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May 19, 2009 03:06 PM

Help me narrow down my pizza choices...

SF Hound coming into Manhattan for 4.5 days and I have too many pizza places bookmarked to try. Out of these choices, which are in your opinion 'must try' and/or 'must avoid' My personal preference is Neapolitan style (favs in SF include A16, Pizzeria Delfina and Pizzeria Picco) but would love to also try some traditional New York style.

BTW, I'm perfectly content eating pizza every day. :)

Una Pizza Napoletana
Bleeker Street Pizza
San Marzano

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  1. I can only tell you what I like, in each of the categories I would use, Neapolitan, NY, and modern artisinal:

    To me, Una Pizza Napoletana is the best of the Neapolitan's in NY. It is a expensive, 2 small pizzas and a bottle of wine will set you back a hundred bucks with a generous tip... but I don't care, I think most of the rest of the pizza in NYC sucks so I have no choice to get something I want. They have 4 types, which I will describe as straight up pizza (margherita), pizza without cheese, pizza without sauce, and pizza with tomatoes instead of sauce. Their straight up margherita pizza is easily their best.

    Luzzo's around the corner is also Neapolitan style has a lot of rustic charm, but the pizza is boring tastewise, not worth the calories if you ask me. The "other" Neapolitan place worth a try is Keste which is relatively new. Near Luzzo's is Artichoke which many people swoon over, but which I dislike as being ... clumsy, that's what it is, and stylistically it they don't fit in the categories, they should be termed round clumsy and square clumsy.

    Grimaldis is good, but it's just NY pizza. If I lived near there or I'm around I would eat it. I find Difara (in Brooklyn) to be the great pizza worth travelling for. I have uncovered no interest in their "square slice" but if you love pizza a lot, you will probably like it. I don't think Difara is magic (though it is magical). You can watch him make it, and the trick is clearly in the EVOO poured all over. Good crust, good cheese, good tomato sauce, all are essential, and the fresh basil is a nice touch, but I think the trick is in the EVOO. I have had one "bad boring" one, but ever other time I've had a great one. I always order a whole plain pizza.

    I have not tried the other three you mentioned, but I have tried Johns, Arturos, and Lombardis, all of which are NY style pizza and which I might eat at if I lived nearby but not to travel to, but if you plan to eat pizza every day here, you should try them also, and Totonno way off in Coney Island (not sure if that's worth traveling to, but it's not worth traveling past Difara's, that is for certain.

    The other pizza I've tried and like is Franny's in Brooklyn, which is not NY or Neapolitan, but more modern artisanal style. In that case I would get the clam.

    13 Replies
    1. re: acidity

      acidity - I modified my eating itinerary to substitute Franny's for Di Fara simply after I read the DiFara reports on the "outer boroughs" board, mostly because of time constraints. Obviously I can tell from your post that you hold Di Fara in high regard, but as a Brooklyn substitute, do you approve of Franny's? I am also having a Coney Island day where I am planning to eat at Totonno's.

      1. re: pizzajunkie

        I would recommend doing a little reading on the current state of Coney Island before devoting the time to making a trip out there (about an hour on the subway). The Cyclone and Wonder Wheel still stand, but the amusement parks were torn down last year. The beach isn't nice at all (never has been). Without Astroland, I don't really see the point of going all the way out there.

        1. re: pizzajunkie

          Totonno's recently had a fire -- are they open?

          1. re: City Kid

            You're right - I don't think they did reopen the Coney Island location. It doesn't even appear on their website anymore.


              1. re: boccalupo

                Thanks. Strange that the front page of their website would reference their "3 locations," pointing to the two in Manhattan and one in Yonkers. Sure makes it sound like the Coney Island location is history.

            1. re: pizzajunkie

              Frankly, if you are going to Franny's at a normal dinner time, you might end up waiting just as long as if you hit up Di Fara. It's not a big place and is super popular. Lunch might be less crowded than dinner.

              Actually, I like the other food at Franny's better than the pizzas. They have great pasta, housemade sausages and terrines, appetizers, vegetable sides, dessert, etc.

              Totonno's is still closed! Fingers crossed it will be open by July.

              1. re: pizzajunkie

                Here's the thing: Difara is (or seems to be) unique in the world and incongruously, if you like it you can't help but wonder, why isn't all pizza just like this? He makes it seem so simple. Then in addition to that, you get to watch Dom make it, something that is quite a ritual. (He goes slow, he grates the cheese right on, he grates a different cheese right on, he handles hot pies in the oven with his bare hands, he snips the fresh basil with scissors, he's grating another cheese...) So, I can't endorse leaving it out of an itinerary.... but it is a long ride out there, and you could get a long line... If pizza is really your thing, you gotta go, but I wouldn't insist that everybody go there.

                Franny's I like quite a bit, and as somebody mentioned, it has a lot of other good food too. It's casual, but it's a sit down table waitress knife and fork restaurant, not an old school pizza joint, and other cities have restaurants like Franny's (not all as good).


