SAY NUMBER 13: Dom DeMarco, Slice's "Italian hero," makes the cover of this week's Village Voice. The alt-weekly's Robert Sietsema tallies his top 100 Italian restaurants, DeMarco of Di Fara fame clocking in at lucky thirteen.
Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice runs down his top 100 Italian restaurants. Seeing as how pizza is Italian or Italian American (depending on style), there are more than a few pizzerias in the mix.
The usual suspects appear throughout as well as a few surprises and what might be hidden gems. Following, we've digested the list, ignoring any nonpizza establishments. For the full list, click here.
We were delirious yet dismayed to see Dom DeMarco of Di Fara Pizza on the coverheartened that Mr. DeMarco is once again getting the recognition he deserves but upset that the crowds at his pizzeria will inevitably grow larger (and also perplexed that he ranked no higher than thirteen while less-deserving places sit in the top ten).
Well, without further ado, here is the list, parsed for pizza entries...
KEY Sietsema's copy in roman type. [Slice comments, where applicable, bracketed and set in italic.]
3: La Villa Descended from twin Howard Beach and Mill Basin pizzerias, this Park Slope miracle has it all: a wood-burning inferno from which sail perfect pizzas, and a distinguished menu of primi and secondi. Witness the spectacular Romano, a pie from Abruzzi compressing sausage, pepperoni, and smoky roast potatoes between two slabs of dough. 261 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-499-9888 [To be fair, I haven't tried any of the nonpizza dishes at this place right up the street from me, but the pizzas are in NO WAY better than Di Fara. Still, this is my standby pizzeria. I'll have to try the Romano.]
5: San Cono Though low on ambience, and perhaps too brightly lit, Williamsburg's foremost restaurantnamed after Saint Cono, the 12th-century patron of Teggiano, Italychurns out wonderful heros and pastas, but the biggest appetites head for the lasagna pizza, a Brooklyn invention that loads ground meat, ricotta, and mozzarella into a deep-dish crust. 303 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-782-3199 [Oooh. Slice will have to drag its Williamsburg friend to this place.]
8: Grimaldi's While other places that call themselves pizzerias are full-blown restaurants, Grimaldi's confines itself to pizzas, and a line of supplicants often trails out the door. The queue moves quickly because Grimaldi's is efficient at turning out the same thin, slightly charred, coal-oven beauties that were learned at the knee of East Harlem's Patsy. 19 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn; 718-858-4300 [How Grimaldi's ranks above Patsy's is beyond us. The Brooklyn pizzeria uses the best ingredients and has a great sauce, but we feel that the very efficiency with which they turn out pies actually hurts the product. The very speed with which you are served often comes at the expense of a soggy crust.]
9: Lodomini's Taste of Italy Hunkering amid the porn parlors, chicken slaughterhouses, and sweatshops under the Gowanus Expressway, this place doesn't look like much. Till you spotif you're lucky, and the Apulian proprietor happens to be making itthe pizza glowing orange with fresh mussels. Splendid, too, is the spaghetti sauced with tripe and peas. 871 Third Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-768-4373 [We've tried Lodomini's at the urging of some readers' comments. We weren't impressed with the plain slice, which appeared to have been sitting for some time. However, the gentleman who appeared to have been the proprietor showed great heart and pride in his cooking. He was discussing, in detail with a customer, the preparation methods of a pasta the customer was eating. We'll have to go back to try this fresh-mussel pizza. Sounds delicious. (And you can't beat the location!) ]
11: Otto This controversial addition to the Batali empire freaked people out with its cracker-like pizzas, one featuring the cured pork fat known as lardo. You can skip the pizzas entirely, though, feasting on cheese, cured meats, and little dishes of pickled seafood, beans, and vegetables from an agreeable menu that omits pasta and traditional main courses entirely. 1 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-995-9559 [We have yet to try Otto. We know. We really need to go. But we have other fish to fry first.]
