coal or wood-fired, and that special NY-style red sauce that I've heard tastes so much better on the East Coast . . .
Everyone's covered quintessential NY pizza, but near your hotel/Bryant Park you could also check out Lazzara's for a different style altogether. They do a "grandma" slice (which is sort of like a thinner variation of sicilian because it's square and not as bready) with good toppings. It's on 37th just off 7th (I think).