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Thread: Best New York Pizza

  1. #1
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village

    Default Best New York Pizza

    We lost our last pizza thread, but I thought this enlightening article in today's NY Times Dining section might be a good way to launch a new one.

    They didn't mention my neighborhood favorite Arturo's on Houston and Thompson - yummy coal oven pizza, but not by the slice.....

    November 6, 2002
    Pizza 2002: The State of the Slice

    What's the best way to set New Yorkers to bickering? Ask where to find the best slice of pizza in the city. No subject starts a battle faster—not bagels or hot dogs or chopped liver, not even the primacy of the Rangers or the fastest route to J.F.K. Pizza, introduced to New York in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi, who saw it as a way to use up the day-old bread in his Spring Street grocery store, has long been the affordable, satisfying food of choice for peripatetic New Yorkers of every age, sex, race and class. Slices of pizza, that is. Mr. Lombardi's descendants serve only whole pies at their pizza shop, and now no groceries. The Pero family, which established Totonno's pizzeria in Coney Island in 1924, does the same. John Sasso of John's Pizza, which opened on Bleecker Street in 1929, famously put a sign in the window: "No Slices." Indeed, of all the seminal New York pizzerias, only Patsy’s, on First Avenue near 118th Street in East Harlem, sells pizza slices, as it did when it opened in 1933.

    But the pizza slice is ubiquitous on New York streets. The metropolitan region has some 2,750 pizzerias, according to the Yellow Book telephone reference guide. Mario Batali is about to open Otto at 1 Fifth Avenue, where he will serve thin, crisp pizza inspired by the Sardinian flat bread called carta da musica, and he said he dreams of opening a slice place on Eighth Street with a window that opens onto the street. Frank DeCarlo is serving rectangular pieces of pizza at his newly opened Ápizz on the Lower East Side, where they are made in the wood-burning stove and sold by the foot or the inch. When did pizzerias first start serving slices, and not pies? Patsy’s may or may not have been the first. Giovanni Brecevich, the current owner, has a photograph that he says was taken in the 1950's, showing the pizzeria’s distinctive white shelved slice box on the sidewalk in front. Louie and Ernie Ottuso served slices at Louie & Ernie's pizzeria in East Harlem as early as 1947; they moved the business to the current site in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx in 1959. Nunzio Trivoluzzo served slices at his pizzeria in South Beach, Staten Island, when he opened the place in 1943.

    Many experts trace the slice's widespread popularity to the end of World War II, when non-Italian veterans returning from service in Italy began to crave the sliced pizza they had enjoyed there. (In New York before the war, pizza was considered strictly an ethnic food.) But John Brescio, an owner of Lombardi's, also credits the proliferation of mixers from the Hobart Corporation, which introduced its first commercial machine in 1927 and a larger heavy-duty version in 1955. "With the Hobart mixer," Mr. Brescio said, "it was a lot easier to make a lot of pizza."

    Another factor that probably spurred the postwar pizza boom was the move away from coal and wood ovens and toward gas-fired pizza ovens made by the likes of Bari, Blodgett and Bakers Pride. Those ovens were much easier to install, and cheaper, and they burned cleaner fuel more efficiently — all important in a high-volume business like selling slices.

    Of course, if the origins of New York's pizza slices is a bit murky, the fact that New Yorkers love the things is not in doubt. Slices are cheap, almost always $2 or less. They are convenient, with a pizzeria seemingly on every block. And they are often filling, thanks to the thick blanket of cheese that covers most pizza-by-the-slice sold these days. (Many pizza lovers credit the Ray's Pizza shop at Avenue of the Americas and 11th Street with popularizing the half-pound slice, though Columbia University students often cite the gigantic slices at Koronet, at Broadway and 112th Street, as the original good-value portion, at nearly 15 inches long.)

    But the desire for lots of oozing cheese has obscured many other important characteristics of a fine slice of pizza, some pizza cognoscenti say.

