I will finally get to come to NYC in the week just prior to Thanksgiving this year. Really looking forward to it, as it may be the only time I ever get to visit your city.
That said, I have earmarked Di Fara for a visit, and I am hoping to visit one other pizzeria during my stay.
There are so many good ones.
So ... can I get a single recommendation plus one backup recommendation from you?
One stop (with Di Fara already out of the running) for pizza anywhere in NYC.
- Bonus if it is a coal-fired oven--not available in my area whatsoever
- Bonus if, in addition to a standard pie/slice, I can also get a grandma pie/slice
- Bonus if, in addition to a standard pie/slice, I can also get a Sicilian pie/slice
- Bonus if they are open a LOT of hours, since scheduling is gonna get hairy
Not interested for this one visit in artisanal pies--looking for classic NYC pizza. Doesn't matter if I can't order by the slice, since, for this one visit, I am willing to pay for a whole pie or whatever.
Wow. No pressure here or anything. ;)
Your only other pizza experience in NYC other than Di Fara--and there's a chance this may be your only visit to the Big Apple?!? Yeah. Talk about performance anxiety.
I'm going to open this up to the homeslices out there after first trying to get you something good ...
Sac's Place, Astoria
I originally starting writing a very different post that had Sac's Place as a dark horse, but then I called to see if they had grandma pies. They do. That means you can indeed go to one place for coal-oven, grandma, and Sicilian. And Sac's does them all by-the-slice.
The caveat is that you'll have to leave Manhattan to eat here, but I know your background, TJ, and am guessing you're up for it--as long as you have the time to do it. Fortunately, Sac's is in Astoria, Queens, only about a half-hour subway ride from the nexus of Manhattan transit (Times Square/42nd Street).
Sac's makes a very good coal-oven whole pie (though it's a little thicker than most places and maybe a little more loaded with stuff). The thing with Sac's is that they have a coal oven and a separate, regular gas-fired oven. I believe they initially cook their slice pies in the coal oven and then do reheats in the gas oven. So just ask and make sure which oven your pizza has been/will be cooked in.
Patsy's East Harlem
If your first concern is coal-oven goodness, what about Patsy's in East Harlem? It's coal-oven, you can get by-the-slice if you want, but I would advise getting the whole pie, since it's better to get it cooked to order. You have your choice of fresh mozzarella or regular mozzarella, so you can fancy it up a bit if you want or keep it pretty standard NYC pizza-y.
Patsy's is still my favorite coal-oven place in Manhattan--and maybe the city--even though it can sometimes be inconsistent. But not only is it great when it's on, it has that old-school New York vibe to it that really makes it a treat. Caveat pizzaeater: It is often inconsistent. Did I mention that? Ask for your pie well-done to ensure that it's crisp.
Unfortunately, there are no square pies at Patsy's.
Non-Coal-Oven, Old-School Awesome Slices
There are two places that really epitomize the New York slice for me and that come to mind immediately when I think "old-school, totally New York pizzeria experience," and they are Sal and Carmine's on Manhattan's Upper West Side (this one is easy to get to) and Louie & Ernie's in The Bronx's Pelham Bay neighborhood (you'll probably want a car to do this one). Of the two, I'm a bigger fan of Louie & Ernie's--especially for its sausage pie, which is killer. But Sal and Carmine's will do you right, too. Here's Ed Levine on Sal and Carmine's and me on Louie & Ernie's. (You can find location info at those links.)
Some Questions for You, TJ
That all said, where are you staying? Will you be driving? How far are you willing to go? These are all factors I usually like to know before recommending something. I know your background, so I know you are not lazy when it comes to fooding, so I'm guessing obscure places won't be so much of a bother--if you have time to make the trek.
Hope that helps and hasta la pizza,
Slice Readers: Respond!
OK, so now I'll open this up to all the rest of the folks out there. Are my choices bogus? If so, please let TJ know where you'd go. And, please, for this one, let's have answers that go beyond the name of the place. If TJ is only visiting this once, you've gotta make a strong case for your pick.