Skip the Pizza and Get The Sandwiches at Goodfellas Lower East Side
144 Orchard Street New York, NY 10002 (between Rivington and Stanton; map);
Pizza style: Staten Island/New York
Oven type: Wood-fired brick
The skinny: A super-crunchy cornmeal crust. Toppings are your best best. Sandwiches are excellent.
Price: Small pies $10 to $12, large pies $19 to $23.
If you were to believe their own hype, you'd think that Goodfellas, a mini-chain started over on Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island back in 1992 was the "WORLD'S BEST PIZZA." Don't believe them? What if they were to tell you that they were voted World's Best Pizza?
Yeah, I'm a little skeptical too. I haven't been to the Staten Island locations (there are two now), but I've walked past the Lower East Side storefront on my way up to the pizza haven of the East Village many times. It looks like a generic, cookie-cutter, corporate pizza restaurant—like a Sbarro's with more brick and less brass.
But I'm not the kind of guy who judges a pizza before it passes my lips, and I was willing to give the pies a fair shake.
First the bad news: the plain pie (their Old World Style Pizza, $10 small, $19 large) is not good. The pretty rubbery fresh mozzarella is melted directly onto the cornmeal-stretched crust, the tinny, overcooked-tasting sauce applied in fat dollops on top of the pies. The crust could have used more color, but the cornmeal did give it a nice crunch—a useful crutch for piemen looking for extra crunch with little extra effort.
It's not as thin as other Staten Island-style pies I've had, but it has that characteristic stiff, cracker-like bottom.
The problem is that the pie is inexpensive, but it also tastes that way. Your best bet with this style of pie is to pile on as many flavorful toppings as you can and hope for the best.
The strategy works. The Alla Vodka Pizza ($12 small, $23 large) is a far better pie, with a creamy vodka sauce, sliced fresh cremini mushrooms, peas, and chunks of salty prosciutto. The creaminess of the sauce covers up some of that tomato tinniness and even adds some needed richness to the cheese. We had no problem downing this guy.
The Smokin' Goodfella's [sic] (small $12, large $23)was even better, with another creamy sauce (this time based on roasted peppers), chunks of Italian sausage, caramelized onions, strips of pepper, and a big handful of coarsely grated pecorino.
Would I align myself with the committee and vote Goodfellas to the top of the pie-chain? Not on your life. It was, however, a tasty enough casual meal with sit-down atmosphere at stand-up prices. Though to be honest, unless you're a toppings fiend, I'd skip the pizzas entirely and instead go for one of the sandwiches.
Those were excellent, and Max would like to tell you all about their crisp, grease-free, well-breaded eggplant parm.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.