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NYC Pizza Survey


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#121 JosephB

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 07:02 AM

I pose a question though: What factor(s) cause the crust to keep a good consistency as the pie cools? My biggest complaint at Grimaldi's was that after a few minutes, the crust had a cardboard-like texture. It was so hard and chewy after a while that it ruined the experience for me.

Based on what's been said above, you can't be talking about the same Grimaldi's. Or perhaps you went there at an off time, like 4:00pm, when the oven was cooling down and the pizza maker had to resort to dough straight out of the fridge. I think that combination could result in what you described, but it wouldn't be typical of Grimaldi's pizza.

Hmmm... I was there at a later time - around 10:30 I think. Could that have been it? I'm definately always up for giving it another shot! I'll say though, it wasn't the first time I was dissapointed there. I had the same problem once before but I dont' remember what time it was then.

OK, let's make a point of going yo Grimaldi's together.

#122 slkinsey

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 07:42 AM

All these places rcan stand a certain number of repeat visits, IMO.

wannabechef, given your passion for pizza, we'll be very disappointed if you don't come with us for the next outing.
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#123 wannabechef

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 08:04 AM

All these places rcan stand a certain number of repeat visits, IMO.

wannabechef, given your passion for pizza, we'll be very disappointed if you don't come with us for the next outing.

Heh - ok! I'll make it a point to try and make it to the next one - I'll try to bring my pizza-partner as well, who's even more serious about it than I. If I have time I'll post our breakdown of NYC pizza tiers. We developed a whole method of judging and comparing establishments. e.g. You can't compare a Famous Ray's to DiFaras, etc. They're just different leagues. Everywhere we go we only get the plain pie because it's requried at least as a benchmark. I think it's a good pie when I can't decide which element is the best - cheese, crust or sauce. At both Nick's and Totonno's, I kept going back and forth.

It's tough to decide how ambiance comes into play also. I think it's really all about the pie, but ambiance and experience definately deserves mention.

A few weeks ago my friend and I wen to DiFaras, had a pie - and then decided to drive directly to Totonnos where we had another. Ok, we're crazy. :biggrin:

~WBC

#124 slkinsey

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 08:07 AM

A few weeks ago my friend and I wen to DiFaras, had a pie - and then decided to drive directly to Totonnos where we had another. Ok, we're crazy. :biggrin:

Now that's what I'm talking about! And they said it was crazy to visit the Patsy's branches in one afternoon. Hah!
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#125 JosephB

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 05:56 PM

I pose a question though: What factor(s) cause the crust to keep a good consistency as the pie cools? My biggest complaint at Grimaldi's was that after a few minutes, the crust had a cardboard-like texture. It was so hard and chewy after a while that it ruined the experience for me.

Based on what's been said above, you can't be talking about the same Grimaldi's. Or perhaps you went there at an off time, like 4:00pm, when the oven was cooling down and the pizza maker had to resort to dough straight out of the fridge. I think that combination could result in what you described, but it wouldn't be typical of Grimaldi's pizza.

Hmmm... I was there at a later time - around 10:30 I think. Could that have been it? I'm definately always up for giving it another shot! I'll say though, it wasn't the first time I was dissapointed there. I had the same problem once before but I dont' remember what time it was then.

Here's the Video Feed to the WB11 story about Di Fara.

#126 tommy

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 07:00 PM

Here's the Video Feed to the WB11 story about Di Fara.

thanks for the link. although i just slapped the crap out of my screen. :blink:

#127 slkinsey

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 07:09 PM

Here's the Video Feed to the WB11 story about Di Fara.

thanks for the link. although i just slapped the crap out of my screen. :blink:

Can we kill her? She's like the mutant lovechild of Fran Drescher and Rachel Raye on crack. College students could play a drinking game by taking a shot every time she said, "that's what I'm tawkin' about!"

I thought it was hilariously appropriate that Dom didn't pay any attention to her and simply went about his business as normal around her frantic histrionics.
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#128 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 24 February 2004 - 07:35 PM

re the link, click "best of NY" for the pizza video (upper left hand corner). It's hilarious watching this ditz get in Dom's way while he does his best to ignore her.

