Di Fara Pizza, Midwood
Only one of the most celebrated classic pizzerias in New York. This one goes without saying.
Sure, owner Dom DeMarco has been known to burn the crap out of a slice. Then again, sometimes he makes pure magic.
Not familiar? Here's everything you need to know about Di Fara.
Sal & Carmine's, Upper West Side
One of the great classic New York slices. Sal's slightly bready crust is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Therein lies the magic about Sal and Carmine's crust: It never gets hard, no matter how long it's been out of the oven. The slices are large, a little salty, and moderately greasy in that great New York slice kinda way. The aged mozzarella is flavorful and sparingly applied (as it should be), and the sauce is sweet and tangy. These are the corner slices of our youth. This is the way New York pizza is supposed to taste.
Louie & Ernie's, Throgs Neck
"City officials know a good slice of pizza when they see one: The street in front of Louie and Ernie's has been renamed Ernie Ottuso Square, after one of the owners. A Louie & Ernie's slice is a diminutive triangle of pizza pleasure in which grated cheese and full-cream mozzarella sparingly cover a thin-enough crust. The sausage here is the stuff of dreams. Made by a local Italian deli, it's applied liberally in large chunks. If ordering a sausage slice, ask for a little extra cheese on the reheat—just enough to 'glue' the chunks, added after the fact, to the pizza." —Ed Levine and Adam Kuban
Joe's Pizza, Greenwich Village / Union Square
"Joe's may not be the greatest slice you've ever had in New York City, but it's up there. Not to mention a pretty spot-on definition of the New York slice. The crust is thinner than most, taking on some lovely burned spots that add to the flavor. There's a near-perfect balance among crust, sauce, and cheese—and yes, not that much of any, so you'll definitely want two slices at least if you're looking to fill up. The sauce, too, is worth noting for its bright, fresh flavor. It's very lightly seasoned, if at all, and tastes more along the lines of the sauces at the coal-oven pizzerias, which don't get cooked down before going on the pies." —Adam Kuban
The original Lombardi's, which opened in 1905, could be called the city's, and the nation's, first pizzeria. It was also the site where other New York pizza greats, like Antonio "Totonno" Pero and Patsy Lancieri, learned their trade.
Unfortunately, it closed for several years and then reopened in the late '90s down the block. Still, it's got the storied name and a pretty historic oven, making it well worth a trip.
Patsy's, East Harlem
Dating back to 1933, Patsy's is one of the original coal-fired pizzerias, another descendent of the original Lombardi's. It's also one of the only ones where you can actually get single slices—they serve'em out of the kiosk next door to the restaurant. Unlike regular New York slices designed for portability with a crisp, medium-thin crust, Patsy's slices harken back to the earliest days of New York pizza. The crust here gets stretched so thin that it can barely support the vibrant tomato sauce and melted cheese, even though it's sparingly applied. Like the Neapolitan pies it was born from, the dough gets moist, almost soupy in the center. This is not a fault.
Patsy's slices are the missing link of pizza. The clear middle ground between the old world Neapolitan pies and the modern New York slice. They are quite literally little slices of history.
Nunzio's, Staten Island
This Staten Island pizzeria is a shining gem in the borough's big 'ol pile of pizza jewels.
Says SE Overlord Ed Levine, "A slice from Nunzio's is a pristine exercise in elegant pizza minimalism. It's not very big, so pizza-by-the-ton Ray's fans should go elsewhere. Yet everything about it is right: the ratio of sauce to cheese, the crisp yet pliant crust, and the tangy sauce enlivened by fresh basil. I love the sausage Nunzio's puts on its slices. It's nubby, loaded with flavor, and has plenty of fennel in it. Nunzio's even looks the way a pizzeria should: It is a white stucco shack with a tiny dining room brightened by black-and-white photos of the original Nunzio's in South Beach, Staten Island."
Arturo's, Greenwich Village
The pizza menu here is straightforward, and probably hasn't changed since Arturo's opened in 1957. The pizza itself? Serviceable. It's not about airy hole structure or crisp yet foldable crusts. It's not about the artfully charred crust you might find at some of the other coalers in the city. But to us, Arturo's has always been about meeting up with friends and not thinking too hard about the pies, all while you enjoy each other's company.
Totonno's, Coney Island
This iconic pizzeria has been around since 1924, when Anthony 'Totonno' Pero left Lombardi's to open shop in Brooklyn. But lasting influence and loyal customer base aside, the last five years have not been especially kind to Totonno's. First, there was the horrible fire back in 2009; then, last fall, their renovations were quite literally swept away by Hurricane Sandy. Luckily, they're back up and running, with a tireless perseverance that has earned them eager champions around the country.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that they make freaking amazing pizza. Don't expect crazy toppings or frills here, just a perfectly charred, thin, crisp crust that bubbles and buckles in the heat of the coal oven, topped with bright tomato sauce, and sparingly applied dabs of creamy fresh mozzarella.
If diving into the annals of New York's storied pizza past has been known to induce a headache or two, then tracing the Lancieri-Grimaldi dynasty is enough to make your hair hurt. Luckily, our very own Adam Kuban has created a pretty thorough guide for those interested in a detailed trip down memory lane.
Grimaldi's may not serve up the most exciting NY-style pies in the city, but the lineage and history behind this pizzeria makes it worth the trip (while you're there, stop by next door at Juliana's for a taste of the "real" Grimaldi's pizza). But be forewarned—it's quite the tourist destination, so prepare for the possibility of crowds and a wait.
John's Pizzeria of Bleecker, Greenwich Village
"Every city needs at least one older-than-old restaurant with a certain kind of cultivated rakishness—hard, straight-back wood booths that don't encourage lingering; graffiti-carved walls that conjure visions of 1950s hooliganism; grumpy signage.
We have all this—plus pretty decent pies—in John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street, one of the quintessentials on our list of must-visit New York pizzerias." —Adam Kuban
L & B Spumoni Gardens' Sicilian Slice, Bensonhurs
With a 72 year history, many stories have been made and told under the neon glow of the signs at Brooklyn's L&B Spumoni Gardens. Made with a crisp crust, thick crust that has no ambitions of airiness, the bottom and edges are deeply burnished. They reverse the standard tomato-cheese order, placing the mozzarella directly on the dough and the sweet/tart sauce on top, along with a handful of grated Pecorino and generous drizzles of good olive oil.
For many Brooklynites, a Sicilian slice at L&B is as much a rite of passage as that first awkward teenage kiss.