Pizza City Guide: A New Orleans Slice Crawl
Slice shops aren't found on every street corner in New Orleans, but the city's volume of satisfying by-the-slice joints has dramatically increased in the last few years. The handful of noteworthy locations are all fairly new and most lie just a short distance from the gravitational center of local slice scene, the French Quarter—though even with the most dense concentration of slices in the city, the Quarter seems incapable of supporting any highly-evolved pizza life.
In fact, it's impossible to walk more than a few feet on a crowded section of Bourbon Street without stumbling across daiquiri shops selling stunted slices of pizza (generally $3-4). These overpriced, pallid and dock-marked objects languish under heat lamps, lying in wait for the unsuspecting and inebriated. A couple of places had puffy brown blisters on the cheese resembling something better suited for a book of dermatological disorders.
After wading through the successive displays of pies hidden by red lights and scarred polymer glass, I could find little evidence that any pizza-makers really cared. Then again, the Vieux Carré is experiencing the same vibrant culinary expansion as the rest of the city, so who knows what the future may hold. There are some options for whole pies; it's just not the place to grab a slice right now—even after a mind-numbing quantity of frozen drinks. So where do you find a good slice in New Orleans?
Searching beyond the brightest spots involves increasingly longer travel and ever-increasing scarcity, but great slices can be found scattered around the metropolitan area. We've gathered our favorite options for New Orleans and Metairie (without incorporating proliferating supermarket or mall slices). Here's where to find them.
The assortment of 14 pies in the front window of this recent newcomer was a welcome sight; every pizza is uniformly thin, with equally consistent overall appearance—a strong indication of potential slice shop gold.
The pizza-maker hit my slice ($3) with a dash of pre-grated Parmesan post-reheat, and it was quite good from the first bite. The crust has all of the crunch, pliancy, and undercarriage char to be expected from a good street slice. Barely visible micro-bubbles lace the rim, and small brown char spots dot a light brown base. There's a healthy sweetness to the sauce, and the cheese is more pliant that the photo would suggest, but the Parmesan adds a sharpness that isn't really needed at the party.
The owners have branched out from their South Florida location with this large full-service restaurant across from the Convention Center. The overall quality of this slice couldn't have been found in New Orleans until very recently. Bei Tempi will be a more-than-welcome addition for locals and convention-goers alike.
Slice touts using King Arthur flour and local artesian water in the dough, and they've been committed to using fresh and local toppings since long before other top-tier pizza contenders were around. Consistency has been a bit of an issue here, but even on a bad day, it remains one of my favorites. The pizza typically leans toward the "well-done" side, where browning penetrates deeply into the interior crumb of the edge. The bottom of the cornmeal-dusted crust is very crisp, with a few dark char spots. And despite the austere-looking photo, my slice ($2.50) had an adequate amount of mozzarella, and the presence of black pepper added to the sauce's sharp bite to make it a hit.
The number of Northeastern students at Tulane has always made it breeding ground for debate about New York-style pizza. Pizzicare owner and Tulane alum Jeff Baron is a local who grew into his appreciation for the style that he and partner Bart Bell are re-defining—dramatically enough that the claims of "authentic New York-style pizza" might draw fire from fellow alumni.
Large bubbles dominated the top of my most recent sturdy slice ($3). The crust doesn't offer much character beyond its stability, but pleasant notes of cooked onion and garlic in the "cheffy" sauce are the best element of the slice. It defines the overall flavor, while the cheese merely provides a pleasant texture. This overblown slice isn't going to win any beauty contests, but it's certainly a decent option for Mid-City.
The Dough Bowl
Even as a seasoned adult, I respected this slice for what it was—a comforting hook-up in a dark bar during the wee hours. Slices at The Dough Bowl ($3.25) are sold through the kitchen window into The Boot, a college bar on Tulane's fraternity row, and from a to-go window on the street.
The top of my slice appeared anemic and limp in the sunlight, but the undercarriage had some nice browning. Though the ratio of sauce and cheese seemed reasonable, the pliable mozzarella was a bit chalky. That said, it's certainly an acceptable option for those living on campus, or in a hurry; it's also hands-down the largest slice to be found.
New York Pizza
As a childhood haunt, New York Pizza had slices with a good bit of char, and a unique flavor of Parmesan that I would later recognize as "DiFara-like."
Today, it's a fairly bland and entirely different animal; the perfectly round crust looks like a pre-baked shell, but does have dock marks indicating something with live yeast. The pattern of browning on the bottom shows a unique contrast of stark white and oil-laden golden brown spots. Honestly, it's unlike anything I am familiar with.
The cheese has more life than the the photo suggests and the sauce isn't overly sweet—nothing about the slice was terrible. The last thing that I want to bring up is "authenticity", but with a tagline of "A slice of the Big Apple in the Big Easy!", the pizza should walk the walk. At $2.50, this one couldn't last one round in the ring with a NYC dollar slice.
The inviting mixture of tomato sauce and cheese glistens on the slices ($3) from this well-established Riverbend shop. The crust tends to be thicker than a typical NY-style slice; crisp, evenly light brown, and sturdy from edge to tip. The decent quality cheese is very inviting, and the sauce has a mostly natural sweetness of very concentrated tomatoes.
The overall rich thick quality of this slice is a bit much for a top-tier slice. "Nino's" as it's known by devotees, isn't a sophisticated newcomer, but it has been a longtime standard bearer for what many consider a good local slice.
The streamlined curve at the edge of my latest slice ($2) plunged into a light, thin, and crisp interior. Sauce with the flavor of only simple, high-quality tomatoes is the exception in the South, not the rule, and Pizza Delicious just nails it. A properly restrained addition of mozzarella that doesn't "oil-off" is the finishing touch to their seductive pies.
This most recent plain slice was the best I've tried there—hopefully, a sign of evolution. These guys (also Tulane Alumni) are making my current hands down detour-worthy slice.
The sight of barely melted spots of dry-aged mozzarella glistening in a sea of red and orange is one of those visual cues that will send me on a slice binge. It's a sign that the cheese will be moist and alive. It can also be a sign of a slight overabundance of both cheese and sauce. On my slice from Brooklyn Pizzeria, the two were in good balance, the sauce herbaceous and flavorful. Unfortunately they don't quite outweigh the pastry-like crust, stretched to the point of transparency and somewhat flaccid, even after the re-heat.
Owner Todd Duvio's recipe comes from a pizzeria owner in Brooklyn, NY, and while his pies may not lead the pack on technical points, they're certainly the best I've found in Metairie.
About the author: A childhood pizza obsessive, and lifelong pizza-maker. When not playing with a wood-fired oven, Eric can often be found searching far and wide for new and interesting pies.