13: DiFara's Domenico DeMarco has been elevated to sainthood by the city's favorite foodie website (chowhound.com), and devotees dote on his every move [Guilty!Ed.] as he fiddles with each pie, shaking on cheeses and artistically arranging the elements. Sometimes his artichoke slice is "on," sometimes not, but the enjoyment of watching him work is reason enough to make a Midwood sojourn. 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn; 718-258-1367 [People, people: Please DO NOT go to Di Fara. It's already a long enough wait. Please stick to Lombardi's and John's. We want this spectacular pie to ourselves.]
14: Giorgione Giorgione caused a sensation with its octopus when it opened last year. The pastas, wine snacks, and wood-oven pizzas are hardly less impressive. In fact, this is one of the most versatile Italian places in the city, and the convivial premises bear the unmistakable imprint of the restaurant's founder, Giorgio DeLuca, co-founder of Dean & DeLuca. 307 Spring Street, Manhattan; 212-352-2269 [Giorgione was recently voted Best Restaurant Pie by NYMetro.com.]
20: Totonno's Located in the weed-choked neighborhood where Woody Guthrie lived out his final years, Totonno's sports the best fresh mozzarella of any pizzeria in town. That this cheese is a little soupy, making the pie damp, is fine with me. Just grab a fork! 1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-372-8606 [Both Sietsema and Steven Shaw, founder of eGullet knock Totonno's for sogginess. The last time we were there, though, the pie was dead on.]
22: Patsy's Pizzeria [East Harlem] East Harlem lost its best Italian restaurant, Andy's Colonial, last year. Not uncoincidentally, Patsy's expanded its menu to include such southern Italian soul food as eggplant rolatini, cavatelli with broccoli rabe, and an unusually good pasta fagioli soup. Dine in the afternoon and see burly locals run in and out, their trucks idling outside, in your own private episode of The Sopranos. 2287-91 First Avenue, Manhattan; 212-534-9783 [In our opinion, the pie's the thing here. Skip the nonpizza fare and stick to THE BEST coal-oven pie in the city. (And one of the few coal-oven places to serve slices.)]
26: La Pizza Fresca This place claims to eschew a century of American pizza-making excellence, harkening back to Naples for its piechitecture, with a framed certificate to prove it. The small piesdeploying buffalo mozzarella, pancetta, and sweet cherry tomatoesare indeed exemplary. The pastas and secondi can't compete. 31 East 20th Street, Manhattan; 212-598-0141 [Indeed. LPF does eschew American pizza. It's one of the few places in the States to have been verified as "authentically Neapolitan."]
27: John's Pizzeria Don't even think of going to any of the other Johnny-come-lately branches of this august Greenwich Village institutiononly the original turns out superlative thin-crust pies. Order the voluminous salad, dressed with red-wine vinaigrette, and ponder why the menu insists on listing every possible combination of pizza toppings. 278 Bleecker Street, Manhattan; 212-243-1680 [We'll be going to John's later this month for Slice Pizza Club No. 4. We're shooting for late June, midweek, early evening. Be there!]
30: Lil' Frankie's The second project of the Frank's empire is superior in many ways, especially the wood-oven pizzas (pick the polpettine, littered with tiny sage meatballs) and the modest selection of roast poultry and fish. Both front and back rooms are convivial, but note that pastas are not a strong point. 19 First Avenue, Manhattan; 212-420-4900 [We need to try this place. We've heard too much about it lately to have left it out for so long.]
33: Joe and Pat's Being the originators of the amazing scungilli (conch) pizza would be reason enough for inclusion on this list, but Joe and Pat's goes beyond that triumph with a full menu of soups, seafood, and elongated sandwichesincluding one redundantly dubbed "submarine hero." 1758 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island; 212-981-0887 [Another one we need to try. So hard to get to via public transport, though, that we haven't attempted it. Yet.]