"Dominick, tell me how you feel about being voted best pizza in NY?"

"Fine, fine." Understatement at its finest!

#129 Varmint

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Posted 26 February 2004 - 05:31 PM

Just leave one pizza joint for me to visit at the end of June . . . . :sad:
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#130 slkinsey

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Posted 26 February 2004 - 06:53 PM

Just leave one pizza joint for me to visit at the end of June . . . . :sad:

Oh, I don't know Dean... by then we'll probably be down to evaluating the differences between Ray's, Famous Ray's, Original Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Original Famous Ray's and Seriously We're Not Kidding This Is the Real Original Ray's Everyone Has Been Talking About.
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#131 JosephB

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Posted 03 March 2004 - 09:23 AM

Patsy's East Harlem

The good news is that Patsy's is willing to reserve for us, if I call one hour before we arrive. I'm sure we'll have no problem getting a look at the operation.

Confirmed Attendees
slkinsey & bergerka
blondie
JosephB & Donna
Alacarte
Pan
SarahD



Admin: we'll use this post as the "master list" and edit as appropriate to add names.

Edited by slkinsey, 08 June 2004 - 08:32 AM.


#132 Felonius

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 05:55 AM

Sorry I have yet to make it out. I've been out of town for several weeks, and unfortunately this Friday night isn't going to work.

And as for that video clip from DiFara's - OH MY GAWWDD!!! That woman may be the single most annoying person I've ever witnessed on television. She's so in love with her bimbette self as she struts around on camera, she doesn't bother to pass along any useful insights about DiFara's. Do they actually pay these local newspeople for this crap? Stick a fork in her, she's done!!!! Makes me glad I permanently unplugged my TV years ago.

Edited by Felonius, 04 March 2004 - 05:55 AM.


#133 JosephB

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Posted 04 March 2004 - 09:16 PM

OK.  Friday seems to satisfy a super majority of us. I'm really sorry Kurl.  We'll get you next time. 

The good news is that Patsy's is willing to reserve for us, if I call one hour before we arrive.  I'm sure we'll have no problem getting a look at the operation.

Confirmed Attendees
slkinsey & bergerka
blondie
JosephB & Donna
Alacarte
Pan
SarahD


Admin: we'll use this post as the "master list" and edit as appropriate to add names.

Final tally

Edited by slkinsey, 05 March 2004 - 09:39 AM.


#134 Pan

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Posted 05 March 2004 - 10:02 PM

We had some terrific pizza at Patsy's tonight! I think all or at least most of us agreed that the pizza with fresh mozarella and basil was the best of the lot, and we had two of those. I loved the tomato sauce, I loved the crust (though Alacarte accurately pointed out that the outer part of it tended to get burnt). Some tasty salad and a great waiter were bonuses. My overall verdict is: Best tomato sauce so far; DiFara's is still my favorite overall because of the toppings; Grimaldi's also has superior toppings (great sausages and nice olives), but for a regular slice, Patsy's may be the best of the three. I'd be delighted to go back some time. Thanks to Joe and Sam for organizing this get-together!

#135 slkinsey

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Posted 05 March 2004 - 10:03 PM

Detailed notes later. For now, some pictures.

Check out the art, and especially the phone number on this menu. When do you figure is the last time they updated this? 1943?

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Here is the oven:

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Looking inside:

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Making pizza:

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Cheese:

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Into the oven:

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We had six pizze between the eight of us!

Regular low-moisture mozzarella on the "reference standard" cheese and tomato pizza:

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The same with fresh mozzarella:

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Side-by-side comparison of fresh and low moisture slices:

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Check out the char:

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Close up of the char:

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A "marinara" pizza. No cheese, lots of fresh garlic:

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Pepperoni:

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Olive:

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bergerka with our waiter, Pan to the right:

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slkinsey hiding behind a well-charred slice, next to JosephB:

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In case anyone's looking for work:

Posted Image
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#136 ...tm...

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 03:09 AM

I've gotten slices from Patsy's in the past in the dor that is one door uptown from the sit-down restaurant. I assume they use the same oven, which is in the take-out portion. The pictures look like the place I've been to. But, unfortunately, they only let you get the plain slices by the slice.