                1. re: acidity

                  THANKS everyone so much - I am going to NYC in July, which as someone mentioned, looked like Totonno's was going to reopen by. I had read a lot about Coney Island in Tme Magazine and so forth - and I knew that it had been partly torn down - I guess I just wanted to see it before it inevitably disappears. But it would eat up the better part of a day, so I am still wavering about that. Maybe it's not worth all that.

                  Now you have me rethinking Di Fara! I did notice that it's only a couple more subway stops from Franny's. I guess if I'm going all the way to Brooklyn, I should go to the legendary place. This is too hard! ;)

                  1. re: pizzajunkie

                    You have to go for the square sliced pizza if you are going to Difara and not mind a lot of olive oil (it is basically fried in the pan). You will most likely be let down if you go for a round slice. I know I was.

                    1. re: pizzajunkie

                      Hopefully it will reopen in time for your visit. I did not put Totonno's (Coney Island) on my list because it is closed. However, they are my number one old school NY coal oven pizza and one of the best pizza places in NYC.

                      1. re: boccalupo

                        dhs and bocca - thanks for this info too - I noticed that the "outer boroughs" board also seemed to pretty much agree that the square pizza was better at DiFara. It sounds similar to A16's pizza in SF, which was my first experience with that much olive oil on a pizza.

                        Yes I am definitely keeping a close eye on Totonno's! Here's hoping!

                        1. re: pizzajunkie

                          I do not understand the love of the square slice, not at all. But I do agree that Difara's is a better square slice. Didn't chime in just to say that though.

                          Go to the Totonno's website and look at the picture of the pizza. That's pretty much what it looks like and you'll be able to tell if you'd like it (I didn't really) However, they do have a tendency to char different parts more than in that picture, like places where the crust bubbles up in the middle. It gives it a nice old fashioned look, but charring on a pizza doesn't taste good. (Hate it when they sometimes char at Una Pizza, cuz that pizza is small and pricey, it's like a $1 wasted per burn patch.)


              2. Definitely don't go to L'Asso. Their pizza is mediocre. I think that as a total package, Franny's in Brooklyn is more similar to Delfina than any other place I can think of, but as acidity notes, it's not Neapolitan style. I haven't been back since my last, extremely disappointing experience at Luzzo's. I haven't been to Grimaldi's in several years but liked it a lot when I went. (There have been many "Emperor's clothes" reports on them over the years, which I suspect has to do with whether the oven was hot when the reporter went.) If you want coal-oven New York-style pizza, though, the classic is really Patsy's East Harlem, because it's all about the crust and char there. In Manhattan, there's also Arturo's, which isn't as thin but whose concept is a little more like Grimaldi's, in that while Patsy's pizza is really all about the crust, Grimaldi's and Arturo's are also about the toppings (if you go to Arturo's, strongly consider getting a clam pizza). I haven't been to the other places you mention, but heck, if you want la vera pizza napoletana, wouldn't you have to go to a real Neapolitan place like "Una Pizza Napoletana"? If not there, Keste serves Neapolitan-style pizza that's less expensive. I haven't been there, either, though.

                1. I'd stay away from Keste unless you like a really soggy middle on your pizza. I had the sausage pie there, and it was super soggy, and the sausage was devoid of any flavor.

                  I like Una Pizza quite a bit though.

                  If you like a flavorful pizza, try the square slice at Artichoke Basil. It's a flavor-lover's dream.

                  I've been to Lombardi's a couple times, and it's terrible. Avoid it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Slob

                    If tvham really wants a Neapolitan-style pizza, I would think that Artichoke is 100% out.

                    1. re: Pan

                      You're absolutely right about that, Pan. But I thought he mentioned something about trying other types of pizza and being willing to eat pizza every day.

                  2. Keste over San Marzano. I've had the margherita at both, once each, and note that my San Marzano pie was delivered (so the quality likely suffered from time out of the oven). I found Keste quite impressive, but eat fast, because it degrades quickly. I've tried Artichoke three times. The artichoke slice is not what you're looking for - heck, I can't imagine it's what ANYONE is looking for; it's a slice of pizza slathered with artichoke dip. The square slice was crazy good on one visit, and just ok on another. But if you're walking by anyway, it's worth a shot.

                    1. My personal favorites in NYC:

                      Top Naples-style:

                      1) Una Pizza Napoletana
                      2) Keste' (vastly improved on my 2nd visit)

                      Top NY Style:

                      1) Lucali
                      2) DiFara

                      If you are going to go to Brooklyn, Lucali is not much further from Manhattan than Grimaldi's and it's much better.

                      I did not think much of L'asso when I tried it.

                      A couple of newer places I have not got to yet but you might consider are Co. and Motorino.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: boccalupo

                        Thanks for all the sounds like SF Hounds aren't alone with strong opinions on pizza!

                        After looking at pics on Yelp, Keste' is definitely added to my list. And as Pan said, Artichoke doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

                        Keep the feedback coming!