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THE BEST: NYC Pizza Favorites

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Spent several months travelling the 5 boroughs for the best pizza. Here's my opinion.

DiFara's Brooklyn

L&B Spumoni Gardens Bensonhurst (Summer!!& dont forget the rainbow spumoni)

Sal and Carmine's- Upper West Side- run to the best pizza in New York. These two charachters aren't getting any younger.

skip patsy's harlem, Lombardis, Totonnos, John's.....

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Spent several months travelling the 5 boroughs for the best pizza.  Here's my opinion.

DiFara's Brooklyn

L&B Spumoni Gardens Bensonhurst (Summer!!& dont forget the rainbow spumoni)

Sal and Carmine's- Upper West Side- run to the best pizza in New York.  These two charachters aren't getting any younger.

skip patsy's harlem, Lombardis, Totonnos, John's.....

What other places did you try?

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For the best grandma pizza this mouth has ever tasted, head to La Villa in Brooklyn.

Exact address is: (261 Fifth Ave. between Garfield Place and First Street in Park Slope).

If you have never had grandma pizza, the best way I can describe it is thin crust Sicilian.

The crust has a wonderful crunch to it. It's topped very simply with fresh mozz, basil, evoo, san marzano tomatoes, and fresh garlic. Unlike regular pizza where the frsh mozz can make the crust soggy, a grandma slice stays perfectly crispy. Check this place out. I promise you will not be disappointed. Make sure you order the grandma pizza rectangularly and not round. It's much better that way.

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What kind of prices for a pizza there? Do they have a wood oven?

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My favorite place no longer exists (a tiny place on Bleecker across from Porto Rico Coffee). I used to be friendly with owner. Well reviewed by Asimov. He had to close because of a fight with his ex-wife.

Comments from him:

(1) Ovens are basically ovens.

He used to produce a very thin, crispy crust that was better than almost anything I've seen from a coal or wood oven. And he was using a standard Bari gas oven.

(2) Flour counts. He was using a mixture of wholewheat and white flour, and I think a better grade than standard. The crust did not taste wholewheat, but the color was a little darker than usual.

(3) Cheese matters. He cut his own slices from big blocks that looked like cream cheese bricks, not in his words "the yellow stuff." The cheese was made by Polly-o, which is owned by Kraft! My guess is that a lot of sliced cheese on pizza that you see is in fact this product, which I think Polly-O does not sell retail.

(4) Skill counts. He and some 17 kid he trained made all the pizzas he sold.

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My neighborhood shop, Fascati's on Henry Street, has as good I have had anywhere. If I am between Grimaldi's down the hill, or Fascati's - I probobly choose the latter.

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Comments from him:

(1) Ovens are basically ovens.

This is not true, despite what he may have said. While it is true that a coal or wood burning oven doesn't necessarily produce a better result than a regular gas oven, it is also a fact that there are some things one can do with a superhot coal or wood oven that is impossible with gas. Think about it: in order to produce that crisp crust, places like Di Fara have to bake the pizza for around ten times longer than places like Patsy's East Harlem. That means that the toppings will be much more cooked and substantially more water will have evaporated from the crust of the gas oven pizza. This is one reason why the crust of a gas oven pizza can never have that ethereal, soft, extensible light inner layer between the crisp bottom and the toppings, and also why the gat oven pizza can never compete with coal or wood on oven spring. That some places are able to produce crusts that compete with some of the coal oven pizza in NYC speaks more of the skills of the pizzaioli in the respective pizzerie than it does the potential of the respective technologies they employ.

(4)  Skill counts.

Without a doubt this is the single most important variable.

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I think pride is as important as skill. It doesn't matter how skilled a pizzaiolo is if he doesn't have enough pride to demand the best out of himself.

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Comments from him:

(1) Ovens are basically ovens.

This is not true, despite what he may have said. While it is true that a coal or wood burning oven doesn't necessarily produce a better result than a regular gas oven, it is also a fact that there are some things one can do with a superhot coal or wood oven that is impossible with gas. Think about it: in order to produce that crisp crust, places like Di Fara have to bake the pizza for around ten times longer than places like Patsy's East Harlem. That means that the toppings will be much more cooked and substantially more water will have evaporated from the crust of the gas oven pizza. This is one reason why the crust of a gas oven pizza can never have that ethereal, soft, extensible light inner layer between the crisp bottom and the toppings, and also why the gat oven pizza can never compete with coal or wood on oven spring. That some places are able to produce crusts that compete with some of the coal oven pizza in NYC speaks more of the skills of the pizzaioli in the respective pizzerie than it does the potential of the respective technologies they employ.

(4)  Skill counts.

Without a doubt this is the single most important variable.

