Totonno Pizzeria Napoletana

Special Ed:Besides the spectacular turn-out for this month's Pizza Club at Totonno's in Coney Island, we were also excited to meet Ed Levine, who writes about food for the New York Times. From left: Seltzerboy, Adam, Totonno pizziola Lawrence Ciminieri, and Mr. Levine, who happened to be at the pizzeria doing research for an upcoming book on pizza and who was kind enough to give us some tips for upcoming pizza road trips.

Timing is everything. We learned that thrice over earlier today down in Coney Island, where Slice editors were joined by ten readers brave—or foolhardy—enough to tackle Nathan's, the Cyclone, and some of the best pizza in the city.

The most important meal of the day is breakfast, which, for some of us, took tubular form in a Nathan's hot dog. We didn't want to spoil lunch at Totonno's, but reader Tien wisely pointed out that we might not want to wait in line at the Cyclone on an empty stomach. Properly fed, and with a decent-size crew assembled, we made our way to the Cyclone, which had just opened for the season at noon Sunday. Did I say timing was everything? Because not only did we manage to get a ride on this thrilling wooden roller coaster before driving rain closed it for the day, we got to meet Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was on hand to tout the event.

Brooklyn Represent: We're all from Brooklyn. At least for a day we were. We met Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz in front of the Cyclone, where he gave us all 'Brooklyn' pins to wear—even those of us from Queens and Manhattan ("Brooklyn North," he called it). After posing with Selzterboy (above left), he extolled the pleasures and treasures of Bucktown (it's the best borough, fools better recognize). Mr. Markowitz told us of his dreams (above right) of a revitalized Coney and the controversial plan to bring the Nets to the Atlantic Avenue area.

Ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances. So it was with the Cyclone. Some of us had to relinquish our digicams to the bag-check department inside the Cyclone boarding area. Others were lucky and were able to sneak them on. And so Seltzerboy and reader Michael got a commemorative picture taken (right) on the climb approaching the coaster's first drop. This ride was the first time some club attendees had experienced the Cyclone. Not a single soul was disappointed. But as much as we wanted to ride again (for the bargain price of $4), we were at Coney on pizza business, and so on to Totonno's it was.

By the time we arrived at this unassuming pizzeria on Neptune Avenue, we had gathered more enthusiastic attendees and were two tables strong.

Among us, we ordered four pies total: three plain and one sausage and mushroom. On Chowhound and elsewhere, Totonno's has on occasion come under fire for being soggy. If they are sometimes hit-or-miss, about this day's pies we must say, "Bullseye!" All the pies had some of the freshest cheese we've tasted. The crust on the first two were a little thick in spots, but the third plain pie to come to our table was spot-on, with a perfect balance of creamy cheese, fresh-tasting tomato sauce, and a thin, thin, nicely charred crust that's hallmark for a coal-fired oven. As I said at top, I'll leave it for Seltzerboy to talk more about the pizza. I ate my share but was busy taking photos of the goings-on and didn't take many tasting notes. Let's go to the photos:

Rock 'n' Roll Pie School: Perhaps the reason why the Ramones (above left) declared Totonno's "the best in the world" has something to do with their ingredients (above right). Heck, even Billy Vera (above the Ramones photo) thinks the place just can't be beat.

Oh, and that third bit about timing being everything: We were lucky enough to arrive at Totonno's while Ed Levine, who writes food stories for the New York Times, was there doing research for an upcoming book on pizza. Mr. Levine was kind enough to give us a heads-up on pizzerias in New York City and beyond that we would be wise to check out.

Thanks to everyone who showed up: Tien, Shannan, Michael, Janelle, Greg, Eugenia, Audrey, Ryan, Sam, and G. We met some really sharp tacks today, as far as pizza's concerned, and we hope to see you at the next Pizza Club.

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