Plain Pie, Totonno's
Totonno's made the first pizza I ever ate in New York and it was a little different than I remembered. The crust was thicker and breadier, and those aren't the adjectives you want to use when you're talking coal ovens. Still, the tangy sauce melded perfectly with the mix of cheeses, just the way it did in my memory. A great wakeup call for your tastebuds to let you know you're in New York.
Pizza Bianca from Sullivan St. Bakery
There's no sauce or cheese, so I imagine some people are staring at the picture and asking where the pizza is. If you knew how much flavor was seeping out from just sea salt, rosemary, and olive oil, you wouldn't ask. The perfect appetizer for a day of eating pizza.
Sicilian Slice, L & B Spumoni Gardens
An uneven but nonetheless amazing slice I wholeheartedly recommend. A big section of this particular piece was slightly undercooked and I spent a few minutes wondering why the gentleman next to me was literally licking his paper plate. Then I got to the charred edge, and all the flavors mixed with the cooked-in Pecorino Romano and for four bites I was transported. Definitely get to L & B, just make sure you get a corner slice.
Plain Slice, Di Fara
You never know what kind of slice you're going to end up with at Di Fara, and this slice was probably in the middle of the pack. That still makes it a great one in my book. Skeptics will argue that Dom DeMarco cheats by going heavy with the oil and aged cheese, and I can't argue with them, but I'm still charmed by the man and his craft. I'm sorry that it's been overhyped and the slices are five bucks, but if you haven't been here you still have to make the trek.
Square Slice, Di Fara
I'd never even seen a square pie at Di Fara's so when I laid eyes on this almost alien-like gut bomb I was intimidated. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Mr. DeMarco was not aiming for balance, just an over the top flavor bomb. He mostly succeeded. I took detailed notes throughout the trip and the only thing I managed to type with my greasy fingers after this slice was, "di fara out of control."
Sicilian Slice, Lo Duca Pizza
This was the third sicilian slice I had in a row, and probably the best. Bright, clean tomato with a touch of oregano, a generous but not overwhelming slab of cheese, and perfectly cooked, lightly-oiled crust. By volume, it was easily the largest slice of the three, but the balance made it seem infinitely lighter than the others.
Grandma Slice, Lo Duca Pizza
The first true revelation of the trip. Two bites in, the cheese became one with the delicate crust and literally melted in my mouth while crushed tomato moved in to form a more perfect union. The next five minutes were spent communing with the pizza gods. Moving forward, this will be my pizza cognition theory definition of what a grandma slice is.
The Bull Durum by John Wozniak
You've probably seen Wozniak's pies in My Pie Monday and wondered if they taste as good as they look. Well, they do. John's take on Paulie Gee's Hellboy featured fresh mozzarella, whole peeled tomatoes, Aleppo chile flakes, pepperoni, and honey, but what really set it apart was the unique crust. The Bull Durum is made with a semolina flour-based dough, and it has a texture and flavor unlike any pizza I've ever had (except for the delicious part).
The Greenpointer at Paulie Gee's
First off, the pizza (mozzarella, baby arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh lemon juice) is awesome. It exceeded two years of built-up expectations, which is nearly impossible. Second, I know Paulie put a ton of work into his pizza and his restaurant, but they both seem effortlessly perfect. Paulie Gee's feels like it's always been there and always will be. I love the crust. I love the toppings. I love the flavor combinations and the massive menu. I love the space. I know I'm building up expectations, but don't worry, this place will meet them.
The Triumphant Return of Mo Cheeks at Paulie Gee's
Guanciale is quickly becoming favorite topping to pizza, thanks in no small part to this pie (mozzarella, tomatoes, grilled leeks, Berkshire guanciale). For the record, my favorite of the three Paulie Gee pies was the one not pictured, the Spectacle 261(speck, mushrooms, red onion, black pepper, and mozzarella). The interior here is great for dates, lousy for photos. That's a tradeoff I'm sure we'll all happily accept.
