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New York Style Pizza, what makes it one?


Chris Cognac
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O.K. gang I am going to start looking for the most authentic NY style pizza out here in L.A.. I am a pizza expert as far as eating them goes....but dont have much experiance on what makes a good NY style pizza. What should I look for in the pizza, prep, cooking etc....This will help me determine which place to write about for my little column in the paper so please all you authentic New Yorker's, help a west coast brother out with some info!

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Wow... this is a controversial topic, to say the least.

IMO, authentic NY style pizza has a thin crust, not too many topings, is baked in a coal-fired oven and has some char on the bottom. There may be some commonalities in terms of sauce and cheese -- I don't know. Patsy's in East Harlem strikes me as the archetype. Others will no doubt have something to say about that.

--

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I don't think it has to be baked in a coal-fired oven to be NY style. It is based on a Neapolitan Pizza, but the NY crust is not as thin or crisp. The classic NY style pizza IMO is the cheese and tomato sauce on a round thin crust that has some crispness to it, but not so much that it cannot be folded up.

My archetype is Lenny's Pizza on 16th St. and 5th Ave. in Brooklyn.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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If you eat a thin crust pizza,

that bends a little (ie. can be niftily folded as doscanz notes),

maybe has a little charred bottom (as slkinsey notes) and

has only cheese and tomato sauce...

maybe a little red pepper or oregano...

and you DON'T even dream of wanting any other toppings on it...

It's likely you have a NY style pizza on hand.

(This is not to say that great NY style pizzas don't have toppings on them; just that they are incredibly delicious and addictive with only sauce and cheese...)

and then there's white pizzas....

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Sauce on top of cheese or the other way around? Does wood fired count? how thin should the crust be? I went to a place today but it was closed, so I had to head to an old stand by (Rizzo's in Torrance). How many pieces should an average guy be able to eat?

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Cheese on top of the sauce.

The most important characteristic of the oven is that it has to be HOT!! A really hot oven will produce what are know as "New York Blisters" in the crust. A ~20" pie is usually cut into eight slices. I max out at four of them.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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One of the things that sets a Neapoltan pizza apart from others is how hot the oven is. It is always wood fired with a temperature greater than 700 degrees F. This causes the pizza (generally smaller than a New York style) to cook very quickly. Because of this very high heat the moisture from true mozzarella di bufala evaporates very quickly, allowing its use on a true Naples pizza. The New York pizza ovens are hot, but not as hot as those in Naples.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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A New York style pizza should look like this.

Hmmm... yes... great pic

It's funny, when I first saw this thread, I though of visual recogintion of a NY style pizza--not a guarantor of success, but definately a necessity...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Some would argue that you can't even find decent New York style pizza in NY anywhere anymore. Good luck on the left coast.

I've heard theories that at least part of what used to make it great was the local water--the same argument people used in part about NY bagels.

The charred bottom is a good point. I've had plenty without that, but the "typical" does seem to have it.

The Mozarella debate will start arguments. Most will say that the "classic" is only going to use er... cheaper (and definitely processed, not Fresh) cheese. The processed melts differently, and the fresh mozarella became a "trend" about the same time when the best of the classic NY places dissapeared. Then again, it could be argued that processed Mozarella itself couldn't have been part of long ago proto-NY pizza. And of course there's Mozzarella di Bufala, a nicer in-between cheese that many people swear by (hey, buffalo milk does kind of rock over cow for this).

Cheese is definitely on top of the sauce, unless you get bleed from toppings. Topics are simple--pepperoni, sausage, meatball slices, peppers, onions, olives, anchovies, mushrooms--those are the old-style toppings right there, although rarely with more than two on at a time, and more frequently none. Almost always none. Certainly no avacados or pineapple or chicken or goat cheese.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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fter over 50 plus years of eating NY PIZZA I feel that the best i've had anywhere in that style is at the APIZZA Places in the New Haven Ct. area.

I grew up going to Coney Island, Arthur Ave, Manhatten, even Boston any anywhere else that try's to make Pizza. Thru trials and testing New Haven leads the rest in my opinion.

You can find different toppings but the simpler the better to compare.