The now closed place produced a crust like what you describe. You might also want to look at http://www.pizzaovens.com/specifications/m...s/woodtogas.htm

It's an article by someone who sells pizza ovens for a living. He points out that wood burns drier than gas, and that a wood burning oven will produce a drier pizza than a wood burning one. I'm also somewhat doubtful that wood is very consistent, and that someone can always get good enough wood that will always burn hotter than gas. Coal is much hotter than wood or gas, and there was an article in the NYT I think recently about that. In any case, the oven isn't a big point, unless you like charred pizzas from a coal oven (I don't).

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You might also want to look at http://www.pizzaovens.com/specifications/m...s/woodtogas.htm

It's an article by someone who sells pizza ovens for a living.  He points out that wood burns drier than gas, and that a wood burning oven will produce a drier pizza than a wood burning one.  I'm also somewhat doubtful that wood is very consistent, and that someone can always get good enough wood that will always burn hotter than gas.  Coal is much hotter than wood or gas, and there was an article in the NYT I think recently about that.  In any case, the oven isn't a big point, unless you like charred pizzas from a coal oven (I don't).

More specifically, it is an article by someone who sells gas pizza ovens for a living, and has a vested interest in making it seem like gas can compete with wood and coal. It is also worthy of note that he is not talking about regular gas deck pizza ovens. These are special (and very expensive) ovens specifically designed to mimic wood burning pizza ovens. The one argument he makes for gas with which I completely agree is that "you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to master a wood-burning oven, but getting things right does require a bit of training and labor, which many employers are reluctant to provide." A lack of training does go a long way to explain the mediocre pizza some of the wood and coal places serve. But the bulk of his argument seems to be that wood fired ovens are the best, but these special gas fired "faux wood" ovens are almost as good and a lot simpler to use.

The bottom line is this: standard gas-fired pizza ovens go up to a maximum of 550F, whereas a properly fired coal- or wood-fired masonry pizza oven will be between 750F and 840F. This is a huge and significant difference, and as a result there are things that are possible with a coal- or wood-fired masonry pizza oven that are simply not possible with a gas-fired oven. This fact alone suggests that that the assertion "ovens are basically ovens" cannot possibly be true unless one believes that there is no difference between 550F and 750F when it comes to making pizza.

Now... different does not necessarily mean better, depending on one's tastes. A medium thick, "Ray's style" pizza cannot be made well in a hot coal- or wood-fired oven. So, for someone for whom pizza is mostly about the toppings and lots of them, the oven makes much less difference since they're all going to be using standard gas-fired deck pizza ovens at right around the same temperature.

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For the best grandma pizza this mouth has ever tasted, head to La Villa in Brooklyn.

I had a pretty disapponting pizza from there shortly after they opened--I called in for take-out (perhaps a mistake), they said it would be ready in 15 minutes, and it was already waiting when I arrived in 10 minutes. When I got home it was cold, overstuffed with toppings, and very soggy. Not inspired to try again.

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My favorite place no longer exists (a tiny place on Bleecker across from Porto Rico Coffee).  I used to be friendly with owner.  Well reviewed by Asimov.  He had to close because of a fight with his ex-wife.

Mona Lisa? That was an unusual and special pie. It was among the thinnest I've ever had.

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(1) Ovens are basically ovens

The oven is the single most important element in a perfect pizza. You can correct a bad dough with a right baking but not viceversa. Furthermore, you can improve even more a good dough with the perfect baking.

A wood burning oven is by far the best oven to cook a pizza. The traditional oven, as it was made in pompei over 2000 years ago, has low dome ceiling and the pizza is insert in the same combustion chamber.

This way the pizza cook in tree ways: Direct heat (from the oven floor and bricks), hot air and rverbering (heat from the flame).

When I was at the NYC pizza show this past november, I heard in a famous pizzeria, that nothing would cook as fast as a coal oven. The said to cook a pizza even in only 2-3 minutes. Well, I have worked with a traditional wood burning oven (brick made and not prefabricated) and it can cook a pizza in just about 30 seconds or top 90 second if not at the right temperature. When I comment as above, the speaker quite embarrassingly changed subject....

The only oven I have seen of this type, was at Regina Margherita restaurant in Pittsburgh.

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When I was at the NYC pizza show this past november, I heard in a famous pizzeria, that nothing would cook as fast as a coal oven. The said to cook a pizza even in only 2-3 minutes. Well, I have worked with a traditional wood burning oven (brick made and not prefabricated) and it can cook a pizza in just about 30 seconds or top 90 second if not at the right temperature.

I think there may be a little bit of misunderstanding here. When people speak of the NYC neo-Neapolitan coal-fired pizza style and the pizze that can cook in "only 2-3 minutes" they are talking about a much larger and copiously topped pizza than the Neapolitan style pizze you mention that can cook in 30-90 seconds. So it's comparing apples to oranges, really.

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We ate at Lombardi's last June when we were in NYC. Very, Very good and better than what we have locally.