    "All that cheese takes pizza from being a bread item to being a vessel for its toppings," said Ed Schoenfeld, a restaurant consultant with offices in Brooklyn. "It's like getting all corned beef and no rye bread."

    That's not to mention the quality of the cheese itself. So-called pizza cheese has become the norm on slices. But just what is pizza cheese? It's a low-moisture mozzarella, very occasionally blended with provolone. You can say this about it: It melts well.

    The best pizzerias in New York wouldn't dream of using an inferior mozzarella. Before pizza was a New York tradition it was a Neapolitan one, said Arthur Schwartz, a host on radio station WOR and the author of "Naples at Table" (HarperCollins). In Naples, he said, "they use either buffalo mozzarella that's made from the milk of water buffalo or cow's milk mozzarella on their pizzas."

    John Tiso, who now owns Louie & Ernie's in the Bronx with his brother Cosmo, uses a full-cream mozzarella made in Wisconsin by the Grande Cheese Company. "I tried using something else once, and I hated it," he said. "The only mozzarella I'll use is full-cream Grande." The cheese comes in large blocks that Mr. Tiso grinds himself. Other top pizzerias like Nunzio's on Staten Island use full-cream mozzarella made by Polly-O, a cheese company based in New Jersey and owned by Kraft Foods.

    But though buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy has been available in New York for some time, it is simply too expensive to be used regularly by any but one pizza-by-the-slice man: Domenico DeMarco, at DiFara Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn. Mr. DeMarco said he uses three parts buffalo mozzarella to one part mozzarella Grande on his majestic pies.

    "Of course it's more expensive," Mr. DeMarco said. "But for me it's important to get the flavor you can only get from buffalo milk mozzarella." He also dusts his pizza with freshly grated grana padana, a slightly salty hard cow's milk cheese from Italy.

    Other top slice purveyors, like both Nunzio's and Joe & Pat's on Staten Island, top their finished pizzas with a touch of pecorino Romano. But Michele Scicolone, an author of "Pizza: Any Way You Slice It" (Broadway Books), calls that sacrilege. "Romano cheese has no place on Neapolitan pizza," she said.

    Ms. Scicolone has a problem with the fresh cow's milk mozzarella sold by many fancy food stores all over the country. "Fresh mozzarella is softer and very gloppy when it melts," she said. "It can wet the whole pizza down."

    Still, one recent trend in the slice business has been the "premium" slice made with fresh mozzarella. Giuseppe Vitale, who runs two Joe's pizzerias in Greenwich Village, serves such a slice. "People want fresh ingredients," he said with a shrug.

    Directly beneath the thick padding of pizza cheese on most New York slices can be found a dollop of sauce, too often a canned and ready-made "pizza sauce." "Most of the time it's gummy and oversweetened and lacks the straightforward good taste of good tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, well cooked," said Mr. Schoenfeld, the consultant. Imported canned Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos, are the proper base for the sauce, he said.

    Nunzio's and DiFara both use San Marzano tomatoes. Nunzio's adds fresh basil and a sprinkling of black pepper to the sauce.

    "That's how my dad made it, and he learned from Nunzio, so that's how we make it," said Concetta Whiteaker, an owner.

    Other pie men, like Joe Pasquale of Joe & Pat's, use California tomatoes grown from the seeds of San Marzanos. Mr. Vitale of Joe's has even had some success with canned cooked tomatoes from Spain.

    "The fact is," he said, "every case of tomatoes I get has a slightly different flavor." Mr. DeMarco at DiFara blends fresh tomatoes and canned San Marzano tomatoes in his sauce.

    Then there is the crust, that centrally important component of the New York slice, crisp though pliant enough to bend, with a few bubbles in the dough. As Ms. Scicolone put it, "Bubbles mean the dough has been hand-formed and cooked at a high temperature." Remember how John Travolta, as Tony Manero in "Saturday Night Fever," folded one slice around another in the opening sequence? The scene can be understood primarily as a paean to the perfect pizza-slice crust. (For anyone who might have forgotten, the movie was set in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.)

