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The Extended Tourist's Pizza Review

I have moved to NYC for a 6 month project for work, and I am determined to eat as much of this city as I can while I am here. One aspect of this plan involves surveying the various pizza offerings. So far, I've gotten to Keste, Grimaldi's and Arturo's. I'll continue to update the thread as a I tick more off my list.

First up, Keste. I went here on a Thursday night. I arrived around 7:15, and was told there was a 15 minute wait. I was meeting a friend, and didn't think she would be there by 7:30, so I held off putting my name in. (I entertained myself by grabbing a fro yo appetizer at the place next door. If you are thinking about doing the same, don't bother. Not terrible, but not particularly good either.) Saw a line of alarming length start to form as I sat there, so at 7:35 I asked and was told the wait was 25 minutes, so I put my name in. Friend arrived at 7:55, at 8:15 we were seated. I didn't mind the extra wait. They brought out pizza samples to the waiting crowd around 7:45 (bummer for my friend!), so I munched on appetizer #2 while I waited. Once seated, we ordered very quickly and the pizza came out in what, no joke, felt like 4 minutes. We ordered the margherita and the pizza del re. Both were quite good. The crust had a great char on the edges. It was flimsy in the middle, but it wasn't soupy or soggy. I didn't mind the texture, but I don't think it's my favorite. Cheese was fresh and delicious on both, and the combo of prosciutto, truffle and olive oil on the del re was excellent. Both were swimming in a bit too much oil for me though, and the topping to crust ratio was off. All in all, I liked it very much, but I kept thinking ... wait, so THIS is the best pizza in NYC?

Week or two later went to Grimaldi's. Did the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, so I worked up an appetite. Still ended up arriving way too early (thought they opened at 11:30 on Saturday, turns out it was 12). My brother and I consoled ourselves by splitting a pastry at Jacques Torres. At 11:45 we meandered back to Grimaldi's and got in line. There were only about 15 people in front of us. (I imagine the short line was a product of the torrential downpour we had experienced on our walk across the bridge. ) They brought us in a few minutes early to get people out of the still-dripping rain. We were seated near the door, which turns out to be a bad thing, because it appears as though they take orders and deliver pizzas from the back to the front. So people who were behind us in line, but had large enough parties to be seated at the larger tables in the back, got their orders in and their pizzas out significantly sooner than we did. I think we ended up waiting about 10 or 15 minutes before they took our order, and then at least 30 minutes if not more before the pizza arrived. (Good thing we shared that pastry). We ordered 1/2 cheese and 1/2 sausage, but when it arrived it was all sausage. That was a little annoying, but we were starving at this point, so we dug in. My number one impression was how fresh everything --from the tomatoes to the cheese to the sausage -- tasted. The flavors were clean and light, and there was no greasiness to any of it. The crust was chewy on the edges and uniformly cripsy on the bottom. As fresh as it was though, it also as pretty bland. Again, I thought... hmmm, very good, but the best?

This past Friday night was Arturo's. Not mentioned as often as Grimaldi's, Lombardi's or John's, but mentioned often enough and, more importantly for my purposes on Friday, it apparently often does not have a line. This held true for us: walking in at 8 pm on a Friday night my best friend and I were seated immediately. We shared an appetizer house salad and order of mussels. Feel free to skip both. For pizza, we went with the pepperoni. This pizza was excellent. Like Grimaldi's, the crust had a nice crispy, chewy edge, and was cooked perfectly throughout. Sauce was flavorful, with a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of spice. The spice could have been the pepperoni, which also was spicy and delicious. Proportion of sauce to cheese were perfect. Still dunno if this is the "best," but it definitely was my favorite of the three so far. Unlike the others, I had to force myself to stop eating once I was full, and I was craving it the next day. I would absolutely go back, except that there are still many, many more on my list to try.

Next up... maybe Co., maybe John's.... maybe Patsy's...

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  1. Re: Keste, only New York Magazine has proclaimed it the best pizza in NYC. I think most hounds would say that Di Fara is the best regarded here on CH.

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      The problem with comparing Keste to Di Fara is that the styles are different enough that the should be in sub categories of pizza.

