New York has long been regarded as a, if not the, pizza Mecca. But these days, many of our city's most highly publicized pizzerias share increasingly less with the slice joints and classic pie shops that engendered that reputation in the first place. Whether you're a native New Yorker or a first-time visitor, here are 12 old-school pizzerias you should definitely know.
'NYC Quintessentials' on Serious Eats
I had low expectations in visiting Grimaldi's new location at 1 Front Street, just up the street from the original spot at 19 Old Fulton. The place has been in the news as of late more for tax and landlord drama than for its product. And, I gotta say, it's often served me some underdone, soggy pies. I figured that in moving to a new space, Grimaldi's would give me more of the same—minus the quirky, cramped Brooklyn charm of the original.
A minimally beautiful little slice. Life rafts of mozzarella float atop a bright-red sea of fresh-tasting, chunky sauce—it's little more than crushed canned tomatoes, some salt, and a some basil. The crust is crisp and pliant and thin. You'll probably want a couple.
Every city needs at least one older-than-old restaurant with a certain kind of cultivated rakishness — hard, straight-back wood booths that don't encourage lingering; graffiti-carved walls that conjure visions of 1950s hooliganism; grumpy signage.
There's only one size pizza available on the menu. It's a respectable size — about 16 inches across. Not HUGE but not Neapolitan dainty. Still, even though it's on the bigger side, don't let the size fool you. As the menu says, it's "paper thin." (Yes, the menu says "paper thin.") Got a big appetite? You could easily house three-quarters of a plain pie on your own. Hell, I've eaten an entire Patsy's plain pizza by myself. That was in another lifetime, before Slice even existed. On a long lunch break. I almost fell asleep at my desk when I got back to work. But I digress...
I'll just say it: Lombardi's is kind of a big tourist thing. After having been hyped in countless national newspaper and magazine stories, guidebooks, and travel shows, this "first pizzeria in America" is pretty much packed any night of the week with people more likely to hail from Manhattan, Kansas, than Manhattan Manhattan. (OK, that's probably an exaggeration, but poetic license, you know?)
[Photographs: Nick Solares] Ray's Pizza 27 Prince Street, New York NY 10012 (Elizabeth/Mott; map) Pizza Style: New York–style Oven Type: Gas The Skinny: As classical an example of New York City pizza as you will find. A well-balanced slice with a classic flavor Price: Plain slices, $2.65; pies, $16 Ray's Pizza on Prince Street opened it doors in 1959. Although the word "original" does not appear in its name, there is a fairly broad consensus (if not a unanimous one) that it is in fact the first of the numerous Ray-named pizzerias in New York City. "A Ray's on...