    The best pizzerias make their dough every day from high-gluten flour, water, yeast and a little salt. They also serve their pizzas plain, although toppings are another hotly contested subdivision of the pizza debate.

    "I've only made one Hawaiian pizza in my life," Mr. Vitale said. "One of the regular customers was eight months pregnant and told me she had a craving for Hawaiian pizza. So I bought a can of pineapple and made one for her. But that's the last time."

    The final variable in any credible pizza-slice discussion is heat, and particularly the kind of oven used to cook, or reheat, the slice. When pizza was introduced to New York in the early 1900's by Gennaro Lombardi, it was made in a coal-fired brick oven used to bake bread. Places like Lombardi's and John's and Totonno's still make their whole pies in ovens like that. Patsy's, in East Harlem, is currently the only place that makes slice pie in a coal-fired brick oven. Lawrence Ciminieri of Totonno's has tried to use his own coal-fired brick oven to make and reheat slices, but he said they "stuck to the floor of the oven because the cheese overflowed."

    The most common slice ovens are gas-fired models made by Bari, in business in lower Manhattan since 1950 under an immense Italian flag. (Joe's and Nunzio's, however, use ovens from Bakers Pride of New Rochelle.) The stone bottoms of the Bari ovens, which retain and distribute heat evenly despite the constant opening and closing of the oven door, help ensure the crispness of the pizza.

    Of course, pizza is no longer the exclusive province of Italians. Kosher pizzerias have cropped up in the Midwood section of Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Greeks have opened pizzerias in all five boroughs, making a Greek-style pizza with a highly seasoned sauce that finds echoes in the cornmeal-crusted pizzas served at the Two Boots minichain. Italians now share the Arthur Avenue neighborhood in the Bronx with Albanians, and while Tony & Tina's, a pizzeria there, serves decent if not great pizza, it has fabulous bureks — multilayer savory pies made with spinach, cheese and ground beef. And for the increasingly South Asian population in Jackson Heights, Queens, two Famous Pizza shops offer pizza with curry powder and jalapeño toppings. By the slice.

    (Edited by NYatKNIGHT at 2:25 pm on Nov. 6, 2002)

  2. #2

    Default New York PIZZA

    The New York Times
    November 6, 2002
    Locations: Where 'Gimme a Slice' Will Always Bring an Echo

    In the end, a great slice of pizza is defined by the quality of its ingredients and their ratio to one other. An exemplary slice should have discrete sections of cheese and sauce and a crust that is thin but not too thin. Most pizza these days has a barely visible layer of sauce — it's as though the sauce has gone into exile.

    Here are six places that make Neapolitan-style slices worth going out of your way for. (Square Sicilian-style slices deserve their own discussion.) The list is based on this reporter's one-month search of all five boroughs of New York City, with stops at dozens of pizzerias.

    DIFARA PIZZA In this nondescript and not altogether tidy storefront in Brooklyn, Domenico DeMarco has been baking transcendent slices for 41 years. He learned the basics of pizza-making at the Queen pizzeria on Court Street in Brooklyn Heights, but the pie he turns out is very much his own invention. A blend of buffalo mozzarella, freshly grated grana padana and whole milk mozzarella, and a combination of fresh and canned San Marzano tomatoes yield a supremely flavorful and tangy slice that would be perfect if the crust were only a trifle more crisp. 1424 Avenue J (East 15th Street), Midwood, Brooklyn; (718) 258-1367.

    JOE & PAT'S Giuseppe Pappalardo, an owner, mastered his craft at three legendary Staten Island slice establishments: Nunzio's, Ciro's and Tokie's. His slices are distinguished by a superthin crispy crust. "They're easier to digest," he said, "so you can eat a lot of them." 1758 Victory Boulevard (Manor Road), Four Corners, Staten Island; (718) 981-0887.