      1. re: KTinNYC

        I agree completely! But I was simply trying to state who seemed to be most popular here. :)

        1. re: KTinNYC

          Totally agree about it being hard to compare different styles. I enjoyed Arturo's the most, so it's been MY "best" so far. But I can't say it is THE best. I also don't think I'd be able to rank, even with just three. I know Arturo's is my number one at the moment, but it seems silly to say whether Keste is better than Grimaldi's or vice versa. I enjoyed them both for different reasons and in different ways.

          Also, Kathryn, I'm a little surprised to hear that you think most 'hounds think DiFara is the best. Of course I know it is extremely highly regarded, but I had read some negative stuff, especially after the recent price increase. I really didn't think there was a consensus. But I have to say, hearing that has moved DiFara a few spots higher on my list of places to try, just to make sure I don't miss it.

          1. re: therenowtoo

            Most of the complaints are about the price and the waits. If the discussion was strictly about good pizza I'm pretty sure Di Fara would be the consensus number 1.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              Excellent. Good to know. Thanks guys!

              1. re: therenowtoo

                DiFara is my favorite pizza, too, but Arturo's is also in my top three. Good choice!

      2. I would like to highlight that these pizzas didn't live up to all the hype for you... some folks wait 2 hours on line at Grimaldis.. and I like you don't see the hype in all of these pizzeries. is one marginally better than the other sure.. but is that margin worth 2 hours wait and is that margin subjective to the differing styles of pizza presented? I think the "second tier" pizzerias which dont' have the PR machines or blogs rooting for them are the undiscovered gems of NY right now.. e.g. Arturos.. not the best.. but location in center, no crowd, and people like its food a lot (like you).. but you won't hear of it in the blogs...

        Re the authorities crowning who is best.. I find it all a joke.. ever since NY Magazine proclaimed Resto's new burger the "best burger in NY".. I find it tough to take their "best of" proclamations seriously on any commoditized product... someone is getting paid off somewhere.. I mean.. the artichoke pizza at Artichoke getting so much one-sided positive press... to me its all jokes..

        7 Replies
        1. re: shanshan

          How can you go to Grimaldis but not DiFaras?? If you are willing to go across the bridge for Grimaldis I think it's only fair to go to DiFaras as well. I would love to hear your thoughts!!

          1. re: pizzajunkie

            DiFara is significantly more of a schlep than Grimaldi's, albeit for better pizza.

            1. re: pizzajunkie

              Hi pizzajunkie. I'm not sure if your comment is directed to me or not, but we went with Grimaldi's this time because my brother was in town and I wanted to do the "walk across the bridge, get Grimaldi's pizza and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory ice cream" touristy thing. I was planning on going to DiFara's on another trip, and now reading the high praise from kathryn, KT and others, there is no question that I will make the schlep. And when I do, I'll definitely post about it here.

              1. re: pizzajunkie

                because it was there across the bridge.. wasn't planning to go there. Man this DiFaras gets so much positive looks.. will have to make the schlep... I wish they did the takeout option like Grimaldis..

                1. re: shanshan

                  You can get takeout at DiFara, but it's the same wait. Be sure you get the square -- it's all about the square.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    meaning, you can call ahead and pick it up vs. wait on line?

                    1. re: shanshan

                      Meaning you can call ahead AND wait in line. There's also a chance your pie will be given to someone else. Really, it's best to order your pie there and wait at the counter until it comes. People will try to cut and steal your pie -- you have to be vigilant and assertive.

            2. John's Pizza on Bleecker St. Fabulous pizza without the hype and long lines.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Motosport

                John's has lines, too, there's a usually a rope outside their door!

                1. re: kathryn

                  I guess we have been lucky when we go.

                2. re: Motosport

                  john's pizza is good. but there are many other slice places equally good or better, to me

                3. Two places I don't see mentioned in this thread are Co. (company) and Lucali. Both have long lines.

                  And yes, I always speak highly of Arturo's. Better than some of the others? Debatable. But the advantage with Arturo's is that I can actually *get* a pizza there when I want one and it doesn't have to be an enormous project. (di faras, lucali, lombardis, etc. etc.)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: egit

                    Co. is absolutely on the list. Might even be next in line, since I live in Chelsea and it is so convenient. Lucali was on the maybe list, but if I end up there you'll see it here.

