The five boroughs are dotted with numerous cuisine-unspecific kosher restaurants, serving everything from shawarma to pizza to sushi, all rabbinically approved for Orthodox Jewish consumption. Benjy's Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Flushing is one notable example. According to the restaurant's extended name, a woman I spoke to while having lunch there, and this blog post (picked up by Gothamist), the pizza is the thing to order at Benjy's. And having read that post, there was no way I'd be ordering anything other than the Falafel Pizza.
'Queens' on Serious Eats
In a neighborhood with lots of solid pizza but little that's exceptional, a place that makes destination-worthy pies remains Astoria's golden unicorn. Though Basil Brick Oven is a go-to spot for Neapolitan pizza in the neighborhood, the market's gotten more crowded lately, wood burning ovens and all.
In the 80 years since Patsy Lancieri opened his East Harlem pizzeria, Patsy's has maintained its status as an iconic New York destination for pizza pilgrims around the world. Current owner Frank Brija, who has manned the Patsy's helm for more than 30 years, intends to celebrate the restaurant's anniversary with a new location, in the Whitestone neighborhood of Queens.
There are a number of places that I just don't get—bakeries, noodle shops, and pizzerias I try to revisit every now and again on the off chance I've visited on an "off night." New Park Pizza has long been one of these places. I just could not see what all the fuss was about. On a recent visit, however, a light went on—like the gif above—and I finally got New Park Pizza. All for one simple reason.
Gloria, hallelujah! Among Queens residents who've been around long enough to remember it, the second coming of Gloria Pizza is kind of a big deal. The stuff of Chowhounder legend, the original Gloria, in Flushing, closed in the mid '90s but lived on in the memories of fans and on the message boards of the foodiesphere. The reincarnated version opened in Forest Hills on Tuesday of last week.
The atmosphere is comfortable (much brighter than the previous incarnation, which required night-vision goggles), and the staff is friendly. I could see this becoming a go-to for me not because the pizza is AMAZING but because it is good enough and nearby.
The Sicilian at John's Pizzeria tastes much lighter than others around town―probably due to the many micro-air bubbles within its crust.
There are only a handful of celebrated slices in Queens. Why is that? I don't know. Maybe it's that the borough is more residential than most and good slices tend to pop on a local level rather than citywide. One Queens sleeper that's slowly gaining some larger buzz, though, is John's Pizzeria in Elmhurst, where the classic plain slice is satisfying, comforting stuff.
Basil Brick Oven Pizza makes what some folks might call Neapolitan pizza, but pizzaiolo and co-owner Daniel Barbois, a native of Piedmont, Italy, would dispute that. The pizzas here look like their Naples-based counterparts, Mr. Barbois, says, but the crust is more crisp, the edges a little more flat, the cheese a bit more generous.
Pickled Italian peppers and home-grown basil, oregano, and rosemary. An award-winning apple pie recipe from Ohio made from (somewhat) locally harvest fruit. Heat in the dining room supplied by a wood-burning stove. Nope, not a trendy "Ball jar joint" helmed by Midwestern transplants in Brooklyn. This is all going on at Sac's Place in Astoria, Queens, run by a couple brothers who grew up around the corner from this coal-fired pizzeria and restaurant on Broadway.
The "China Town" slice at Pizza 8 in Flushing's New World Mall food court is topped with Cantonese roasted pork, Taiwanese sausage, fried onion, green pepper, basil, and mozzarella. None of those things on their own are horrible. And in fact, some of them (the cha siu and the Taiwanese sausage) are AWESOME.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's going to draw pizza- or bread-heads from outside the borough or even the neighborhood, but if you're live in, near, or are looking to explore this part of Astoria, you owe it to yourself to make the detour here.
"Nick's calzone is the best I've had in the city. It passes the ultimate test: its best version is the 'plain,' or ricotta- and mozzarella-only version, with marinara on the side. The crispychewy shell, smell, flavor, and mouthfeel evoke the fabled mozzarella-in-carozza-envy scene in De Sica's Bicycle Thief. Another big plus is the shape — it's pressed virtually flat, in the classic, homey Neapolitan style. Cannot say enough good things about this dish."
Dee's Pizza is the sort of cheerily neutral restaurant that wouldn't look out of place in any American suburb; their endless list of pizza toppings (pulled chicken, sundried tomatoes) and long laminated menu add to the pleasantly nondescript feeling. What a nice surprise, then, that the pizza is quite good.
I've been hitting a lot of old-school, beloved pizzerias in the city in recent weeks. It's just where my head's at lately. Notable Queens favorite New Park Pizza, in Howard Beach, has an ardent fanbase and a ton of character (especially at night, when the sign is on and neon steam rises from the glowing pizza pie).
Apart from Singas, this is probably the most well-known pizza in Elmhurst (there's also a location in Jackson Heights). It's worth trying if you haven't and if you're nearby (it's not worth a special trip). Beware, though. It's the (daily) slice that keeps on giving.
Many toppings available. Triggers a Proustian reaction from those who grew up on it but fun stuff even for people discovering it as an adult.
Even at 3:30 p.m., a steady stream of customers ordered slice after slice of ultra-thin, crisp pizza. The sauce, applied in ample amounts along with a hefty amount of cheese to balance it out, is a tiny bit sweet and spiked with a pleasant mixture of herbs.