Slice

How to Find and Order Great Pizza in New York

A plain slice from Best Pizza [Photograph: Jessica Leibowitz]

As a New Yorker, I'm unfit to make the call on whether or not we have the best pizza in the world. It's against my basic upbringing to even entertain the notion that our pizza, bagels, pastrami, and hot dogs aren't the best. But if you, as a visitor to our fair city, want to make the call for yourself, you should start by getting the best that the city has to offer. Finding great pizza in New York used to be as easy as going to the closest street corner and ordering a slice. This is not the case any more, which is why I think many New York visitors in the last decade or so have come away unimpressed by the quality of pizza here. It's not your fault.

The reason? Most of the dollar slice joints in Manhattan have ousted far superior places because people (including myself from time to time, I'm ashamed to admit) would rather pay $1 for a slice of something hot, filling, and decidedly low-quality than $2.50 for something made with better ingredients from a pizzaiolo who is skilled at their craft and puts care and attention into their pies. At the same time, for the last decade, pizza-obsessives opening new pizzerias have been focusing more on Neapolitan-style pies.

The end result is that while great Neapolitan is easy to find in New York, the classic New York slice is getting to be more and more of a rarity. So how can you recognize a good slice joint in the field? When you walk by a pizzeria, how can you give yourself a fighting chance?

Here are some basic guidelines for finding a good slices joint, along with some specific recommendations.

And remember: while New Yorkers tend to take their pizza very seriously, a lot of it is just a charade. At the end of the day, it's just pizza. Enjoy it.

Identifying Great Pizza in the Wild

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[Photograph: Adam Kuban]

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

How to Order and Eat Like a Native

A "Spicy Spring" from Prince Street Pizza, one of the finest Sicilian slices in the city.

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

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A slice with an appropriate amount of red pepper flakes from Rosario's [Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

On Toppings

The 'Famous Original A' at Paulie Gee's

The "Famous Original A," Adam Kuban's specialty pie on Paulie Gee's "secret" menu, made with some great chunky sausage. [Photograph: Adam Kuban]

*Notable counter-example: the "oh god what did I do?" experience of ordering the signature artichoke slice from Artichoke Basille.

Some Great New York Slices

If you're coming to New York and want great pizza here are some places to check out. Bear in mind, I'm ONLY recommending classic NY slice joints, so some great pizzerias that serve New York coal-oven whole pie pizza (like, say, John's or Lombardi's or Totonno's) aren't on this list, and neither are any of the Neapolitan or neo-Neapolitan joints (like Paulie Gee's or Motorino or Don Antonio).

These are classic NY-style places where you can walk in and order pizza a slice at a time to be enjoyed while walking down the street or standing at the counter.

In Manhattan

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Stretching dough at Patsy's in Harlem [Photograph: Nick Solares]

A square slice from Artichoke [Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

In Brooklyn

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Dom Demarco, ready to do his signature basil-snip. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Bronx and Queens

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[Photograph: Adam Kuban]

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg here, folks, but at least from now on, when a visitor to New york says to you, "you know what? I've had New York pizza and it's not very good," you can point them this way and make sure that they followed the rules of engagement before passing judgment.

The pizza joints I listed here were off-the-cuff, first-to-my-head suggestions (which I find often says more about what mood I'm in than what I really think), so my apologies if I missed any obvious ones. You can school me in the comments!

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.

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