#137 JosephB

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 08:05 AM

Last night's trek to Patsy's in East Harlem was another happy culinary adventure, and a fun evening out.

Things got off on the right foot with a very hospitable welcome from our waiter Victor, the guy in the photo with bergerka, who has been with Patsy's for ten years. Even central casting would be hard pressed to find the likes of Victor - a real nostalgic gem. Victor reserved a nice-sized table to accomodate the eight of us. (For future reference, Patsy's does not take reservations, but if you call Victor one half hour before you arrive, he will reserve a table -- a little charm helps.)

Patsy's is one of the most bizarrely configured restaurants you'll see. Patsy owns the entire building, which has four separate and distinct entrances to the restaurant, each one leading to a different room. From inside the restaurant the spaces are connected, but interrupted by a passage through the kitchen. A separate room is reserved just for the pizza oven and prep area, which has a take-out counter. As for decor, there isn't any (the lighting is particularly awful), but the place is cozy and charming nonetheless, thanks once again to Victor and the ghosts of time.

Even though he was very busy, Victor took time to share these interesting facts with us:

1. The coal burning oven is fired up at 8:00 a.m. each morning for lunch service that begins at 11:00 a.m. Three hours to get the oven up to speed seemed more credible than the half an hour Grimaldi's told us they need to get their oven ready.

2. The oven is stoked throughout the day. Again, this was contrary to what we learned at Grimaldi's. There they stoke only twice a day.

3. The oven at Patsy's reaches 750 to 800 degrees. Grimaldi's told us that there oven reached 850 degrees.

We'll have to wait for a return visit to get more facts.


As for the pizza, it was superb. As Blondie aptly noted last night, the crust was ethereal. Indeed, eight of us managed to eat six pizzas without any problem, which is a direct testament to the delicacy of the crust. The char was also excellent (Grimaldi's crust is smokier for some reason, which I like.), except that the outer crust was undeniably burnt in some spots on some of the pizzas. I think this happened as a result of the pizzas being put to close to the oven wall. The place was at peak service when we ordered, so the oven must have been tightly filled with pies. The crust is also noteworthy in that it stayed crispy longer than Grimaldi's crust.

The thing to eat at Patsy's is the plain fresh mozzarella - punto! The mozzarella melts beautifully in the super-hot oven. The tomato sauce was a bit more tangy, in a cooked sort of way, than Grimaldi's, but was excellent nonetheless. Topped with fresh basil and olive oil (unfortunately, the oil was not special) I personally could have devoured one whole pie without any trouble. The pie with very good quality low-moisture mozzarella was different, but an excellent example of its kind as well.

I would not recommend a visit to Patsy's for any of the toppings. Although the pepperoni was good, it was not noteworthy, especially when compared to the fabulous toppings at Grimaldi's (sausage, roast pepper, and olives), and Di Fara (artichokes, pepperoni). The olives were really awful. The pie was covered with them: flavorless, canned, pitted things. As for the Marinara, to begin with it was too garlicky. I love raw garlic, but this garlic was not particularly good. Talk to me about Marinara when the new crop of garlic is ready, and some excellent olive oil and peeled tomatoes are on hand. I thought that the greatest strength of the pizza, namely the crust, was seriously diminished in the Marinara version.

To underscore how ethereal and addictive the classic Patsy's pie is, I'll share this anecdote. After we finished eating we went into the pizza-making room to take some photos. I struck up a conversation with a woman at the counter (who happened to be a photographer), who told me that she and her companion had traveled from Brooklyn for Patsy's pizza, and had just finished a pie in the dining room. However, unlike us they were not there to take photos. They were waiting for a nightcap: two slices!

Sam, once again your photos captured the moment. Thanks to everyone for a great time.

