Hola, cheeseheads. Please welcome Aaron Mattis to Slice. Aaron just joined us last week as Slice's summer intern (our first dedicated Slice intern, yay!). As a fun first assignment, we sent Aaron up to Penn Station (along with Serious Eats intern Lingbo Li on photo duty) to suss out the best pizza in the busy transit hub. Without further ado, Aaron's report. —The Mgmt.
Although Slice'rs in transit can no longer enjoy the beautiful architecture of the original Penn Station, they can take comfort in the many pizza options available to today's interstate travelers. In a refreshing change from most airports and train stations, Penn Station boasts three local pizzerias in addition to several franchises. Variety is nice, but are these restaurants actually any good? Where should serious pizza eaters head for a quick bite before boarding a train? In fact, surfdr asked just that question last week, so we set out to answer it.
Don Pepi Pizza
Near the Amtrak trains on the upper level we found Don Pepi Pizza, the largest of Penn Station's pizzerias. Their thin, crispy slice came out of the oven piping hot with a well-browned undercarriage. The slice was pleasantly textured and very palatable, with nicely balanced cheese, sauce, and crust. No one element had much flavor, however, and the pizza would have been totally bland had it not been heated so thoroughly. Skip the Sicilian slice, which had a doughy crust and an overwhelming flavor of herbs and garlic. Don Pepi Pizza: In Penn Station, just outside the Amtrak rotunda.
Near the Long Island Railroad one level down, Caruso's Pizza and Rose Pizza serve slices from small, neighboring storefronts. The less said about Caruso's, the better. We couldn't bring ourselves to try the Sicilian, and in retrospect I wish we had chickened out on the slice as well. The blond-crusted, oddly discolored monstrosity came out of the oven tepid and sagging. We managed about three bites total in what may have been the bravest and most difficult feat I have ever performed. I think the picture (above) says it all. Caruso's Pizza: In Penn Station, near the Long Island Railroad tracks in the northern section of the station.
Rose Pizza, though not as good as Don Pepi, was excellent in comparison to Caruso's. Though the crust was somewhat tough, it had a pleasant cornmeal coating, and the flavor was unobjectionable except for a slightly processed feel to the cheese. Overall, not bad if you have to grab a slice on the way to a train; one taster described it as "not really bad, but not swallow-worthy." We definitely recommend the plain slice over the Sicilian, whose sauce tasted unsettlingly chemical and metallic. Rose Pizza: Two locations in Penn Station, both along the northern corridor near the Long Island Railroad tracks
NY Pizza Suprema
If you have some time before your train departs, it's worthwhile to leave Penn Station and head one block south to NY Pizza Suprema, an old-school slice joint and neighborhood favorite. Though we liked the classic New York slice, the pizzeria's real standout was the upside-down slice, a thick, square slice with the cheese under the sauce. That sauce, which tasted sweet and fresh, was the highlight of every slice we tasted, and the upside-down slice placed it front and center. Modestly portioned cheese and a light, burnished crust helped make this by far the best slice we tasted. NY Pizza Suprema: 413 8th Avenue between 30th and 31st St., New York, NY 10001.
The Verdict: If you have the time, head to NY Pizza Suprema for an upside-down slice. If you're in a rush, get a plain slice at Don Pepi Pizza.