Mamma mia! There’s nothing quite like a New York-style pizza, as many in the Big Apple will be sure to tell you. With a rich history of Italian migrants landing on its shores and starting a new life in the city, it’s little wonder that New York is almost as famous for its top-notch Italian cuisine as it is for its yellow cabs and Central Park. Over time, pizza took on a distinctive New York flavor, served up hot-n-fresh in pizza parlors around the city, it has become one of the most iconic street foods of the city. Not all slices are created equal, so here are 8 of the best spots to grab a slice (or 2) in NYC:
One of the oldest and most respected pie shops in New York, Totonno’s has been serving up great pizza for generations—since 1924. It’s little surprise, then, that Totonno’s thin-crust, coal-oven pizza is a perennial forerunner in almost every “Top 10” contest. The restaurant is old-school, the service is “sassy” and the business is cash only—so leave your plastic at home. Established by Antonio “Totonno” Pero after the subway made Coney Island an accessible destination for many New Yorkers, the restaurant has survived decades and is known for its long lines as much as its delicious pies. The restaurant has faced a string of challenges as late, with a 2009 fire and damage during Hurricane Sandy, but has remained open through it all. The recipe has remained unchanged since 1924 and the flavor has been described as quintessentially New York City.
7. Paulie Gee’s
The wait times at Paulie Gee’s are notoriously long, but then, you’d probably wait a lifetime for pizza this good too. Situated at 60 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn, Paulie Gee’s wood-fired pies are modeled on the Neapolitan tradition and topped with locally sourced—and sometimes unusual—ingredients. In a city where things can get pricey quick, Paulie Gee’s offers up gourmet at a price-point that’s easy to swallow. Pizzas with names like “Ricky Ricotta” and “Argula Shmoogula” practically beg for a Brooklyn accent, making it little wonder that Paulie Gee’s has become a favorite among locals and visitors alike! The atmosphere in the restaurant is warm and inviting, and the food is always fresh from the oven. This is one place that lives up to the hype; and it’s well worth the wait!
From Singapore to New York, Motorino pizza is an international delight built on the principles of hard work, quality ingredients and staying true to what’s in the oven. Although you can now find Motorino pizza in some far-flung places, the original East Village location draws crowds with its use of gourmet toppings on Neapolitan-style pies, all made in brick ovens. Adjectives like “sublime” and “superb” are often bandied about when people talk about the pizza creations they’ve encountered at Motorino’s. The restaurant is also well known for its lunchtime special, which has earned it a reputation for being a relatively “cheap eat” in the East Village. Overseen by chef Mathieu Palombino, the pizza is good—and so are the appetizers and everything else on the carefully curated and creative menu. If you’re looking for artisanal pizza, Motorino’s is your stop.
5. Joe’s Pizza
New Yorkers know that to get a slice of classic New York-style pizza, they should head down to Greenwich Village. Founded in 1975, Joe’s Pizza has become an institution, serving up classic New York-style pizza for over 35 years. Located at Carmine Street, and now having expanded to a 2nd location, Joe’s is a no-frills kind of establishment, still owned and operated by Joe himself. The pizza is authentic, earning high marks with the NYC crowd and delighting tourists who are eager to grab a slice of the “real deal.” Joe’s is a perennial favorite on Top 10 lists and, in 2009, it was even named one of the “Best 25 Pizzas on Earth” by GQ Magazine. There’s nothing fancy about Joe’s plain cheese or fresh mozzarella pies, but that’s what makes them so darn good. Simplicity is the recipe Joe’s has used for decades—and it’s a beautiful thing.
In 2007, Bushwick in Brooklyn was hardly a happening place. Behind a cinder-block façade, 3 friends started what would eventually become one of Brooklyn’s favorite pizza places: Roberta’s. The pizzeria’s tasting-menu den, Blanca, has since earned 2 Michelin stars and the pizzeria now sells frozen pizzas in Whole Foods. Line-ups are usually crazy; locals love Roberta’s for its take on the classics and its nigh-on hipster vibe (it has a tiki bar and an on-site radio station). Roberta’s embodies everything people love about the Brooklyn food scene, both from the atmosphere to the food itself. Although the menu may seem somewhat sparse, it isn’t limited: Roberta’s uses the best ingredients and creativity is encouraged. Despite some behind-the-scenes tensions between the owners, Roberta’s remains a favorite with locals and tourists alike, providing a unique dining experience in the Big Apple.
Kesté is a relative newcomer to the New York pizza scene, opening its doors in 2009, but in that short time, it’s made an impression and now features regularly on Top Ten lists dedicated to the best pizza in the Big Apple. Owned and operated by prominent Neapolitan pizza maestro Roberto Caporuscio, Kesté offers up a wide variety of artisanal pizzas made with authentic ingredients and authentic techniques. Diners can choose from 50 varieties of pizza, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Highly praised by the city’s gourmands, Kesté’s reputation is built on the quality of its menu offerings. With a name that literally means “this is it,” there’s no reason for you to consider to going anywhere else in NYC if you’re craving a slice of Neapolitan-style pie.
Everyone knows that New York is the birthplace of the New York-style slice, but not everyone knows that Lombardi’s is the birthplace of American pizza—the restaurant has been acknowledged by the Pizza Hall of Fame as the oldest (and first) pizzeria in the U.S. Lombardi’s started in 1905, after Gennaro Lombardi turned his grocery-store operation of selling tomato pies to workers into its own business. Due to a 10-year closure between 1984 and 1994, Lombardi’s is no longer the oldest continuously operating pizzeria. However, the pizzeria does use the coal oven to bake their pies the same way that they’ve been baked since 1905. The pizzeria is a bit odd in that they don’t offer slices, but only sell whole pies. Despite that, it’s a favorite with locals and tourists alike, and Lombardi’s is easily one of the best pizza joints in NYC!
1. Di Fara
This pizzeria, widely lauded as one of NYC’s best pie shops, has a storied history. Since 1964, it has been owned and operated by Domenico DeMarco, who is still the only man to make pizza in the shop. DeMarco, who emigrated from Italy in 1959, believes only 1 person should make the pizza, and he makes 100 to 150 pies daily. That means supply of the New York-style and Sicilian-style pies are limited, and a 2-hour wait is not uncommon. The pizzeria itself is non-descript, with décor harkening back to 1950s and 1960s New York, with worn linoleum and harsh lighting—but people are here for the food. Since 2004, Di Fara’s fame has only continued to spread and the establishment is now often ranked among the best of the best in NYC, often beating out other contenders to claim the top spot in the hearts of New Yorkers.