#138 Jason Perlow

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 08:19 AM

To put things in perspective -- I'm extremely intolerant to dairy products now, to the point of phlegmmy coughing fits if I eat any cheese with a lot of milk in it (and it repeats on me the next day really bad because my system effectively rejects it) -- I would eat a Patsy's pie and suffer the consequences any day of the week, because their pizza is so damn good.
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#139 tommy

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 08:27 AM

To put things in perspective -- I'm extremely intolerant to dairy products now, to the point of phlegmmy coughing fits if I eat any cheese with a lot of milk in it (and it repeats on me the next day really bad because my system effectively rejects it) -- I would eat a Patsy's pie and suffer the consequences any day of the week, because their pizza is so damn good.

they should add that quote to their menu as a mini-review. :biggrin:

#140 JosephB

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 10:10 AM

While we're on the subject of pizza oven temperatures again, it's worth taking a look at the Observer, which reprinted a piece from Steingarten's, "It Must've Been Something I Ate." Here

By the way, can anyone can confirm what Grimaldi's told us about coal burning ovens in NYC: that they're prohibited only in Manhattan?

#141 JosephB

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 10:25 AM

This Article states that coal burning ovens are still allowed in Brooklyn.

#142 bergerka

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 10:37 AM

I would just like to state for the record that last night I ate more pizza than even I thought I could.

:blink:

but oh my, was it ever delish. I agree with the consensus so far--the fresh mozzarella one is the way to go. I also enjoyed the marinara, although everyone else thought it was too garlicky (garlic is GOOD for you!).

As I pointed out to my dad on the phone this morning, this pizza survey has really turned me on to the delights of the plain cheese pizza, which I never enjoyed before (because franchise cheese pizza is too cheesy, soggy and BLAND).

I personally preferred DiFara's sauce, though. Just my humblest of opinions. Perhaps I'll make another DiFara's trip and do a comparison.

K (any excuse to go to DiFara's!)
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#143 JosephB

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 10:38 AM

Arizona Republic cited these remarkable facts about the Grimaldi's branch which opened in Scottsdale last year:

"But the key design features here are the coal-fired brick ovens, which give the pizzas their distinctive look, taste and texture. Weighing 25 tons and filled with 250 pounds of coal, these ovens reach 1,200 degrees. At that temperature, the thin-crust pizzas cook in less than three minutes. And they emerge from the inferno crisp, chewy, smoky and blistered."

I would think that the pizza would come out incinerated at 1,200 degrees.

#144 slkinsey

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 12:14 PM

So... Patsy's! As Joe mentions, huge difference in attitude between Patsy's and Grimaldi's. And, it must be said, an equally huge difference in decor and associated accoutrements. Patsy's dining room is dim and drab (making for some very dark photos), the plates are melamine, the oven is ugly and utilitarian. But, really... who cares? The pizza is amazing.

It was interesting for me to discover that several of the things I had heard from well-respected pizzaphiles turned out to be untrue with respect to both Grimaldi's and Patsy's. I have been told by more than one source that the pizza at Grimaldi was mediocre at best, and clearly inferior to Patsy's, and I had also been told that a side-by-side tasting of fresh mozzarella versus low moisture mozzarella at Patsy's would reveal the clear superiority of the latter. Well, neither of these things turned out to be true. The pizza at Grimaldi's was excellent, and in certain aspects better than Patsy's, and most of us seemed to prefer fresh mozzarella over the low moisture variety. Who knew? A lot of this comes down to personal preferences, of course, and I also suspect that most of the Grimaldi's detractors ate there during off-peak hours which were not propitious in terms of oven heat.

As Joe points out, Patsy's oven is fired earlier and more often than the oven at Grimaldi's, and I cannot help thinking that this goes a long way towards explaining why they do not suffer the same problems as Grimaldi's in this regard. When we questioned Victor about the oven, he first told us that the oven was hot pretty much 24/7. They stoke the oven at the end of the night, and there are still some embers remaining in the morning when the oven is stoked again. I can't imagine that the oven loses all that much heat during this time -- maybe 100 degrees F at most. And, since they fire the oven at around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning to get ready for an 11:00 lunch opening, the oven has plenty of heat stored up by the time the lunch rush comes. Contrary to Grimaldi's, who claimed that they stoked the oven only a few times to maintain temperature between two major firings, Victor told us that the Patsy's oven is stoked continuously throughout the day. Of course, he told us in a much more colorful manner: "Look, if you're heating your house with coal and it's 20 degrees below zero outside... you're gonna put coal in only a couple times a day? You'll be freezing your ass off in there." I also wonder whether either Grimaldi's or Patsy's really knows what the temperature is inside those ovens. I am sure it's mostly done by tradition and feel. When we asked about the temperature, Victor showed us his hand and said he'd have a sunburn if he stuck his hand in the oven more than a few seconds. In fact, he claimed to have suggested to the police back in the old days that they use the "hand in the oven" method to interrogate bad guys: "I'll tell you what, if they don't want to say anything after 'one thousand one' I can guarantee they'll be telling you everything they know by 'one thousand two.'" Another thing I noticed about Patsy's in terms of oven management is that the pizzaioli never kept the oven door open more than a second or two. Very smart when you want to keep the air temperature as high as possible.