But a "White Clam" or a plain "Red" makes New Haven ahead.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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It ain't gonna happen, dude. Born in NYC. lived there most of 50 years. Lifelong ProChefGuy. I live in LA now, and just fugghetaboutit. You fold have neither the skills nor the water to do it. Yeast is a living thing, viz SF Sourdough bread. You cant replicate it anywhere else. I'm as much of a Pizza expert as you'd wanna meet, i learned to it professionally from the very best. Cally cooks oughta just do something else. And for the record, bad as your pizza is, the bagels are much,much, worse!!!

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Sauce on top of cheese or the other way around? Does wood fired count? how thin should the crust be? I went to a place today but it was closed, so I had to head to an old stand by (Rizzo's in Torrance). How many pieces should an average guy be able to eat?

this is an interesting question. new york pizza is thin crusted and usually purists (as you've read) believe in only a few if any toppings (sauce and cheese + one...at the most).

i have a friend, she and her friend go to patsy's (east harlem) and are famous there (well...that's relative) because they always eat an entire pie...EACH.

waiter says "look, there are the two girls that each eat an entire pizza!"

so, for you chris, you should be able to eat at least one whole pie! we're not talking cpk (california pizza kitchen) sized either...new york pies come in two sizes usually...medium and large. the large are about 24" in diameter.

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Sauce on top of cheese or the other way around? Does wood fired count? how thin should the crust be? I went to a place today but it was closed, so I had to head to an old stand by (Rizzo's in Torrance). How many pieces should an average guy be able to eat?

Actually, Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn serves a marvelous Sicilian-style slice where the sauce sits on top of the cheese. Fat Guy speaks highly of Spumoni Gardens in his writings.

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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But when people say "NY style" pizza, I believe they generally mean, Neapolitan style.

Isn't Sicilian style thick crust? That's the way I remember it...

Not doubting Spumoni Gardens has a good slice; and interesting point that the sauce was on top. I've seen that a few times also.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Sicilian is thick crust and yes the sauce is often, but not always on top of the cheese. The pizza pictured above from Sam's link certainly looks like a delicious pizza, but really looks more like a classic neapolitan pizza then what one would typically find in NYC. As far as fresh mozzarella vs. processed, my understanding is that it really depends on the oven temperature. The hotter the oven the easier it is to get away with a fresher, higher moisture content cheese. If the moisture doesn't evaporate quickly it will effect the crust making it soggy rather than crispy.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I think it's important to understand that we're talking about the classic NY pizza, not the typical NY pizza.

Actually the request was for authentic, not necessarily best. New York pizza owes its heritage to both neapolitan and Sicilian pizzaioli (pizza makers). The one you should clearly owes a lot to its origens, but I don't think it is typical or even classic for what most people think of when they think of New York style pizza. That is not to say that it isn't one of the better examples of pizza in New York. I personally prefer the neapolitan pizza.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Once you embrace the notion that inauthenticity is the one authentic thing in New York, life becomes much simpler. There are several styles of New York pizza, all of which are equally authentic in their inauthenticity. Pretty much the only thing you won't find integrated into New York pizza culture is the wood-oven-fired pizzas like they have in Naples. There are a couple of places that make them, like Pizza Fresca, but they're not a significant local style here.

Coal fired pizza is certainly the oldest of the New York pizza-baking traditions, and it has been well described here. For the most part it does not use fresh mozzarella (buffalo or cow) of the "wet" variety. I'm not sure one could even obtain that product at the time pizza rose to prominence in the Northeastern US (and that's probably the more relevant geographic designation, since pizzerias from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Connecticut and Rhode Island follow the style and had large Italian immigrant populations of their own). Rather, this old-style New York pizza often uses "low-moisture mozzarella" -- really more of a provolone-type cheese. At Patsy's in Harlem, you have to ask for fresh mozzarella as a special topping and in my opinion it's not as good a cheese for pizza. Neither of the top New Haven pizzerias uses fresh. Totonno's uses fresh, but to its detriment I think. Also, in the event low-moisture cheese is used, it's not critically important whether the cheese goes on top of the sauce or vice-versa. Old-school pizzerias have been known to do it both ways.

Does that make coal-oven pizza authentic? Well, it's certainly not authentic by the standards of pizza in Italy. I'm not sure there's any coal oven pizza in the whole of Italy.

