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Apr 5, 2010 11:44 AM

NY pizza terminology question

Sorry, this seems like a silly question, but it’s one I’ve never gotten settled to my satisfaction.

So, there are two major types of Pizza that are respected in NYC, the more revered being the variety served by Lucali and Lombardi’s. The other style is the kind exemplified by Joe’s in the West Village, but served more commonly by the 99 cent guys, as well as “Vinny’s New York pizza” of Omaha Nebraska, et al… really what most people in most parts of America think of when they think pizza that’s not Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

What’s the proper terminology? I would guess the words “coal” and/or “brick” would find their way into the former category… I’ve heard both styles referred to as “thin-crust” but obviously one’s is far thinner than the other’s, and both are thin when compared to Sicilian or Chicago styles.

I get “X” at Lombardi’s and “Y” at Joe’s. What are they?

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  1. Lombardi's and Lucali are variations of NY style thin crust pizza that is served as a whole large pie. Lombardi''s is coal oven and a bit more "old school", Lucali is wood oven, and arguably belongs (along with DiFara) in a category by itself. But the crust is really NY style. Many of the old school NY joints are coal oven. But you can do this type of pie in any oven.

    Joe's is a generic NY thin crust slice. NY slices are generally come out of a standard gas or electric oven. Joe's is "exceptional" only in that there are very few decent standard NY slice joints left in Manhattan.

    Although both styles are generally "thin crust", there is individual variation in how thin they are. Joe's and John's of Bleecker St. tend to be on the thinner end of the crust scale.

    NY style may be thin crust, but it does not get as thin as the cracker thin crusts that are typical of Roman style round pizzas. Nor does NY style crust get as soft in the center and puffy on the edges as Naples-style pizza.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Fun question. I end up referring to the Lombardi's/Lucali's/John's/Nick's/Grimaldi's types as "New York–Neapolitan" or "Neapolitan–American," since they sort of build off their Neapolitan forbears but in a bigger, crisper American way.

        The other stuff you're talking about, regular by-the-slice stuff from, say, any corner slice joint, I just refer to as "New York–style."

        Yeah, I suppose "New York–style" could refer also to the coal-oven "New York–Neapolitan"/"Neapolitan-American" ones, too, since they're made/made their appearance in NYC, but I would hazard a guess that most folks outside NYC are not familiar with the coal-oven type places and think of a Ray's-type slice when they think of "New York pizza."

        Hope that doesn't muddy things too much.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hatchback

          This is more or less how Slice decribes it in the link.

          One thing that muddies things is the old school way of calling round pizzas at your local slice joint "Neapolitan" vs. the thick square a "Sicilan."

          And of course within these styles there are many variations. The super cheesy "Ray's" type style would be one of them. The latter is probably as different from an old school NY slice (eg. Joe's, Ray's of Bleecker St., Sal and Carmines) as those slices places, are in turn, different from the old school "NY-Neapolitan" pie-only joints.

          1. re: kathryn

            And there is great pizza in many different styles.

            1. re: boccalupo

              You're right: there really are 3 NY styles, form the coal/brick oven Neapolitan pies of Lucali, et al to the classic old-school slices of Joe's, to the overwrought and overloaded Ray's variants. Of course, there are sub-categories (DiFara, John's, Arturo's,the original Patsy's, Sam's, and the great Totonno's mother store which are survivors of or reflect a glorious pre-WWII pizzeria tradition--simple whole pies served in cool, well-worn corner taverns and bars in Italian nabes, where families like mine would settle in for an occasional treat.

              1544 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

          2. coal/wood thin crust is "neo-neopolitan" or "NY- neopolitan".

            what you get at a slice place in nyc is "NYC pizza" or "NYC style pizza"

            what you get in omaha is "NY wannabe pizza"

            what you get at dominoes and pizza hut is called "crap"

            3 Replies
            1. re: thew

              thew, you caught my eye with your grapefruit and miso post. So let me ask you-- which is your go-to slice in NYC?

              1. re: ChristineR

                well - i like a place on 80th street and 1st ave - italian village - but it's the pizza pf my childhood - so to me it's what pizza is supposed to taste like.....

                1. re: thew

                  Italian Village is unheralded but amazing--and I go back 30 years and more...wish I lived near it nowadays...

            2. Joe's is certainly a standard nyc slice and it was lousy friday night, if i werent famished i would have chucked it into the brabage where it belonged.
              there are so many different styles of pizza and nomenclature is difficult.
              just eat and enjoy.
              DiFara's and Motorino in Brooklyn are both at the very pinnacle of what a pie should be

              349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodismylife

                I refer to places like Joe's as "street slices"...walk in off the street and grab a slice. eat it there or grab it to go.

                and then there are the brick/coal/wood oven pies that are normally not sold by the slice.