On to the pizze and the all important crust. As the pictures show, the crust is much more emphatially charred than previous examples. I think we can see a progression of char from Di Fara's gas oven to Grimaldi's coal oven to Patsy's coal oven. The char gets blacker, the bottom of the pizza is more completely charred and there is less "soak through" at the tip of the slice as one progreses towards Patsy's. It is also worthy of note that Patsy's was the first slice I could hold up without worrying that the ingredients would slide off (I didn't take a "hanging slice" picture in Grimaldi's as I was trying to be discrete following their unpleasantness about cameras).

Posted Image

Now, several tasters felt that Patsy's char was a little over the top and ventured into the category of burnt every so often. I have to say that this was not my own evaluation, but I like the smoky bitterness of a slightly burnt crust and it is also true that the degree of char varied between nicely charred and extra charred from pizza to pizza and especially from slice to slice.

Getting back to the main event, for me, which is the crust. There are, to my mind, some interesting comparisons to be made between the crusts at Patsy's and Grimaldi's. I found the crust at Grimaldi's generally chewier, "wheatier" and more flavorful than the crust at Patsy's. On the other hand, the crust at Patsy's is etherially light, thinner, features more charred flavor and, despite being lighter and thinner, actually seemed stronger than the crust at Grimaldi's. Patsy's was the first pizza where I never once thought of reaching for a fork and knife, as they always folded securely in half and never suffered from "soggy tip" (this is most apparent in the Di Fara slice above). Interestingly, it did not seem critically important to eat Patsy's pizza within 90 seconds of the pie hitting the table in order to get a "peak crust experience" as it had at Grimaldi's. In fact, the sixth pizza was mostly for the gluttons and several of us had a second slice which was just as good as the first. In conclusion, I can't say exactly whether I prefer Patsy's crust or Grimaldi's crust better when both are consumed at their peak. They are different, but both are excellent examples of the classic NYC style. After 90 seconds, Patsy's is the clear winner.

On to the toppings: Patsy's toppings are good, but clearly third place among the places we have visited thus far. For people for whom the toppings are the main show, Di Fara is still clearly in he lead. As Joe points out, Patsy's sauce is in the middle between Di Fara's strongly flavored cooked sauce and Grimaldi's uncomplicated fresh sauce. I'd probably give the nudge to Grimaldi's in this department. Patsy's sauce didn't reaslly make much of an impact, and seemed mostly to serve as a flavor vehicle that brought the crust and toppings together.

Again, the pizza was sparsely covered with cheese, which is to my preference, as opposed to Dom's more generous hand at Di Fara. The availability of fresh mozzarella made a big difference, in my opinion, for this style of pizza. I had been expecting the fresh mozzarella on the pizza margherita to be watery and rubbery as it is in most implementations. But at Patsy's the oven was hot enough and the cheese little enough that it worked really very well. The low moisture cheese was excellent in its own way, but I didn't think it had as much flavor as the fresh mozzarella which provided a clean "white" taste and a rich mouthfeel that contrasted nicely with the dark, earthy, slightly bitter flavor of the crust.

