If you were to ask the average American what food New York City is known for, they would likely give one of two answers—(1) everything, or (2) pizza. The City is known for its pies and slices, particularly the ones with crust on the thinner side (although you can find any kind of pizza on Earth here, of course).
The history of pizza in America began in 1905 with Lombardi’s in Little Italy. If you’ve visited the City or even read a quick list of NYC culinary favorites, you’re probably familiar with Lombardi’s, and possibly Joe’s. Both of them are classics for a reason—there is literally nothing wrong with either of these pizzas and I could happily eat them every day for the rest of my life. But there’s a whole lot more, and having lived here a long time and eaten a lot of pizza, there are several other places I love…
Barboncino: Low key neighborhood spot in Crown Heights with amazing Neapolitan-style pizza—slightly chewy, thin crust, with super fresh everything. Their breakfast pizza is my personal favorite, and the white pizza is also really good. Great gelato as well. All in all, nothing wrong here.
Luigi’s: The one in Brighton Beach, not Clinton Hill. When I lived in Brighton Beach for two years, this was one of two places I liked in the area (the other was Max’s Cafe). When me and my roommate first ordered a pizza from Luigi’s, we agreed that it was even better than Joe’s, which is saying something. That might’ve been because we were marooned in Brighton Beach an hour trainride from lower Manhattan unable to find a restaurant that didn’t serve Borscht, but I stand by my initial evaluation. Luigi’s is some of the best pizza in New York. Lots of cheese, very thin crust; but it’s never overly greasy or weighed down. It’s classic NYC pizza. Unremarkable aside from the fact that it is, in fact, quite remarkable—the perfect everyman.
Artichoke Basille’s: I initially questioned the price of their slices—which isn’t high, mind you, but being accustomed to East Village dollar pizza, I was a bit put off at having to spend $5 on a piece of pizza—but it’s very worth it. Very. One slice is also a full meal. The crust itself is a bit thicker than classic New York style pizza, and the slices are really large, in addition to being generously topped. Their original artichoke pizza is great, and I’ve heard good things about their crab pizza too. But they’ve got all the basics and then some. Several locations around the City.
Sacco’s: Hole-in-the-wall pizza shop serving large and reliably great New York style slices. The sauce is deliciously tangy, and their pies are always nice and fresh. Service is great too (very friendly). It’s in the Theater District, so once Broadway gets going again, Sacco’s is the perfect place to stop before or after a play. Low-key and always, always satisfying.
Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop: I was here when I thought I’d better do a “Best Pizza in NYC” blog post, and started the list with Paulie Gee’s. There are multiple locations around the country, all serving the same high-quality, low-priced pies. It’s basic (but very good) New York style pizza. Paulie Gee’s checks all the boxes. Crust is crispy on the bottom, chewy on the inside. Sauce tastes fresh. Perfect cheese to sauce ratio. They also apparently have good vegan pizza. Not anything I would ever try, but it’s supposedly quite good.
Tony and Tina’s: Albanian pizzeria on Arthur Avenue (the Bronx’s Little Italy) with amazing personal pizzas and even more amazing bureks. Bureks are Albanian comfort food—two layers of puff pastry with various toppings in between. And Tony and Tina’s bureks are so perfect people literally come from outside the city to get them. Pizza is very solid, lots of variety…but seriously, those Bureks.
Emmy Squared: This Detroit style pizzeria is somewhat pricey, and I also don’t like Detroit style pizza. So the fact that I’m including it on this list should indicate how objectively amazing the food is (and to be fair, I tend to dislike a lot of things, so don’t let my opinions throw you off). For those unfamiliar with Detroit pizza, it’s square and a lot thicker than New York style, but still thinner than Chicago. And the sauce is on top of the cheese…which is weird, but surprisingly good. The chicken sandwich at Emmy Squared is also pretty dank.
Patsy’s: A classic New York institution. Patsy’s has been making amazing New York style pizza for over eighty years, and it’s the kind of place you can take out-of-town guests for a nice dinner, or order delivery for a night spent watching TV in pajamas. They have great pasta, bread, mozzarella sticks—everything I’ve had here is good. But the pizza is the reason I go back. It’s light, crispy but not burnt, and the sauce is amazing. Note that they tend to be heavy on the sauce, so I usually ask for it light. Only other advice would be to get the pepperoni (it’s honestly magical).
Adrienne’s Pizza Bar: Old-fashioned, grandma style pizza on Stone Street. You can stand and eat or sit in the dining room, where there are also entrees and a bar. Pizza is incredible—tastes homemade (in a good way), and is very cheesy. They’ve also done a good job adjusting to COVID restrictions. Strategically placed heaters ensure eating isn’t a freezing cold affair here. And it’s just a nice environment—Stone Street is cobblestone, and you can really feel the old New York energy.
Roberta’s: This Bushwick pizzeria is very Bushwick—it looks like shit on the outside, and it looks like (purposeful, overpriced) shit on the inside, which is to say it’s a liitttle bit pretentious and crawling with hipsters. But it’s worth the slightly annoying vibe, because literally everything on the menu is wonderful. Unsurprisingly, the pizza is especially wonderful. It’s Neapolitan style at its best (thin, chewy, simultaneously puffy and crispy) and the pies are small enough that everyone can get their own or split a bunch with friends. Great place to meet people after work, or for a casual date. And their Bee Sting pizza is absolutely excellent.
Scarr’s Pizza: On the topic of Bee Sting pizza (which is spicy honey and soppressata), Scarr’s does pretty much the same thing for cheaper and without any pretension—New York style pepperoni pizza with spicy honey drizzled overtop. So, so, so good. Their crust is perfect, not floppy or overly crispy. Pizza is cheesy and pleasantly greasy, but not overly so. All good. They’ve also handled service during the pandemic well. There’s always a long line for takeaway, but it goes super fast. This is probably my favorite in the city other than Joe’s.
(At the end of the day, it has always and will always be Joe’s for me. Even if I have to bring my own ranch dressing for dipping.) 🍕