    JOE'S PIZZA Giuseppi Vitale, who owns Joe's with his father-in-law, Pino Pozzuoli, mastered the art of dough-making at the G&G Bakery in Brooklyn. He is a slice purist: no heroes or pasta are served in his restaurants. Mr. Vitale says his motto is "pride, knowledge and ingredients." It's worth it to have both a regular slice and a fresh mozzarella slice here, just to taste the difference. They both have superbly crisp crust. 233 Bleecker Street (Carmine Street), Greenwich Village, (212) 366-1182, and 7 Carmine Street (Avenue of the Americas) in the Village, (212) 255-3946.

    LOUIE & ERNIE'S City officials know a good slice of pizza when they see one: the street in front of Louie & Ernie's has been renamed Ernie Ottuso Square, after one of the owners. A Louie & Ernie's slice is a diminutive triangle of pizza pleasure in which grated cheese and full-cream mozzarella sparingly cover a thin-enough crust. Also worth the calories and the trip are the fried calzone and the white pie, both made with creamy ricotta cheese. A word to the wise, however: don't arrive too late. The pizzeria ends its day when all the dough is used up. "We run out, we run out — that's it," said John Tiso, an owner. "We close." 1300 Crosby Avenue (Waterbury Avenue), Pelham Bay, Bronx; (718) 829-6230.

    NUNZIO'S A slice from Nunzio's is a pristine exercise in elegant pizza minimalism. Everything about it is right: the ratio of sauce to cheese, the crisp yet pliant crust and the tangy sauce enlivened by fresh basil. Nunzio's even looks the way a pizzeria should: it is a white stucco shack with a tiny dining room brightened by black and white photos of the original Nunzio's in South Beach, Staten Island. 2155 Hylan Boulevard (Midland Avenue), Grant City, Staten Island; (718) 667-9647.

    PATSY'S Patsy's is the only pizzeria left in a century-old Italian neighborhood that once was a hotbed of pizza activity. The adjoining restaurant has tablecloths and a full Italian menu; the slice space has a gorgeous oven, a simple white box that holds the slices, a soda machine and one chair that is nearly always empty. The slices are small; they have just enough cheese and the great crust that can come only from a coal-fired brick oven. 2291 First Avenue (118th Street), East Harlem; (212) 534-9783. * *

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    NYC - Hoboken

    Default New York PIZZA

    As in the original pizza thread, I will once again second NYatKnight's endorsment of Arturo's. *That place rocks

    (Edited by Zoe at 2:15 pm on Nov. 6, 2002)

  4. #4
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    West Harlem

    Default New York PIZZA

    All of the good pizza is gone from near here... all of it is crappy now.. I want to go for a slice now from a place two blocks away but ever since ownership changed it's just like frozen flesh

  5. #5

    Default New York PIZZA

    according to msn:

    Top 10 Audience Nominees

    1 John's Pizzeria *
    2 Grimaldi's Pizzeria *
    3 Lombardi's *
    4 Three of Cups *
    5 Patsy's Pizza *
    6 Two Boots *
    7 L & B Spumoni Gardens *
    8 Joe's Pizza *
    9 Famous Original Ray's Pizza *
    10 Goodfellas Brick Oven Pizza *

    Top Editorial Nominees

    Lombardi's *
    John's Pizzeria *
    Patsy's Pizza *
    Nick's Pizza

  6. #6

    Default New York PIZZA

    Oh you New Yorkers are so lucky! Here in London there is absolutely nowhere to get adecent pizza. Nowhere. Sure there are plenty of pizza joints but none of them compare to what I had when I was in New York. Nobody stands in the shop window and twirls the pizza in the air like they do in America. The tomato base sauce is virtually non-existant here and most pizzas are made by the same people who open those damn kebab shops everywhere. No Italians seem to make pizza here.

    I remember as a kid in the sixties we couldn't get pizza at all here. We used to get shows on TV like the Dick van Dyke show and we would see people ordering pizza to be delivered and we would wonder what it was. Now they are evrywhere but they are mostly rubbish including the popular Pizza Hut ones which are nothing like the Pizza Huts of America and half the size.