36: Lombardi's Though the old cast-iron oven notes it was made in 1905, Lombardi's bakery dates to 1898. This is the place that invented American pizza, and the pies are still damn goodthin-crusted and brushed with tart tomato sauce. You can't go wrong with sausage and extra garlic, but if you want to take a chance, order the fresh-clam pieit's either wonderful or awful. 32 Spring Street, Manhattan; 212-941-7994 [Seltzerboy apparently has a piece written about this that I'm WAITING FOR. (Hint, hint.) I'll post it AS SOON AS I GET IT. (Hint, hint. C'mon, S'boy!)]
39: Denino's Staten Island's favorite purveyor of Italian food is a rough hangout where the dining room seems like an afterthought to the capacious barroom. The Staten Island-style pizzas are fab, with a crust thicker than usual, carefully browned but never charred, and so is the scungilli salad, one of the city's foremost conch showcases. 524 Richmond Avenue, Staten Island; 718-442-9401 [Seltzerboy and I tried this place in our pre-Slice days. We liked it. It's definitely an animal of a different stripe. Something that might be called "Staten Island style." Oddly enough, the crust tasted exactly like that of a pizzeria in Lawrence, Kansas, where I attended university.]
44: Patricia's Most diners don't know that the Bronx boasts a second Little Italy, competing with Arthur Avenue for their dining dollar. Patricia's is evidence of the neighborhood vigor, slinging wood-oven pizzas, profusely sauced pastas, and, best of all, a nightly list of specials like osso buco in Barolo sauce and tripe Genovese. 1080 Morris Park Avenue, The Bronx; 718-409-9069 [This place is on our short list of next-up pizzeriasafter getting some mild ribbing from a reader about the fact that we're completely lacking in Bronx pizza places. Said reader recommended Patricia's.]
45: Mr. Phil's In the dank dead zone under the N tracks, the garish sign might make you run in the opposite direction. But this parlor practices jamming vegetables into crusted entities, including an incredible eggplant roll that, at $3, is one of the best full meals I've had this year. Also estimable is the steroidal stromboli, a huge half-moon stuffed with meat and cheese, sold by the wedge. 7212 New Utrecht Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-234-4106 [We wonder if this isn't the place another reader told us about. Some little place under the elevated line in Bensonhurst that sold a phenomenal stuffed slice. Could it be? We need to find out.]
47: ValDiano When it opened a few years ago, this comfy cheapster was evidence of a rare foray of Williamsburg Italian restaurateurs into Polish Greenpoint. The owners hail from Teggiano, and their southern heritage is evident in the penne arrabiata, a sauce made angry ("arrabiata") by green chiles. Savor the burn. 659 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-383-1707 [We didn't include this one at first, but a reader, Abe, points out that "ValDiano is also a pizzeria with a restaurant snuck in, but the slices are unexceptional so perhaps its not worthy of the list." Maybe that's why Sietsema didn't mention pizza in his blurb. Still, this will serve as nothing more than to warn people off from the pie.]
54: Pie Deploying a brilliant merchandising scheme, this new wave pizzeria puts all its cards on the tablein this case, a marble counter on which the day's offerings are artfully displayed and snipped with scissors by some very up countergals. Selections range from doctrinaire to off-the-wall, including one embedded with sunny-side-up eggs. 124 Fourth Avenue, Manhattan; 212-475-4977 ["Very up countergals"? What the hell's that mean? Are they hot? If so, maybe this place moves to the top of our next-to-try list.]
61: L & B Spumoni Gardens As in a scene from Grease , men drive up and down 86th Street, ogling the ponytailed girls who sit at outdoor tables on warm summer evenings. More like an amusement park than a restaurant, three conjoined eateries offer, respectively, good Sicilian pizza, stupendous spumoni, and uneven southern Italian farego for anything featuring eggplant or ricotta. 2725 86th Street, Brooklyn; 718-372-8400 [Make that awesome Sicilian pizza.]