                    1. Lured by the claim that Di Fara's tends to be the hounds' consensus for the best pizza in NYC, I decided it had to be my next stop. So bright and early this morning I laced up my sneakers and began the 9.2 mile run from my apartment in Chelsea. .2 miles in I stopped for sustenance at Donut Pub (and seriously people, the old fashioned sugar from Donut Pub beats anything coming out of Doughnut Plant -- and yes, I've had the blackout and the PB&J). Properly fueled for my trek, I set out again. After another brief stop to tour the Prospect Park farmers' market, I arrived at Di Fara's about 20 minutes before opening. About 7 or 8 people were ahead of me in line.

                      Even though I had done my research, I was a little nervous about the ordering process. I shouldn't have been. I watched as the man behind the counter (I assume the son) wrote orders down in a notebook ... sort of .. and waited until everyone in front of me had gone. When he looked at me expectantly, I ordered my two slices, one regular and one square with pepperoni. I got my regular immediately, from a pie that had just left the oven. He said the square would be a little bit, so I took my regular and grabbed a seat to eat it while I waited.

                      The slice was gooey with cheese and tomato and that dribble of olive oil. The extra sprinkle of parmesan was already melting into the mozzarella, and the basil already wilting from the heat of the pizza. I lifted it for my first bite, needing two hands, one for the crust and the other to hold the drooping end.

                      It was awesome. The tomato flavor was front and center, the mix of cheeses a perfect complement, and the olive oil the perfect finish. Each bite as I made my way to the crust only got better and better. It had the freshness that I had loved from Grimaldi's, but without any of the blandness. Not spicy or sweet like Arturo's, just rich and full in flavor.

                      The square slice was a whole different thing, and just as awesome. I loved, loved, loved the crust. When it came out of the oven I was a little disappointed because my piece (I knew it was mine because it had the pepperoni on it) had a long burnt edge. And no, it wasn't the dust from the oven. It was burnt. A few of the pepperoni were beyond the "crispy" stage and at the "charred" stage as well. But again, the first bite into that crunchy, oily crust and I didn't care. I ate the thing, burnt part and all.

                      You all are right. This was the best pizza I think I've ever had. I feel like such a follower, but fact is fact. Cripes it's good.

                      Ok, NOW, next up....maybe Co., maybe John's ... maybe Patsy's...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: therenowtoo

                        I spent most of my day today eating pizza. I schlepped to Brooklyn via the subway to try Di Fara's and alas, there was a scheduled service interruption and had to take a free shuttle to Ave J, well not quite right on the stop. I had to walk a bit in the rain. I muttered, I hope I made the right decision nixing doing touristy stuff to have pizza at Di Fara.

                        Boy the old man did not disappoint! I had the regular pie by the slice and the crust was thin and crispy and the sauce was on point. I looked around the counter afterwards to see if I could try the square slice as well. I was a bit apprehensive to approach the younger guy taking the orders as I've heard from waiting customers that they will serve you when they feel like it, or when the pies are ready. Hmmm...well, somehow, you have to get their attention or get an eye contact, and luckily the younger guy saw me (again) and asked me what I wanted. I said, would it be possible to get a square slice...and can I request my own topping. He was direct to the point but wasn't rude - he said to just tell him what topping and they will make it. So I chose the porcini mushroom and boy, they don't scrimp on the toppings. If only I didn't have Franny's on my next go to place, I would have ordered more Di Fara slices! It was very good and definitely worth the trek to Brooklyn.

                        Franny's was thin crust pizza the sauce was good although I felt the topping wasn't as generous as Di Fara's. I am not sure if it's because they are cooking using different ovens and perhaps Franny's cannot add too many ingredients or else it would not cook evenly? I just ordered their basic tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella. I love thin crust though and will be back to order other types of pie.

                        Di Fara - definitely up there and it's not hype - it really is THAT good!

