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Apr 2, 2012 10:51 AM

New York Pizza

Born and reared in San Francisco, I have been hearing about the superiority of New York for all of my life. Now I am finally making a trip to NYC and want to taste the best. We will be staying in Tribeca but traveling all over Manhattan and into Brooklyn.
Where is the quintessential pizza?

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  1. This gets asked probably every day, if not more.

    Please take a look at this link which, in turn, contains other links.

    For Brooklyn, post on the Outer Boorughs board and also search there for DiFara's and Lucali's for more detailed posts about those two places.

    1. Motorino in the East Village, and Patsy's in East Harlem.

      1. There are actually few distinct styles of round pizza found in NYC: New York gas-oven style, Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two that is also unique to New York (usually coal oven). Then to throw another wrench into things, some places are known more for square pies (like Artichoke).

        Because you say "quintessential," that leads me to believe you seek either coal-oven pizza (whole pies) or gas-oven (street slices) and not the Naples influenced pies (which you can easily find in SF). With zero toppings or one topping, maximum.

        If you have a specific interest in pizza, I would advise you to try a few different places, trying both coal oven and gas oven, as quality and styles can vary around town.

        Note that lot of famous places like John's of Bleecker, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are whole pies only.

        I would also suggest reading this NYC Pizza Primer:

        For pizza, if you are limiting yourself to only Manhattan, my favorites, agnostic of oven type:

        John's of Bleecker, if you ask for it well done. Get it plain or with one topping, max. I'm partial to their green peppers. This is classic coal-fired NY-Neopolitan hybrid style pie. They do sometimes undercook/under char it, though, so ask for it well done. Whole pies only. Don't expect creative toppings or superfresh ingredients or an amazingly flavorful crust. This is more about finding the intersection between chewy, crispy, and charred. A more of a working man's pie.

        Motorino for Naples style. Delicious but not really historically "New York" style, maybe not what you seek, but it is basically my favorite in Manhattan. Crimini and sausage, spicy soppressata, or whatever their special pie is. Wonderful taste, quality and creative toppings, amazingly puffy crust. Whole pies only, but they are on the smaller side. Can get a little soft in the center, as it is Naples inspired. Some hounds prefer Forcella (known for their deep fried Naples inspired pies), Don Antonio (by Starita, new and in Midtown, so conveniently located for visitors), or Keste (IMO too wet for me).

        For both you may have to wait in line to get a table. I have also enjoyed Patsy's in East Harlem (coal oven) in the past but it is a bit far uptown dependent upon where you are starting from, and I've not been very recently. Whole pies OR slices if you want. Again, this type is more of a working man's pie.

        South Brooklyn Pizza or Joe's for a slice (gas oven). Joe's is a bit less crisp/more chewy and on the more cheesy sied and has a more uniform appearance; very popular with the post-bar crowd, and I have a soft spot for the place, even if the pizza is not always consistent.

        South Brooklyn is more crispy and has an interesting cheese blend (mozzarella, grana padano, and fontina) with fresh basil, and the cheese and sauce are more scattered, which you usually don't see at slice joints. It is slightly more upscale (and pricey) for a slice joint.

        Outside of Manhattan, I highly recommend Di Fara, if it fits into your schedule, especially for the square pie. Do a search on the Outer Boroughs board (or on, as it has been discussed MANY times. Dom DeMarco of Di Fara uses a gas oven but he doesn't really do a typical NY gas oven pie, and his distinctive style is absolutely delicious!

        Another "classic NY" place in Brooklyn is Totonno's (Coney Island location ONLY).

        The others in Brooklyn that are spoken highly of (Franny's, Lucali, etc.) are probably too "nouveau" for what you seek.

        1. Tribeca is a good start for trying different pizza.
          Luzzo's on Church St. ( related to Luzzo's on LES) has good coal oven pizza and mini pizettes
          Tre Sorelle on Reade St has really good wood burning oven pizza, with a nice crisp crust.
          Grand Daisy on west Broadway has great Roman style pizza, potato being my favorite
          Cinque ( greenwich st) has really good square pizza ( whole pie only).
          Dean'a has decent square ( whole pie) pizza on greenwich St.
          Gigino's has good whole pies and uses good ingredients, crust is usually cripsy

          Outside of Tribeca,, my favorites are Motorino , Co. and Sullivan St... Patsy's Harlem is OK and you can get slices , but I find the pizza not crispy enough. I have same problem with Keste.

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodwhisperer

            My problem with Patsy's, if anything, has been that they go overboard on the char to the point of bitter carbonizing. Their pizza has become less crispy?

          2. I'm a 'born in the Bronx - Italian neighborhood' person - been a refugee from NY for YEARS - but traveled in Italy MUCH etc. And many trips back to NY.

            That prefaces my saying that I am amazed by the recommended pizzas for NY always focusing on the Usual Suspects - John's, Lombardis, etc.

            They're good enough but they use the so-called exclusivity to have raised their prices to UNBELIEVABLE levels - 20 bucks and well up! And accompanied by usually arrogant service.

            On my last brief trip I refused to be sucked in and almost immediately found a DAMN decent pizza for about $7-8 if I recall. And a very nice, presentable retaurant well located.

            Don Giovanni Ristorante
            358 W 44th St, New York 10036
            (Btwn 8th & 9th Ave)

            And this is hardly the only one. It would be great that NY residents knowing these kinds of places would be posting them around - nothing like honest competition!

            19 Replies
            1. re: jounipesonen

              Most of us New Yorkers don't usually go to Times Square for pizza, and when we do, it's because people from out of town roped us into it. OK, maybe I shouldn't generalize. :-)

              But seriously, what style of pizza does that restaurant serve? Is it gas oven pizza or Neapolitan-style wood-burning brick oven? It's not coal, right?

              1. re: Pan

                True - most of the pizza NYers eat are in the 'neighborhoods' - but that's the area (44th) I was staying on a 'visit' - and I guess that's where most out-of-towners will need to find their pizza. So it's probably difficult to break the chain of out-of-towners recommending to other out-of-towners - John's etc.

                I ate at one of the tables on the street (street view available on Google) at DG's and didn't get a peek at the oven area. But it was thin, nicely chewy crust and the waiter had Italian accent so ordered it 'ben cotto' - sauce tasty - good cheese etc.

                I had spotted what looked like good pizza on some other table as I walked by so it wasn't a blind choice - course that still doesn't confirm without the actual pizza but it wasn't total chance.

                I also stayed at a Motel 6 in New Brunswick on same trip and a neighborhood pizzeria turned out good stuff too.

                My point's been that there is a lot of good pizza available in NY and just too bad that out-of-towners get ripped off. Got to one of these 'chosen places' (Angelo's) during same trip with son (he had already arranged it) - and waiter charged 20% tip for the 'group' as he decided to count in the 10 month old grandson to get up to the 'group quota.' (I got it back from the guy in charge).

                1. re: jounipesonen

                  Even the "regular style" pizza places have expanded their pizza offerings. They usually, these days, offer Grandma Pizza, or pizza with fresh mozzaerella instead of Polly O. The prices on those are higher than the regular pizza. As far as Italy goes, the best pizza I had in Italy was in Pisa. Made in a very very old oven, that was wood burning. It was thin crusted, amazing tomato sauce and good quality cheese. Cooked to perfection. I believe that the newer, more expensive restaurants are trying to capture the quality of the best in Italy. Manhattan prices normally will be higher due to the high rent. In addition, better ingredients end up with a higher cost.
                  As far as the recommendations on CH for pizza go, and there are so many threads, the usual suspects will appear because they are usually the best quality. Although I am not a fan of John's, it is one of the first to take pizza to a higher level. Lombardi is another one. and by the way , Lombardi I believe is the first pizzeria in NYC. Since you are from the Bronx originally, I will recommend San Mateo to you , the owners are from a popular restaurant in the Bronx, and make delicious pizza at a reasonable price ( not cheap about $12). They also have amazing panuozzi ( fresh baked rolls to make the sandwich), they are on 90th and 2nd. On the list of usual suspects, I like Co., Motorino, Luzzo's I'm no fan of many of the usual suspects. For "regular-old style NYC pizza" , Patsy's , Ben's is consistently good (spring st),Joe's is Ok ( manhattan not their bklyn branch). Napoli pizza and Luna in Staten Island

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Good content for the OP. Hope they come back with what they found.

                    I would have 2 comments on your post:

                    1. High rents are of course an issue for Manhattan. But DG's on W 44th is not getting free space - yet the pizzas are under 10$. Pizza is a very high profit item cf. actual ingredient cost. I have to think the Usual Suspects' prices of $20 and up is just opportunistic (fine for the freedom of setting prices as desired but it also says high prices are not 'necessary'

                    2. I would also add that I can imagine the differences between various 'ovens' COULD make the difference between an excellent pizza and a great pizza - and/or - just make for a bit different taste that could be a nice variation while liking all. But the oven-type is not a very determining factor compared to the quality of the crust otherwise - and the quality of the ingredients - sauce, cheese and the occasional topping. One important character - at least tio me - is that a pizza be well done - and the bottom of the crust actually being partially blackened. (I asked for a pizza to be well done like that once in Tallinn - the cook - who was Italian - came out to see the customer that wanted a pizza the way it SHOULD be baked :-) )

                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                      Perhaps I just hit San Mateo on a really off night, but I found the pizza mushy, small, and very stingy with the featured ingredients. A real disappointment.

                      1. re: City Kid

                        It definitely was an off night, i've been there many times and the pizza was always very good and not mushy with plenty of ingredients, especially the potato one.
                        Usually, though I get the panuozzi though

                        1. re: City Kid

                          Went once to San Mateo too (reported somewhere in this forum) and jsut as my review indicated, pizza was very mushy and had to ask for wait staff who agreeably provided on-the-side stated ingredient on my pizza.

                          Another off night?

                          1. re: RCC

                            hmmm...I guess we are not alone. I had read such great reviews and it was such a bust. We found the panuozzi nothing to write home about either.

                            1. re: City Kid

                              .....@ jounipesonen,
                              oh my god!
                              who would not want to spend hours,waiting in the cold, to spend 5 dollars A SLICE at diFara's?
                              ...or have surly waiters fling burnt/poorly made whole pies, "NO SLICES" at you at johns?
                              ....i wept when UPN closed and i could no longer spend my entire take home pay for the week on pizza for four.

                              could not agree more.
                              which is why my favorite place in the area remains:

                              Luigi's Pizza
                              686 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY |

                              to the OP: there are many "Luigis Pizza's" in the city.
                              this one is the real deal and you will not lose your shirt .

                              1. re: hyde

                                The poster - a visitor with precious time in the city - should schlepp out to South Slope for a slice?

                                As mind altering as it may be, just not practical for a tourist.

                                1. re: thegforceny

                                  I don't find it mind-altering, at least not in a good way. I live fairly close and never go there on purpose.

                                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                                    did not the OP say there would be some time in brooklyn? if not, sorry. i dont live in the city and when i visit i often end up in brooklyn at one point or another ( i actually find it fun) so i did not think it was a atretch.

                                    i have had DiFara's in the past, and it is great, but you can never just walk in, and at five ollars a slice,....yikes.

                                    i still think Luigi's is better than your dimissal of it, but whatever.

                                    then my other choice would be Patsy's (but only on 117th)
                                    too far in the opposite direction?? damn, people must bum out when i send them to flushing for chinese.

                    2. re: Pan

                      I ate at Don Giovanni on W 44th just a couple of nights ago and, frankly, it was the best pizza I have had in Manhattan (previous fav's were Motorino and Keste). Definitely Neapolitan-style. I had the fennel, orange and olive salad, along with the sausage and pistachio pesto pizza. It was simply outstanding. Crunchy, chewy, slightly charred -- just the right balance. Admittedly, I ate at an odd time (approx 4:30), so there was no rush or competition in the oven.

                      1. re: YankDownUnder

                        do you mean Don Antonio (by Sarita)? its entirely plausible that there is another pizza place in the area called Don Giovanni, but the sausage and pistachio pesto makes me think you meant DAbS.

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          I would think it is the same one that I mentioned above --

                 358 44th St - around the corner from 9th

                          1. re: jounipesonen

                            I guess we'll just have to wait to see if YankDownUnder responds, since i dont see either of the dishes YDU mentioned on the menu at don giovanni (and i know they serve them at Don Antonio)

                            1. re: tex.s.toast

                              If we don't hear from him then we just have tio assume Quiet Flows the Don

                          2. re: tex.s.toast

                            I did mean Don Antonio (by Sarita) -- my bad -- and a heck of a first post here.