64: George's Pizza Laboring in perpetual obscurity among the roller-coaster hills of Washington Heights, George is one of the city's great artisanal pizza makers. His slice doesn't look that different, but the rich creamy cheese, herbal sauce, and crisp light crust make it tops in Upper Manhattan. 726 West 181st Street, Manhattan; 212-568-6891
70: House of Pizza and Calzone Everything starts with the crisp, perfectly browned crust, because the pizza wranglers are experts at this half-century-old Red Hook institution. And the closing of the latticini just down the street has not diminished the slice's splendor. Or go wild with the unusual deep-fried calzone, oozing ham and ricotta. 132 Union Street, Brooklyn; 718-624-9107 [There's been some discussion of House of Pizza in Slice's Pizza Peel boards. Get your asses over there and start talking!]
71: Krispy Pizzeria In the vanguard of the phenomenon, Krispy was first in Dyker Heights to introduce the fresh mozzarella slice that came to be known as the nonna ("grand-ma"). Whether your grandmother made great pizza, or simply poured out the contents of Chef Boyardee cans, you're gonna love this slice. 7112 Thirteenth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-748-5797 [Seltzerboy supposedly is sitting on some copy about Grandma pizza, too. Get off your duff, S'boy!]
73: Koronet Pizzeria OK, you either love Koronet or hate it. This Columbia University legend proffers a slice of eye-popping dimensions, the floppy triangle twice the surface area of the usual slice, carpeted with above-average cheese for a neighborhood joint. The sauce is plenty piquant too, and a fresh pie is working most times of the day, so your chances of getting an un-reheated slice are good. 2848 Broadway, Manhattan; 212-222-1566 [Dude: These slices are as big as your effin' head. A great value for college students.]
75: Tosca A stone's throw from the Throgs Neck Bridge (what's a throg, anyway?), Tosca inherited a coal oven from a bakery, and immediately put it to use turning out excellent pizzas in the style of the old masters from Brooklyn and Manhattan. Though the menu touches all the bases of northern and southern Italian cooking, the best stuff is southern: eggplant rollatini and escarole soup. 4038 East Tremont Avenue, The Bronx; 718-239-3300 [OK. Here's another example of a coal-oven pizzeria running under the radar. This sounds like a real adventure. Intrepid Slice readers only need apply.]
78: New Park Pizza The pizzas fly from humongous ovens at this 47-year-old Howard Beach landmark, floppy Neapolitans slightly charred around the edges, pooled with good cheese, sporting a tomato sauce that doesn't shout. New Park is where a white mob spotted black Michael Griffith in 1986, beat him up, then chased him to his death on the Belt Parkway. The excellent slice was his last supper. 156-71 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, Queens [Shame, shame, Mr. Sietsema, making light of Mr. Griffith's death with that flippant final sentence. Seltzerboy reviewed New Park back in April.]
79: Famous Pizza In the ultra-competitive world of New York pizza, you never know where innovation will appear. With a tip of the hat to the neighborhood, Famous created its signature masala pizza, a cheesy personal pie topped with onions, garlic, jalapeños, and an Indian spice mixture. 75-12 37th Avenue, Jackson Heights, Queens; 718-205-5000 [Possibly not our bag, but sounds interesting nonetheless. Hmm... Slice has a friend out in Jackson Heights. I think she needs to give us a tour of the neighborhood. We'll stop at Famous.]
80: O'Neill's Who ever heard of a pizza parlor inside an OTB? Right off the Long Island Expressway, this Irish bar features a pizza oven almost as an afterthought, its flames shooting out as the ponies flicker across 100 television screens. Hunker down with a pie topped with sausage, mozzarella, anchovies, and garlic, and don't drop that winning ticket! 64-21 53rd Drive, Maspeth, Queens; 718-672-9696 [A pizzeria in an OTB?! Get the ? out! Is the pie any good? Who cares? This sounds like a great place for a Slice photoessay!]
