See those lights ahead? That's Thanksgiving, all 18 wheels of it, carrying an assload of turkeys. (Free range or frozen, take your pick.) It'll run you down before you know it, and just as you're picking yourself up, Christmas and Hanukkah and New Year's will blindside you. (The holidays run in a convoy.)
That means that soon—all too soon—your relatives and friends will be visiting. And, this being NYC, they're going to want pizza for at least one of their meals here.
Here is my advice from years of acting as the good shepherd of pizza.
Assess Your Guest(s)
If you want to keep the peace, maintain your sanity, and maybe have a good meal somewhere in there, you've got to size up the situation.
- How many guests do you have? Too many and you might want to cross Motorino off your list and find someplace bigger. (Yeah, it kills me to say that, because I love the place, but the narrow Manhattan pizzeria is probably not a great place for a family reunion.)
Good pizzerias for groups: Patsy's (East Harlem); Arturo's (if you can get them to smush together some tables in the back room); Lombardi's; Barboncino; John's (Times Square). Remember to call ahead on all of these. They're big enough they should be able to accommodate
- How mobile are they? If they need help getting around (some older relatives), this isn't the time to introduce them to that place in deep Brooklyn that's blocks from the subway station
- How adventurous are they? If they're friends or relatives who truly love exploring the city, these are the folks to take to Bensonhurst or Arthur Avenue or Throgs Neck in The Bronx
- Are they rabid pizza geeks? This is probably the hardest one for someone like me (and maybe you) to contemplate. I mean, who isn't obsessed with pizza? As it turns out, lots of people claim to love pizza but maybe not to the extent that they'd endure a 1-hour subway ride from Manhattan followed by a 1- to 2-hour wait. And ask yourself, Do you really have that much to talk about with these folks?
Believe me, I have learned these lessons, and others, the hard way. Showing up with a party of 25 at a pizzeria unannounced. Dragging my parents to a fancy-pants brunch place (with house-made ketchup, oh la la) when they just wanted to go to a Waffle House. Driving two hours only to find out that the place is closed on Tuesdays.
Sure Bets for Holiday Pizza
The hardest question I have to answer is the inevitable email that goes like this: "What pizzeria should I take my parents/grandparents/cousin/former towel boy from my high school chess team to?"
Why? Because I do not know your parents/grandparents/cousin/former towel boy from your high school chess team!
After running through the questions above, you should have a pretty good idea whether you can pull out the big guns and really impress your visitor with a trip to the absolute best places in the city or whether you'll just have to settle for taking them someplace merely serviceable near the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Rink.
The Best of the Best
Your friends and/or family are game for a trip? Try our 10 Best Pizzas in NYC list:
- Motorino's Brussels Sprout and Pancetta Pie
- Di Fara's Square Pie
- Paulie Gee's Anise & Anephew Pie
- Vodka Pie at Pier 76
- Totonno's Coal-fired Pie
- Sal & Carmine's Slice
- L&B Spumoni Gardens Sicilian
- Best Pizza's Pickled Vegetable Pizza
- Artichoke Basille's Grandma Slice, on a good day
- Patsy's Coal-fired Slice
Near Major Tourist Attractions
- Times Square: Angelo's, PizzArte, and John's
- Central Park (southern): Angelo's
- Empire State Building: Lazzara's
- Wall Street: Adrienne's Pizza Bar
- Statue of Liberty (ferry dock): Adrienne's Pizza Bar
- The High Line: Ovest, Artichoke Basille's
- Museum Mile: Eat before or after you visit. I've never found a super compelling pizzeria near Museum Mile
- Greenwich Village: Kesté Pizza & Vino, John's, Joe's
One last thing you've got to do is decide whether your guests will be open to new pizza experiences. Folks visiting from elsewhere may have a thing against New York–style pizza or may not be familiar with Neapolitan-style pizza. You might either need to abort the mission altogether in the former case or do a little (subtle) education in the latter—explaining the finer points of charring, the cornicione, etc. Luckily, there's this: What to Expect at a Neapolitan Pizzeria.
In any event, good luck. I'm just happy I'm going home to Kansas City for the holidays this year, so I can be sheep to someone else's barbecue shepherding. Happy seasonings, folks!