Reaching in to the Slice mailbag, we've got an email from Lance Roberts, who, as you may remember, wrote to Slice in June 2008 asking for an NYC pizza itinerary for an upcoming trip to the city—and who then wrote a great follow-up post for Slice in which he detailed his trip (oh, and there was also his Pizzeria Bianco post). Anyway, looks like he's visiting again and wants more pizza-eating suggestions. I'll answer, and you pizzaheads should also chime in. —The Mgmt.
I'm coming back to NYC for a wedding in June (and maybe a Pavement show in September) and that means I get to do another pizza tour. As you know, your recs were amazing, so I wanted to go back to the authority. Would you mind giving me a couple more recs?
Last time I did Patsy's, Lucali, Franny's, Artichoke, John's (not your rec), Totonno's, and Di Fara. I'm gonna do Di Fara again because it's the LAW, and I obviously have to try Motorino, but everything else is fair game. Co./Company? Kesté? Should I go back to Lucali or one of the others because they're the best and I should stick to the best? You tell me. I hit seven last time, I figure I can get five in this time.
No rush on this. Keep on rockin' the pizza world.
Glad to hear you're coming back this way. Which night of Pavement are you going to? I believe I've got tickets to the Friday night show. Or maybe the Saturday one. If the stars align, we should meet up before the show and grab some slices.
Anyway, there have been a lot of great new places opened since you were last here, but you pretty much mention them all here. I'll chime in here to affirm your choices and give you a couple other recs. Of course, I'm sure I'll miss some stuff, since my laptop is running out of battery and I'm going to have to do this fast with remaining juice.
Plus, pizza is so subjective and the pizzafreak community so large — so please, Slice'rs, feel free to add your bits of wisdom to help guide Lance to pizza awesomeness....
Motorino (East Village, Manhattan or Williamsburg Brooklyn)
Yes, Motorino is a must. Neapolitan-style. A little crisper than some Neapolitans. Either one — Brooklyn or Manhattan — is fine, though I think the crusts are perhaps marginally better at the Manhattan one. Then again, the Brooklyn one is roomier and more relaxed. I guess it depends on where you're staying and how close you are to either one. That said, if you end up using the L train to get there, you can just stay on it a few more stops and go into Brooklyn and do the Williamsburg location. I haven't been since the New York Times reviewed it, but I've really enjoyed lunches at the Brooklyn one, since almost nobody is there — especially around 1:30 p.m. or so. And the lunch deal is killer. I believe it's around $10 for a salad or soup and a pizza.
If you've been reading Slice even with one eye open, you can't have missed all the Motorino blabberage we've done here. So you probably know about the awesome brussels sprouts–pancetta pizza. That's seasonal, so I don't know if it'll be on offer when you hit town. Then again, there's such a lovefest for it that I wouldn't be surprised if they figured out a way to do it year-round. The cremini–spicy sausage pizza is good, too. As is the hot soppressata-garlic pie. And if you're going vegetarian, you can't go wrong with a Margherita there.
Kesté (Greenwich Village, Manhattan)
Yes. Hit Kesté, too. It's also Neapolitan. This one has a little softer, wetter consistency to it. I haven't been as often as I've been to Motorino, but I do like the Kesté pies. As you may know, I have not been to the Naples (yet), but all the veteran Naples travelers and/or Naples natives hold up Kesté as one of the closest-to-Italian pizzas in the city. Note that it gets crowded fast—and if you don't like noise, it's crazy loud in there. Lunchtime might be a good time to try it out. Try the pizza pinwheel things they have as an appetizer. And tell 'em Slice sent ya!
Co. Company (Chelsea, Manhattan)
Tough to say. When Jim Lahey is there, you can get a good pizza. When he's not, it can be a bit inconsistent. I'm not sure how adventurous/hardline purist you are, but Lahey seems to be really into pizzas with béchamel sauces. I avoid those. They're often too heavy. I'm sort of a Midwest lunkhead, so I'm all sorts of into the Boscaiolo (hunter pie). Sausage, mushrooms, and onion. I also like the ham and cheese pizza—baked with fontina and then topped with prosciutto immediately after it comes out of the oven. There's just a hint of caraway in the crust, too. Lahey is also nuts about chiles, so a lot of the pizzas have a mild spiciness to them, which is good or bad, depending on your affinity for the heat. I happen to like it.
Fornino (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Fornino is a pizza that I think is underrated in a way. It's like the guy who runs it, Michael Ayoub, was just slightly ahead of his time. He opened it well ahead of the WFO trend, was doing the house-made mozzarella thing way before all these other pizzerias started stressing this as a perk, and he's been growing herbs and such in a little on-premises greenhouse from the beginning — predating the Roberta's people by a good number of years. But none of that stuff was "trendy" when he did it, so it's like he didn't become "known" for it the way some of these other places did. Still, the place is all kinds of busy and for a good reason. This is one of my favorite pizzas in the city. In a way, it's kind of nice that there's not a ton of FORNINO HYPE, because it still has a nice neighborhood this is my place kinda feel to it. There are three "generations" of pizza styles on the menu. You'll find something you like. The soppressata pie is a favorite of mine—and Ayoub's sort of the guy who kicked off this trend, too.
Pizzeria Veloce (East Village, Manhattan)
Not sure where you stand on square pies, but I really like the thinner-crust Sicilian pizzas at Pizzeria Veloce. Are you going to be visiting with someone or meeting up with friends? Because here's the deal: This pizza is really good RIGHT OUT OF THE OVEN. Crisp and just-right greasy. After it cools off, though (after about 7 minutes), it becomes a completely different animal — soggy soggy. So if you can grab one or two or three other people to help you house a pie as it's oven fresh, you're good. Then simply order a second or third one if you're hungry. It's a thinner crust for Sicilian, but even a couple pieces might fill you up. Especially if you're hitting more than one pizzeria in a day.
Here again, my sausage bias rears its head. I really like the sausage here, and it's one of the more interesting blends I've had in a while. The chef associated with the place, Sara Jenkins, knows her way around a pig and has come up with a really subtle yet complex flavoring for the sausage here.
Toby's Public House (South Park Slope, Brooklyn)
If you do bother to make it to Brooklyn, I'd try Toby's Public House this time. There's a really good black garlic, mushroom, and pancetta pizza on the menu. Toby's has a really good pizza, but I don't know if it's go-way-out-of-your-way worthy. Then again, the black garlic is something you don't see on a pizza every day.
I could do more, and I just realized I haven't added addresses yet, but my laptop is running out of juice and I forgot my plug. I'll have to come back and add them later.
Hope that helps, Lance! And, seriously, lemme know if you come out for Pavement. Would be fun to grab a slice and see the show.
Hasta la pizza,