Plain Slice, Sal and Carmine
I mentioned that I didn't get the best piece here...wasn't lying, was I? No matter. This slice tasted like it was the inspiration for all the other slices that I had eaten before it. There was a little too much bench flour and I would have preferred a little less crust, but the sauce had this pitch perfect amount of sweetness and struck just the right balance with the cheese. I "get" slices now. I wrestled with myself for eight minutes or so over whether I should get another slice and throw my second day of eating out of whack. Pro tip: do it.
Plain Slice, Patsy's in East Harlem
Definitely different than the full pie I remember getting next door years ago. The sauce was a little watery and the mozz wasn't nearly as flavorful as I remember, but that thin coal oven crust will never get old. I spent the next half-hour on the train wondering how they can sell these things for $1.75... and how I could convince the City of Los Angeles to allow coal ovens.
Montanara and White Pizza with Aurgula, Don Antonio by Starita
I'm still recovering from the Montanara. Maybe I don't like smoked mozzarella on pizza. Maybe I don't like fried pizza in general. Maybe I'm a pizza prude. All I know is that it was all too much and I didn't like it and I didn't like not liking it. I wish I could go back and re-experience the white pie with arugula though. The buttery mozzarella spurred memories of the amazing Bianca at Pizzeria Bianco, and coming from me that's the highest compliment I can give.
Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta at Motorino
I still don't like Brussels sprouts, but this one stood up to the all the hype and exceeded it. I've heard rumblings that the combo is too subtle, but for me there was a perfect balance between the sprouts, the creamy mozzarella, and the salty pancetta. Oh, and the crust at Motorino is perfect. It probably ended up being my favorite pizza of the trip. I'm seriously considering just going through the menu at Motorino on my next trip, and not just because it would involve less planning.
Plain Slice, Joe's Pizza
For everyone wondering if the pizza at Joe's in New York is different from the Joe's in Los Angeles, the answer is hell yes. The crust at New York Joe's was soft, pillowy, and full of flavor while L.A. Joe's is dry and crunchy. Even the cheese had more flavor in New York, although it might have been a hint too much since the sauce fell away a bit. I'm sure everyone is shocked that New York beat L.A. in a pizza competition.
Vodka Slice, Rubirosa
Whenever I've had pizza that's been described as "Staten Island" or "cracker crust" it sure didn't taste like this. Crispy but delicate and flavorful, and that's before I got to the creamy vodka sauce. Some people—okay, John Wozniak—would argue that the vodka slice is a novelty, but I couldn't get enough of it. Staten Island will be part of Pizza Trip IV.
Margherita Extra at Forcella
Fantastic Neapolitan crust, just as advertised. They loaded up on the bufala, so my only critique would be that the squeaky clean sauce sometimes got lost in the mix. Well, that and I've never heard a restaurant play more bad songs from 90's (Gin Blossoms, Rusted Root, Hootie, Third Eye Blind, even Crazy Town!) in a row. It's a tribute to Forcella that not only would I allow my ears to enter their establishment again, but I'm actually still craving their pizza.
The Saint Louie at Speedy Romeo
If you'd like to know exactly how it tasted, please refer to Adam's review. I couldn't pretend to say it any better. I will mention that I've never eaten more of a pizza I wasn't 100 percent sure that I liked. This was by far the most adventurous pizza I had, and definitely one I can't stop thinking about it...though I don't think I'll be dining on provel cheese anytime soon.
Pepperoni and Pickled Veggies Slices at Best Pizza
Not everyone agrees, but I think Best Pizza is a Neapolitan-American hybrid. That's my favorite new style, and Best Pizza ups the ante with a crisp, flavorful slightly oily (in the very best way) crust. Though I usually avoid veggie slices like the plague, I got to experience the magic of asparagus on my pizza before chasing the demons away with pepperoni.
White with Caramelized Onions, Grandma Slice, Best Pizza, 8 Hours Later in L.A.
Find a cold spot on the plane and you're good to go as long as you heat them up when you get home. For the record, I'm well aware that these don't look as appetizing as the rest, but I can assure you that they were (the caramelized onion might have been the best of Best Pizza). You try taking pretty pictures after three days of dedicated eating and six hours of coach air travel.