    How I wish some Italian New Yorker would come over here and open up a genuine pizza parlour.

    Foodwise you have so much to choose from in the States, so much variety and so cheap compared to over here. Then of course the downside is you guys are so big ( I almost said fat but you are all so politically correct I might get sued if I mention that word ).

  7. #7

    Default New York PIZZA

    Believe me, the Pizza Huts over here aren't all that spectacular either.

  8. #8

    Default New York PIZZA

    Again, NYC is exceptional in America because people there walk (and therefeore stay relatively slim). The weight problem is most acute in the suburbs, where everyone drives and there is less diversity of food (lots of chain stuff).

  9. #9

    Default New York PIZZA

    People are getting fatter over here now mainly because we are being taken over by American chains and eating and driving like Yanks. *We are now the most overwieght in Europe. This American disease is spreading all round the world. You should see the size of the rich kids in Suadi Arabia. They are looking more like Americans every day.

    By the way, Christian, you, me and Amigo seem to be the only people posting on this site as well as a few others. I always thought Americans loved to talk and had loads to say about everything. From my limited experience of this forum they seem more shy and reticent than the English. I am a bit disapointed. Aggroamorria or whatever he is called seems a bit more animated. I thought all New Yorkers were like that.

  10. #10

    Default New York PIZZA

    It just occurred to me........maybe they are all attending their twelve step programmes when I log on!!

    Only joking.

  11. #11

    Default New York PIZZA

    Who ever said this forum was all Americans?

    By the way Des-You tend to stereotype people way too much-Americans, Yanks, New Yorkers...all those in just one of your posts. *This is a very narrowed minded opinion to have.

  12. #12

    Default New York PIZZA

    OK Jessica, I will just stick to New Yorkers. Waddya mean I'm narrow minded? I do not think so. Just read my posts for the coming six months!

    Why do they call you a junior member? Should you be reading this stuff?

  13. #13

    Default New York PIZZA

    It is just naive to classify individuals into a "category." *Stereotyping is a simple way to state things, and avoids all the complication that diversity holds. *And it is usually insulting!

  14. #14

    Default New York PIZZA

    Give me a break, Jessica! I have barely arrived on this site. Give me time to settle in. If I went to a party at your house would you hit me over the head with a bottle the minute I walk in the door? I may just turn out to be the most fascinating guy you have ever met.

    What's wrong with a bit of stereotyping anyway?

  15. #15

    Default New York PIZZA

    I'm a transplanted New Yorker,and I can honestly say that a slice is the first thing I seek when I visit the Big City.I begin craving it when I start THINKING of going to New York.
    I live in Florida,where the art of pizza is lost(or maybe never was found)and a good Slice is made of unobtanium in these parts.It's usually soggy,gooey,overloaded with weak sauce and cheap,petroleum-based"cheese",and is not foldable or portable-and that's IF you can find a by- the- slice place.
    My son,who's genetic makeup made him a Redneck,craves NY pizza,and forgets catfish and barbeque when he visits the City with me.His last visit,the plane landed at midnight,and at 1 AM,he and I went out into the Garment District for pizza-and found it,at a papaya stand,and it was good...
    Some of my favorites are random drop-ins,and The Villiage and Brooklyn are the best grazing areas.
    I actively seek out a slice-or two- from the store at the corner of Thompson and Spring,though I've forgotten their name(Patsy's???),and Joe's Pizza on Bleeker is excellent.
    Ray's is also tops.I've had my cab stop and do a double park while I consume a slice of Ray's.
    Along Fulton St in Brooklyn are numerous spots,many of them feeding a neighborhood,a"slice plain" at a time.
    I visit the city to unearth the unexpected,and a quick slice,hot,crisped and peppered,served from a little window for a couple of bucks is always a pleasant respite from my explorations.
    ...And the smell of a freshly baking pie?Even fresh Krispy Kreme is a distant second.
    I humbly propose that the best pizza in the known world is a slice of New York Pizza,plain.

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