As for the other toppings... nothing to write home about. This is one area where Patsy's could really improve. In today's day and age, and in a city like New York, there is no reason to use insipid canned olives and merely acceptable pepperoni. There are many pizzerie in the city offering a markedly inferior pizza with much better toppings. I'd like to see Patsy's going a little more "gourmet" with their toppings -- using better olives, better sausage, and so on. I'd be glad to have them stay traditional NYC with the range of toppings offered, but it shouldn't be too difficult to roast their own peppers and acquire better sausage like Grimaldi's does. All this is to say that the clear choice for Patsy's is an unadorned cheese and tomato pizza. Although others felt it was too strong, I rather enjoyed the contrast offered by the marinara pizza with its hefty dose of garlic. But I would agree that it's not the pizza to buy if you're only getting one.

Sigh... one of these days I'll get the group to indulge me in an anchovy pizza. One of my favorites at Lombardi's is anchovy and capers.
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#145 Pan

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 02:15 PM

K, you forgot that I also enjoyed the marinara pizza, "too much garlic" and all.

I disagree with Sam about the tomato sauce. I thought it might have been the best of the three places we've been to so far, though I've previously loved the tomato sauce at DiFara's and will definitely have more chances to try it. But anyway, the sauce was tastier than Grimaldi's, and I liked that. I also liked Patsy's crust best, burnt edges and all. Otherwise, I agree with Sam about everything. The pepperoni was OK but nothing compared to the great pepperoni at DiFara's, and the olives really sucked. But I would go back to have more of that fresh mozarella pizza without a second thought! With or without some of their nice salad.

Sam, I'd be willing to give an anchovy pizza a try, so that makes two people, at least (if we're both there).

#146 JosephB

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Posted 06 March 2004 - 04:00 PM

Sam, I want to compliment you on remembering all those great details of our conversation with Victor -- it added a lot of color. Also, your side-by-side comparison of the pizzas is fabulous.

#147 docsconz

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Posted 08 March 2004 - 09:49 AM

Great reports. I am dying to join you folks at these. I'll get down there one of these times. I too would be very interested in an anchovy and caper pizza with good anchovies and capers. If we could coordinate, I could bring some capers from Pantelleria to go with Joe's Sicilian anchovies. Perhaps in May.
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#148 alacarte

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Posted 08 March 2004 - 09:59 AM

Friday night was a blast -- what a great way to start the week!

I preferred the Grimaldi's pizza to Patsy's. I felt that the Grimaldi tomato sauce was fresher and I didn't care for the extreme char of the Patsy's crust. And I agree that the Grimaldi's toppings were excellent, especially the fennel-laced sausage and briny olives, while Patsy's toppings were good quality but ordinary. Still, I enjoyed Patsy's pizza very much.

My favorite of the Patsy's pizza was the plain one -- not the fresh mozzerella, sorry, guys. IMHO, the fresh mozz was too bland, although the fresh basil was a nice choice. The classic mozz just stood up better to the sauce and made for a more well-rounded slice.

The decor is nothing to write home about -- very hole-in-the-wall -- going there at night was the kindest thing we could have done for the decor. Maybe Blondie will redecorate the joint.

The staff was frenzied and it was hard to get their attention at times, but when they finally made it over to our table they were very hospitable, especially Victor. I think he would have stayed at our table telling stories all night if Patsy's weren't so busy. Just loved his hand-in-the-oven story!

#149 alacarte

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Posted 09 March 2004 - 04:48 PM

I've been advised of another to potentially add to our list: Albert's in Suffolk County, Long Island. Apparently it makes Newsday's best-pizza list year after year. The slice sounds interesting (maybe a little too interesting?): it's been described to me as a square slice, medium (not thick) crust, served with provolone rather than mozzerella and then topped with sauce.

Anyone feel lucky?

#150 slkinsey

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Posted 19 March 2004 - 10:44 AM

As mjr_inthegardens points out, NY Metro is out with the "Best of New York" for this year. Winners for pizza were:

Best Restaurant Pie: Giorgione
Best Bar Pie: Beacon
Best Pie In Transit: Figs (at Grant Central and La Guardia)
Best Worth-the-Trip Pie: Di Fara Pizza
Best Myth-Shattering Pie: Nick's ("myth shattering" because it is a regular oven)
Best Old-School Pie: Totonno's

Hmm... I've always thought of Patsy's East Harlem as the definitive "old school" NYC pizza, but we'll have to see what we think when we hit Totonno's later on.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey