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Jul 27, 2009 09:13 AM

New York water for better pizza?

I watched an episode of one of my favorite FN shows on Sunday. They were supposedly testing the theory that NY pizza is really the best, and why that is. They focused on the water. They made pizzas with NYC tap water, Chicago tap water and Los Angeles tap water. Four chefs did a blind taste test and all four preferred pizza "B", which was the pizza made with NYC tap water. I was very surprised that all four agreed that the NYC water pizza was the best. Go figure...

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  1. As a NYer I'm not surprised at all. We've said it for years. It's also the reason for better bagels and crusty bread.

    BTW, only one of the three tasters was a chef/restaurant owner. The other two were actors/comedians.

    2 Replies
    1. re: irishnyc

      Yes, thanks for the correction. They did mention the effect of the water on bagels as well.

      1. re: bnemes3343

        I live in NoCal and won't eat anything but NY bagels. We bring home two dozen, freeze individually, toast and eat. Once they're gone, no more til our next visit. It's GOT to be the water.

    2. Jeff Varasano is a bit of a pizza obsessive, and he doesn't buy it. Neither do I. The water is just one of hundreds of factors.

      That said, I wouldn't make any kind of bread with plain tap water. Filter it, already.

      10 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        So I guess we shouldn't "waste" 1 of our 20 remaining NY bagels on ya, huh??? :)

        1. re: c oliver

          Don't get me wrong. I love a good bagel, and plenty of them are made in NYC. But I've had some mediocre bagels there too. There are just so many factors more important than the water.

          Just look at a bagel from H&H next to one from Daniel's. One is big and pillowy and light, the other is small and dense and chewy. They're made from the same water, and they're both delicious, but they're completely different types of bread.

          Are we going to find great bagels in NorCal? Probably not. But it's not because the water is inferior; it's because there's not enough demand for really good bagels to make it worth somebody's while to do it right.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            You are 100% correct in that just using NYC water does not make a good bagel or pizza. There are plenty of horrible versions of both in NY (can you say Ray's?). But, the point was that a master pizza maker or bagel maker will turn out a better product with NYC water.

            seems to me this is similar to the effect of San Francisco on sourdough bread. I have never found sourdough bread 1/2 as good as SF anywhere else.

            1. re: bnemes3343

              Actually after decades of living in SF, I now live almost 200 miles away. We get sourdough from a local bakery, Truckee Bakery, that we think is better than anything currently being sold to the public in SF. Sorry to muddy the water :)

        2. re: alanbarnes

          It may not make sense to you, but when 4 blind taste-testers all choose the same pizza (made with NY water), I think that's kind of irrefutible (although I would have preferred they submitted their votes on paper instead of verbally; to prevent the first vote from biasing the others).

          1. re: bnemes3343

            The test was a far cry from a scientifically valid study, but I don't quibble with its results. The question is how you characterize the results. I think it's fair to say that NYC tap water is better for pizza dough than LA tap water or Chicago tap water. But although I don't know about Chicago, LA's tap water leaves a lot to be desired. NYC tap water is definitely better, and therefore should produce better pizza dough.

            While using bad water will make an inferior pizza crust, using any of a number of good waters will solve that problem. Get the nasty flavors out, and you're good to go. (Unless the good water is fairly hard, with lots of naturally-occurring minerals, in which case you might need to add the minerals back in. But if I recall correctly, NYC has fairly soft water, so that's not much of an issue.)

            The NYC DEP is justifiably proud of the pure, clean-flavored water it delivers to the city. I wish the water coming out of my taps was so good. It isn't, but it's fine once it's been through the ol' filter.

          2. re: alanbarnes

            I recall the Varasano entry about the water, and a sample size of 4 is not exactly statistically significant. But for the sake of argument, if 1,000 testers came up with the same results, then the proof would be in the pudding. There might be hundreds of other factors at work, but water would be a significant variable.

            As for filtering, my gut reaction is just the opposite. DON'T filter. It's the fact that there are a specific mix of dissolved minerals in NYC tap water which makes it unique. I always find NY (and LI) water to taste "sharp" (in a good way), while most water down South tastes soapy to me.

            1. re: sbp

              I would argue that it IS statistically significant. The odds of 4 people selecting the same pie from 3 samples is 1 in 81. Seems fairly compelling to me. And, yes, do NOT filter the water.

              1. re: bnemes3343

                I love New York pizza BUT, what bothers me about this survey was that it was not truly blind as it is in BBQ cookoffs, where other's opinions about the products are not shared, they are written in secret and then disclosed later. This way, no influence can be transmitted from one person to another, for instance say I'm on the fence between two and three, and the first two tasters say two, I may be persuaded to agree, as could number four. By the way, does anyone know where the water in Oswego, NY comes from? Some of the best pizza I've had came from a mom and pop near the lake.

                1. re: James Cristinian

                  Yes, I agree about that. The votes should have been written down, not vocalized. That bothered me too. Still, I found it interesting. A more scientific test would be of value.

          3. Years ago I was in John's on Bleeker and was talking to the owner. He told me they picked the location of a Florida outpost based on the water. I then lived in Montana for years and there was a guy from Brooklyn who modified the water to make it like the water in his Uncles' pizza joint. The crust was the closest I've ever seen in that part of the country.
            Both Grimaldi's here in San Antonio and a Neaploitan pizza place called Dough modify their water to make it like NY's.
            Supposedly the flour makes a difference too.

            1. Interesting. One of my favorite restaurants was a little no-name pizza place in Marlboro, NY. The owner stated that he chose the location because it was on the NYC aquaduct side of the Hudson.

              1. have always heard (and taken with a grain of salt) that the water does matter. i am a new yorker with a pizza passion and love pepe's in new haven , when they get it right. so now am very excited that pepe's will be opening near here,. pepe's pizza with new york water- could be interesting,just not til november:(