We could taste the difference that their coal fired oven made. The ingrediants were ultra fresh and the size of the pie was substantial.

Supposedly, theirs is the oldest NYC pizza oven in continious operation. Hype or fact ?? The oven did look old though.

While I have not tried any of the other NY Top 10, I would urge those interested in the subject to at least try Lombardi's.

Best,

Ross

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Why not Lombardi's? The pie was delish. Very thin crust, fresh ingredients and good toppings. Only complaint is that the the place is cramped but hey, for good food, I'd put up with anything. I also like how it's close to Chinatown. Bonus!

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rl1856 and Gastro888, please tell us what kind of pizza you got at Lombardi's.

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Duh, that would help, huh?

OK, it was a large pie, 1/2 and 1/2:

1/2 mushrooms and sausage (go for that)

1/2 pepperoni and extra cheese (pedestrian but we were with someone who didn't like mushrooms and a European who wanted a real American pie)

Topping were excellent. I remember there was a thin layer of sauce, good ratio of cheese and toppings and a thin crust. After having Lombardi's I'm spoiled for pizza. Coal ovens make a HUGE difference in taste.

I went in June 2004 (ok, ok, not recent but hey, I live in Maryland...) and we had a good experience. Best pie I've had in NYC and I've tried a couple of those "buy a slice" joints but Lombardi's rocks. Only complaint - A/C was on full blast that day and it made the pie cool fast. Ugh.

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Thanks.

Have you ever been to Patsy's in East Harlem? It would be interesting to see your comparison of the two pizzerie.

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Hey Pan, no I haven't. I'll scope it out next time. When I go to NYC, I usually stay downtown b/c I'm only in for the day. (Honest truth - I go to Chinatown 'cause the one in DC sucks and I miss eating good Cantonese food.) I gotta take a long weekend trip up there 'cause I need to get my grub on.

From my NYC peeps I hear John's in midtown's good, but this is coming from a fashion designer and quite frankly, I don't trust anyone who says I need to be a size 0 in order to wear clothes! :-D

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I think there may be a little bit of misunderstanding here.  When people speak of the NYC neo-Neapolitan coal-fired pizza style and the pizze that can cook in "only 2-3 minutes" they are talking about a much larger and copiously topped pizza than the Neapolitan style pizze you mention that can cook in 30-90 seconds.  So it's comparing apples to oranges, really.

Sorry skinsey.

But the issue here is not the pizza itself, because even if larger, the tickness doesn't vary, and would be the last to affect the cooking time not the diameter.

I have baked 7 12 inch pizza at the time in 45 second top (each pizza entering in a couple of second apart). When at the pizzeria I mention, they bake three at the times the cooking time whent to almost 4 minutes.

I have a working knowledge of what I am talking about, plus exstensive research.

The coal oven has straight ceiling and wall. air circulation cannot be good. Plus it loose too much temperature if too many pies are inserted continuosly.

This does not happen with a traditional wood burning oven.

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Had dinner for 2 in a packed house at La Villa pizzeria-restaurant in Park Slope yesterday. I saw this place when it opened but for some reason never ate here.

We had a small round Foccacia di Nonna ("grandma" pizza) with hand crushed tomatoes, fresh mozz, basil... $11, perfect for 2 people to share and nice even scorching on the bottom with a fluffy, airfilled, but crunchy crust.... reminded me of naples.

We also shared Roasted Chicken Breast Fillets marinated in Balsamic with Sauteed Spinach... this dish was a excellent. We thought it might be too vinegary but it was ok. The sauce that accompanied the plate was a red wine based sauce and served well the accompanying spinach (garlicky olive oil sauteed goodness) and mushrooms and (SURPRISE) sweet asparagus spears. Enough to stuff 2 people for a measly $14.

Total bill with a coke, $27.

The house was completely full and the many waiters and bussers flitted here and there. The kitchen is huge and open to the front of the restaurant, with a bar for solo diners or those interested in watching the kitchen.

Impressed, new fave.

mjr

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Why no mention yet of Totonno's in Coney Island? Always on all the "best pizza" lists...

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Of the places I've been to so far, I still like DiFara's best (Pizza Napoletana, I have yet to try your place), but Grimaldi's -- right after it opens (which is the only time I've tried it) -- and Patsy's were delicious when I went there as part of the NYC Pizza Survey. Yes, I liked Totonno's, too, but others weren't as happy with the saucy pizza there. I also agree with richl2214 that Arturo's is praiseworthy, though I wouldn't call it "best of all." I'm sorry to say that as far as Lombardi's is concerned, I believe the Emperor (despite his thick toppings) has no clothes.

Anyway, I think that anyone who's interested in New York pizza needs to look at the Pizza Survey thread, which is full of photos as well as discussion, and even has a clickable table of contents courtesy of Sam Kinsey.

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