85: Lento's [RIP; closed as of January 2006] Man, I'd hit this antiquarian Bay Ridge restaurant for its interior alonea throwback to the '30s, it features dim lighting and ramshackle booths of dark wood. The pastas are fab, the baked clams are swell, and the pizzasif not in competition for Brooklyn's bestare tasty, with a meritorious tomato sauce. 7001 Third Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-745-9197 [Sietsema's right on about the interior. Lento's has some serious old-school aesthetics going on here. Maybe not as good as, say, Di Fara or Grimaldi's, but still very good pie. When I lived in the Ridge, I'd go nowhere else.]
86: Nunzio's Opened by Nunzio Trivoluzzo in 1943, this beachside shack used to be pink, but a 2002 overhaul turned the exterior disappointingly beige. In spite of the diminution of visual appeal, the thin-crusted slice shotgunned with tiny cubes of mozzarella and sluiced with a tomato sauce featuring black pepper remains a Staten Island treasure. Some say this is where the first slice was sold. 2155 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island; 718-667-9647 [Maybe the first slice was sold here, but Slice is not sold on Nunzio's.]
89: Rose & Joe's Italian Bakery Maybe this humble bakery, with its carefully ranked cookies and loaves, deserves a higher ranking in this list, but the only item that qualifies it for inclusion is the transcendental Sicilian pie, which periodically issues from the oven to be parsed out among the waiting customers. I'm sure this is how Sicilian pizza originated. 22-40 31st Street, Astoria, Queens; 718-721-9422
90: Bite Me Best To the strains of indie rock, check out the pizza display at this six-seater, whose pies are in the vanguard of pizza innovation. I connected with the Tex-Mex slice, a vegetarian tour de force of corn, black beans, and chiles; the cheese holds the whole thing together like Elmer's Glue. Pastas also rock. 138 Avenue C, Manhattan; 212-475-1991 [Slice has a love-hate relationship with indie rock. Slice loves the indie rock. But indie rockersai yah! Only they would make something as pretentious and obscure as a corn-and-beans-and-chiles pizza. Heh. Indie rockers sure got some funny ideas. Assholes. (But oh those indie-rock girls: Yowza! )]
93: Sal's and Carmine's Reminiscent of DiFara's in the artisanal character of its pizza, S&C turns out a salty no-nonsense slice with exceptionally good cheese and no quarter given to those who prefer a little sugar in their sauce. The generous crust owes nothing to coal-oven pizza. 2671 Broadway, Manhattan; 212-663-7651
94: Cheesy Pizza A stone's throw from Sal's and Carmine's, Cheesy is clearly in hot competition. The slice is diametrically opposite, with a sweetness partly due to masses of onions in the sauce. But the dish that really won me over was the potatoes with spicy tomato sauce over white rice: Italo-Dominican double-carb fusion! 2640 Broadway, Manhattan; 212-662-5223
95: Famous Italian Mexican Restaurant This neighborhood pizzeria, which enjoys the patronage of elderly Dominican men and backpackers from the youth hostel across the street, leads the way in Italo-Mexican combos, heaping a spectacular jalapeño slice with sautéed onions and chiles. Wash it down with seltzer Mexico City-style, over ice with lime and a salted rim. 886 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan; 212-316-1427
98: Gourmet Brick Oven Pizza 33 This modern incarnation of a neighborhood pizza parlor has several hit slicesthe real-mozzarella marinara and the square nonna, to cite twobut the one I most relish is the ziti slice, which looks like a colony of bacilli blown up a million times, blowing a metaphoric raspberry at dead Dr. Atkins. 489 Third Avenue, Manhattan; 212-545-9191 [Heh. Raspberry at Dr. Atkins. Step off, low-carbers.]
100: Joe's Pizza Though the plump Sicilian sliceflaunting a crispy crustis often cited by fans, my favorite is the fresh-mozzarella slice, pairing lighter-than-air cheese with a bright bland tomato sauce that doesn't upstage the mozzarella. For a mere two bucks you can buy an unbaked crust and create your own pie. 223 Bleecker Street, Manhattan; 212-366-1182
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