Coal, by the way, burns hotter than wood. Or at least it has the ability to do so. It's hard to get a straight answer on the temperature of an oven, and temperature doesn't tell the whole story, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the ovens at Patsy's in Harlem are burning hotter than the average wood-fired pizza oven.

But coal-oven pizza is a niche market, and in the post-War era it was mostly eclipsed by pizza baked in gas ovens, with a thicker crust, larger size, and more portable slice format. This invented style of pizza is, I believe, what the overwhelming majority would say is authentic New York pizza. And, when made well, as at DiFara's, it's a delicious product that, while probably not authentic, is wonderful in its inauthenticity.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Well stated, Fat Guy.

I've been to Naples twice, and I'm here to tell you New York pizza is not at all the same as Neapolitan pizza. Neapolitan pizza has a very thin crust and is not suitable for ordering slices of or attempting to eat on the street (I tried that once and was nearly attacked by a swarm of yellowjacks, but that's another story). It's much too saucy and its crust is much too soft and flimsy for that. You get the pizza in a pizzeria and eat it there, with knife and fork. It's great, but it is not the same as New York pizza. DiFara's is a good example of the difference, in fact. Dominic is from the Caserta area, north of Naples, but his pizza has a thick crust and is available with many toppings you'd never find on a pizza in Naples. My experience in Naples is that you can get Pizza Margherita, that plus prosciutto, and sometimes that plus mushrooms (I guess prosciutto and mushrooms would be possible), and that's it. I don't think you could find a pizzeria in Naples where you could get a pizza that's half artichoke and onion and half sausage and mushroom - or for that matter, half anything. I don't see how a Neapolitan-style pizza could effectively be made with half topped one way and the other half another.

Also, though, where is Spumoni Gardens, and has anyone been there lately?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It's on 86th between 10th & 11th (in Brooklyn). Here's all the info:

http://www.spumonigardens.com/

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Another point to consider is that the Authentic Pizza Doughs were all Neopolatin Style as it been traditionaly prepared and made in NYC Area and throughout New England.

The Dough was left to raise naturally in large Wooden Throughs some were about 3 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high and as much as 20 feet long.

This used to bedone at the DiFarias in Coney Island and once the days dough was done they'd close. The Father was the closest i've ever met to a Pizza perfectionst he would only open and start serving when everything was up to his expectations. I never had a Pie from there that wasn't up to my expectations.

It's pretty hard to keep the old ways presently since the old places have methology thats been Grand Fathered by the various departments. of Health.

Anytime renovations are made the new standards make everything brought up to the current code regulations.

It takes a very competent operation to adjust themselves to doing things differently but making them taste the same as it always has been.

Anyplace that able to do this deserves my patronage as they are keeping something I hope my Grand Children will experience tommorow.

With time and effort this APIZZA can be prepared anywhere. I've helped it getting done. but it requires skill and care to sustain the quality long enough to make it traditional.

Irwin :rolleyes:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Irwin:

Was that DiFara's you were saying used to be in Coney Island? Dominic's father was the pizzaiolo?

L & B Spumoni Gardens seems way the heck out there in Brooklyn for a Manhattanite like me, but I teach a walking distance from DiFara's every Saturday. Does anyone feel like L & B is worth a special trip? In other words, how many minutes' worth of travel would you value it at?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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For a normal person, I'd say 1 minute. For an obsessed eGulleter, maybe 4 hours.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Irwin:

Was that DiFara's you were saying used to be in Coney Island? Dominic's father was the pizzaiolo?

L & B Spumoni Gardens seems way the heck out there in Brooklyn for a Manhattanite like me, but I teach a walking distance from DiFara's every Saturday. Does anyone feel like L & B is worth a special trip? In other words, how many minutes' worth of travel would you value it at?

Michael:

My son-in-law worked for almost 6 years at L & B Spumoni Gardens and grew up in Bensonhurst. His brother still lives there at Shore Parkway.

I'm very familar with the Italian in Brooklyn since I lived there for years and Caterered 4/10 Italian Weddings every week at the Bossert Hotel and Towers Hotel ewhere I had a interest in both properties now owned by the Jehovahs Witness.

The best tasting and looking wedding Cakes in NYC came from Buonnacores Bakery on Court Street and fantastic Apizza Granna.

Irwin :rolleyes:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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