To quote Jon Stewart from The Daily Show, “NYC is a bit of a pizza mecca.” You can find a parlor on practically every block. But that doesn’t mean all New York pizza is great. So what is the difference between “convenience” pizza and a good authentic New York slice?
What Is New York Pizza?
There are lots of restaurants that serve pizza that tastes good, but that doesn’t make it New York pizza. New York-style pizza is known for its large, wide, thin and foldable slices. Its thin, hand-tossed crust is made from a high-gluten bread flour. The word on the street is that the flavor of the crust comes from the minerals present in the New York City water. Most really good pizza in the city is made in a coal-fired brick oven and has good quality toppings like fresh garlic, mozzarella and basil.
New Yorkers are passionate about their pizza and will argue about which is better, so the“best” pizza is truly a matter of taste. Below is a list of NYC pizza joints serving a reliably great pizza pie. Get there early to avoid the lines for this New York pizza!
Lombardi’s – 32 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012
The first Lombardi’s opened in Little Italy in 1905, a few blocks from its current location. It claims to be the first pizzeria in the United States. Whether this is true or not, we know that it spawned many pizza savants who went on to open their own pizzerias. Many of these are still open today, like Grimaldi’s, Patsy’s and John’s. With rents at a maximum in this Little Italy neighborhood, the fact that Lombardi’s survives is a testament to its pizza quality.
Patsy’s – 2287 First Avenue, New York NY 10035 (b/n East 117th and East 118th streets)
Patsy’s was founded in 1933 and its first shop was located in Harlem. There are a few Patsy’s around the city and all have tasty pizza and other foods on the menu. Not my top choice but good good solid pizza.
John’s of Bleecker Street – 278 Bleeker Street, New York NY 10014 (at Jones Street)
John’s pizzeria was opened by employees trained at Lombardi’s in the early 20th century. It is not as well known by tourists as some of the others, so you have a chance at getting a table quickly.
Grimaldi’s – 19 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201 (under the Brooklyn Bridge)
Named No.1 by Zagats, the lines reflect the rating on many days of the week. Grimaldi’s now has many restaurants in the U.S. but this location is its most famous. Patsy Grimaldi learned to make pizzas at his uncle’s restaurant Patsy’s (above) when he was 10 years old. The family eventually sold the name and the pizzeria but the pizza is still very good. Whole pies only.
Table 87 Coal Oven Pizza – 473 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
This is a great all-round family restaurant that has lots of seating, indoors and out. You can also buy a quick slice here. The highlight of the pizza is the house-made roasted garlic and hot pepper toppings, which come free with every pizza. They also have dessert pizza with Nutella, strawberries and marshmallows that is not as gross as it sounds.
Totonno’s – 1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11224 (b/n West 15th and West 16th streets)
If you happen to be in Coney Island and crave a slice, this joint was started by Antonio “Totonno” Pero, who was also a former employee of the original Lombardi’s. So good it doesn’t need a website.
Lucali’s – 575 Henry Street, Brooklyn NY 11231 (b/n Carroll Street and 1st Place) BYOB
This is one of the newer additions and already it’s a strong contender in the city’s pizza rivalry. It’s owned by lifelong Carroll Gardens neighborhood resident Mark Iacono who reputedly took over a year to build his own pizza oven.
There are no salads or sides here, just pizza. You can bring your own wine or beer. If there is a long wait you can go across the street to Henry’s Local and have a drink. Call before you go as they have unreliable hours.
Toby’s Public House – 686 6th Ave Brooklyn, NY 11215
Toby’s has New York pizza and salads that are so good that I’ve never tried anything else on the menu. This Brooklyn mom recommends the prosciutto arugula and whatever salad is the special. Also a bar, it also had a decent draft beer menu. Located in South Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, this restaurant is always busy. There is seating outside in nice weather and there is usually a wait for large tables inside. TravelingMom Tip: although frequented by families, the restroom is wallpapered with old Playboy covers. You’ve been warned!
Oh yeah, and no eating with a fork and knife!