                        1. re: therenowtoo

                          my goodness. I will indeed need to make the trip out there. wow.

                        2. Not sure anyone puts Grimaldi's among the best in NY.

                          Co. is worth a shot but different that "NY pizza". For slices, I'm still a big fan of Patsy's in East Harlem, Joes in the WV and I'd add Artichoke to the list (only the square slice, don't bother with the artichoke slice)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ESNY

                            Yep, Artichoke already is on the list, as is Joe's. Thanks!

                            And believe me, lots of people put Grimaldi's among the best. Maybe not people who post on this board (though I am fairly certain I read about it here first), but lots of others do. I didn't know a thing about NY pizza before I started researching to create my list, and Grimaldi's was mentioned over, and over, and over again. And I don't think it's unmerited. It might not have been my favorite so far, but it really was very good.

                          2. I've been so remiss in updating, but that does not mean I've been remiss in eating pizza. Since my last outing to Di Fara, I've been to Co., John's of Bleeker and Motorino.

                            Co. -- disappointing. I had the cauliflower pizza and my companion had the ham and cheese pizza. The cauliflower pizza was almost tasteless. I was looking for that awesome crunchy, sweet carmelized flavor of roasted cauliflower combined with the nuttiness of the cheese, and neither were thre. Blah. I also wasn't a fan of my friend's ham and cheese pizza. The ham was tough and hard to chew, and the cheese made it a bit too greasy for my liking.

                            John's of Bleeker -- very solid! Somewhere between Grimaldi's and Arturo's in terms of flavor. Not as bland as Grimaldi's and not as spiced as Arturo's. I enjoyed it very much and would go back (though I still prefered Arturo's). It was a good version of what I have come to think of as traditional NY pizza.

                            Motorino (east village) -- this may be sacrilige on this board, but I liked, I didn't love. :-( I got the brussel sprout pizza thinking it would be like what I wanted the Co. cauliflower pizza to be. But there were almost no brussel sprouts on it! A few leaves. And I don't know what people mean when they say the pancetta was too smoky. Unless I happened to take a bite where some lay, I couldn't taste it. Cheese was very good, but I didn't think the extra drizzle of olive oil was necessary. Can't complain about the crust. (As an aside, I also had the octopus appetizer, which I liked very much.) On the plus side, I heated up my leftovers in a toaster oven the next day and I almost liked them a bit better than I liked the original. So while this isn't glowing review, it isn't a pan either. It was good pizza, just not transcendent, to me.

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: therenowtoo

                              I'd probably give Motorino another shot. I am probably in the minority on this board, but I found the brussel sprout/pancetta pizza from Motorino to be the least tasty of the 6 or 7 types I've tried there.

                              You might want to give Luzzo's a try. They have there own style, something of a hybrid of NY style and Naples style that works quite well in my opinion.

                              1. re: therenowtoo

                                When you go to Artichoke, understand beforehand that there isn't any seating except for a picnic table on the sidewalk. I've been to a bunch of the places always mentioned on this board and find Artichoke to be better than them all (Haven't been to DiFara's). The artichoke slice gets a lot of bad press, but it's really more of a pizza novelty than real pizza. I think it tastes pretty good. The Margharita and square slices are excellent. Go when you're really hungry, split an artichoke slice (They happily cut it and it's huge), and also get a square and a marg. Squeeze your way back out to 14th St. and enjoy!

                                -----
                                Artichoke
                                328 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

                                1. re: DrewEck

                                  I'm glad to see someone else feels this way, too. While there is a definite artistry to the Neapolitan pizzas that are the subject of so much enthusiasm lately, I prefer the heft and 'sumptuousness' of Artichoke's pizza. I've been to Motorino, John's, Patsy's, etc., but the pizza I keep thinking about is Artichoke's.

                                  1. re: thousandrobots

                                    I think their crust is very tasty but a bit heavy/oily/buttery. So it's a bit different from other places in town--my gut tells me that most NYers are just weaned on a much thinner crust. My favorite is the square slice, not a fan of the margarita as I find the sauce too sweet and cheese too thick.

