I have shied away from controversy on this blog. I’m ending that now by writing about my favorite pizza places in New York City. New Yorkers take their pizza very seriously, and we all have our own lists sort of like how in “Top Five” everyone had their favorite rappers. Pizza is an important part of the New York diet, and New Yorkers want to make sure they’re eating the best pizza they can.
How am I qualified to judge the best pizza in New York City? I’ve lived in New York City all of my life and I don’t think that I’ve ever gone a week in the past 20 years without eating pizza. I also managed to eat pizza every day when I was in Copenhagen, due to our lenient parenting style to a very picky toddler. That is more a fun fact than a qualification for judging NYC pizza though. I also used to work as editor for Zagat, but that job did not entail any pizza responsibilities.
By the Slice
Pro Tip: At any pizzeria, always ask if there are any slices “hot out of the oven” that don’t need to be reheated. Often, they’ll pull out a pie that’s under the counter. If they say there isn’t any, then ask if there’s a fresh pie coming out of the oven. If they say no, evaluate the slices based on their appearance and your own hunger.
Pictured above, Mariella offers the quintessential New York slice and renders it perfectly with a chewy crust of medium thickness, a generous but not gloppy layer of sweet, tangy sauce and a sufficient covering a good quality mozzarella. Mariella has been around for at least 30 years.
Mariella, 965 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021; 212-249-2065
Mimi’s makes a much heavier slice — now this is a true meal. The cheese quantity is fairly intense. There’s a nice seating area where you can soak in the limited ambience from this authentic parlor that’s been around for over 50 years. If you need any more urging to check it out, celeb chef Bobby Flay was a delivery boy there when he was 12. Also, the salad is surprisingly good.
Mimi’s; 1248 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10028; 212-861-3363
There’s no shortage of pizza places in Midtown to serve hungry office workers, but Little Italy keeps it fresh with good quality ingredients and a tasty sauce. There are several pizzerias with the called “Little Italy” but this one is independently owned and a few notches above the others.
Little Italy, 1 East 43rd Street; New York, NY, 10175; 212-687-3660
The wood-fired Neopoltian pizza at Keste is perfection. Too bad it’s all the way down in Greenwich Village because if it was uptown I would visit more than a few times a year. You can’t go wrong with any of the pizzas, but I recommend you choose one with a prosciutto topping. It’s fairly small, so expect to wait during peak hours. It’s worth the wait though! The baby of the bunch, Keste opened in 2009 and even serves gluten-free pizzas.
Keste; 271 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014; 212-243-1500
John’s used to be the reason to go to Bleecker street but now I love Keste (right across the street) so much that I’ve been neglecting these famous crispy, coal-fired brick-oven pies. Just writing this is making me want to take a trip down to John’s ASAP. The Upper East Side location closed recently, which was a real blow to my ordering-in schedule. John’s of Bleecker Street dates back to 1929, and its dark, old-world ambiance is part of the experience. I also recommend the Times Square location which is in a large converted church.
John’s of Bleecker Street; 278 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014; 212-243-1680
As you can see, my list is very Manhattan-centric, but Grimaldi’s is worth leaving the borough. This DUMBO legend has often has a line up the block for its hearty, crisp coal-fired pies, and I’ve waited on it. The quality here is so high that it would win over any pizza skeptic. The restaurant’s history is a bit complicated and the same pizza family actually started Patsy’s too. There’s also an outpost in Chelsea in the Limelight Market, the fancy mini-mall in what used to be one of the city’s top night clubs.
Grimaldi’s, 1 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 718-858-4300
Patsy’s now a mini-chain throughout the city, and all are reliably good choices when you want a thin-crusted margherita pizza with sweet sauce and heaps of chewy, fresh mozzarella. The toppings are delicious too. The original Patsy’s that dates back to 1933 can still be found in East Harlem. The other locations vary greatly in design and ambiance but you can be sure that the pizza will be good!
La Pizza at Eataly
Eataly, a fancy Italian gourmet market, made quite a splash when it arrived across the street from Madison Square Park. There are meat, cheese, gelato and bakery sections, as well as sit-down restaurants to complete the immersive Italian experiences. Made from finest ingredients straight from Italy, Eataly’s Neopolitan pie is similar to Keste but heavier and more uniform. You will probably end up buying something from the vast market while you’re here too.
Eataly, 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10010; 212-229-2560
What do YOU think is the best pizza in NYC?