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      I agree on the square as their best. It's in a similar vain in construction and taste as DiFara's square. Not at that level, but very good. Same as Dom, they can sometimes over cook the crust, so you've got to watch it......BTW, has anyone here actually ordered one of the 32oz cups of beer and hung out there? I'm not sure what I would do with my time if I did or where I would go to the bathroom.

                                  2. re: DrewEck

                                    i love the crab pizza there, which gets no love.....

                                    1. re: thew

                                      My regular Artichoke 'partner' thinks the crab slice is among the best ever. I went last night and wish I had brought a square pie home instead of just a couple of slices. The marg. slices don't really re-heat that well.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        interesting. that slice was completely inedible to me. I hate that they have peppers on it...ick.

                                      2. re: DrewEck

                                        Hmmmm... I'm beginning to think Artichoke will have to be next on my list. Thanks everybody!

                                        1. re: therenowtoo

                                          Just to let everyone have a point of reference:

                                          Di Fara is sort of Sally's-ish, as opposed to Pepe's-ish.

                                          (I grew up in New Haven.)

                                          1. re: Mikelawyr2

                                            in all due respect to Pepe's and SDally's which I dearly love, there ain't nothing like DiFara's.
                                            Not that he needs any more business, but pizza in North America starts and ends with Dom.
                                            Da Michelle in Napoli is the other place to visit before you croak.

                                            The are many, many estimable places in New York but DiFara's is it.
                                            Forget the current hamburger mania, there aint nuttin like a slice

                                            1. re: foodismylife

                                              Yeah, totally disagree with the comparison of DiFara to Sally's and Pepe's. I guess maybe the oiliness of the square is vaguely reminiscent of Sally's round pies, but that's about it.

                                    2. My six month work trip has turned into a permanent relocation, so now I have lots more time to continue my pizza exploration.

                                      This Saturday my brother and I ventured to Patsy's in East Harlem. The place was practically empty on a Saturday afternoon at 1 pm, but we had a life sized portrait of Old Blue Eyes hanging on the wall next to us to keep us company. We decided to stick to an old favorite and ordered the pepperoni pizza. I really loved it. The crust was the perfect mix of crunch and chew. The crushed tomatos and cheese were simple, fresh, and tasted just as they should. What little bite might have been missing from the cheese, I supplemented with some ground parmesan that did the trick nicely. And the pepperoni had a great spicy kick to it. It was definitely more oily than some other pizzas in this genre I've tried (Grimaldi's, John's though not Di Fara's), but that actually was a good thing. I intended to behave myself and only have 2 pieces, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. Service also was very good, polite, helpful and prompt. For me, Patsy's is a definite contender to be among my favorites. ('Cause really, there's no way I could choose just one favorite.)

                                      1. And I almost forgot!! (Not surprising considering what I thought of it...) but I went to Pulino's last weekend. I shared an appetizer that involved snap peas, mushrooms, toasted breadcrumbs, parmesan.... and it was absolutely delicious. I could eat several bowls of it. In fact, I wish I had just stuck with that and forgot the pizza. We ordered three to share, and well, they were just a mess. Both literally and in terms of taste. A pizza with prosciutto didn't taste a bit of prosciutto, but overwhelmingly of bland, bland, bland tomatoes. The tomatoes also turned the pizza into a wet, sloppy mess. I've been to Keste and a bunch of other places that do the neapolitan style pizza; I understand that a bit of wetness in the middle is to be expected and I don't mind it. But this just did.not.taste.good. A small breakfast pizza with egg on top (and I don't remember what else) was better but, well, completely unmemorable. The best of the bunch was a white pizza. All I could taste was the cheese, but hey, I like cheese. Add to it $3 for, I kid you not, probably less than 6 ounces of soda, and a waiter with a 'tude, and let's just say I was underwhelmed. Not a total loss though. I went, I tried it, and now I know not to bother again.

                                        -----
                                        Pulino's
                                        282 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: therenowtoo

                                          Pulino's pizza seems more midwestern style than Naples. Crackery crust. "Party" grid cut. I'm not a fan.

                                          -----
                                          Pulino's
                                          282 Bowery, New York, NY 10012