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DeVeaux

THE BEST: Pizza in New York State (not City)

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Sacre-

Oh, yeah, Michaels Restaurant.

They used to be open after the bars closed, and it was THE place to go eat after drinking all night for good, inexpensive Italian food.

I remember La Hac, too, mostly because my parents and their friends thought it was a great place back in the '50's.


"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

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Question: is Pudgy's different from "Pudgies'"? Or is this just a misspelling?

The reason I ask is that I *think* there's still a Pudgies left, in Canandaigua. I remember eating there as a kid, and also remember passing by one a couple of years ago on my way to a company event on the lake.

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Question: is Pudgy's different from "Pudgies'"?  Or is this just a misspelling?

The reason I ask is that I *think* there's still a Pudgies left, in Canandaigua.  I remember eating there as a kid, and also remember passing by one a couple of years ago on my way to a company event on the lake.

I'm guessing Pudgie's and Pudgy's are the same. Besides Canandaigua, there is also one on Norton St in the city.

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Question: is Pudgy's different from "Pudgies'"?  Or is this just a misspelling?

The reason I ask is that I *think* there's still a Pudgies left, in Canandaigua.  I remember eating there as a kid, and also remember passing by one a couple of years ago on my way to a company event on the lake.

There's some evidence of a few left here:

http://www.pudgiespizza.com/ including downtown Rochester, Elmira, Horseheads and Mansfield. There was a time when there were gazillions of them, I assume it's the same company, and I think this -ies spelling are the ones I'm remembering. I'm pretty confident this is it, because the psychopath who designed their website automatically redirects you to an obnoxious mp3 of their "...good-time pizza and subs." jingle.

But there also seem to still be some in Canandaigua, Bath, Cortland, other places, but not mentioned on that web page. Has there been a split in the Pudgie's empire? Renegade separatists? A shadow Pudgies?

http://www.pudgiespizza.com/delicious/about.html doesn't really say much...

Wish the mystery were worth all this effort!


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Rogan's was our favorite for NY-style pizza in college - much better than Pudgie's. But the best French bread pizza in Ithaca is of course Hot Truck!


allison

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Rogan's was our favorite for NY-style pizza in college - much better than Pudgie's. But the best French bread pizza in Ithaca is of course Hot Truck!

I have heard MUCH of this Hot Truck! My interest has been piqued for some time, much like when I read of the 6 lb. burger being served in Pennsylvania.

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I'm not inclined to dispute the lovely and knowledgeable MsMelkor but Rogan's just doesn't hold a candle to Roma :laugh::wink: . That said.... Rogan's is one of the better pizza's in the Ithaca area and I think Roma was better known to the locals than to the on-campus crowd.

I did a coffee brewer install in Cortland about two months ago. The client had a training session in progress that day and had Pudgie's pizza and wings delivered in. It was as bad as I remebered it or worse.

every once in a while I regress to that childlike state DeVeaux mentioned "when any pizza you got was good."

So true. I grew up in a household where pasta and anything else with red sauce was verboten because my Irish-German father wouldn't eat it. Our family tradition was that each child got to choose the dinner menu on their birthday. There were no limits in item or price btu all I wanted was pizza - every year. More often than not it was Chef Boy-Ar-Dee and I loved it. Better than good - it was one of the culinary highlights of my childhood.

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Phaelon-

Your Father sounds familiar.

My Irish Mother pitched a fit whenever my Italian Step-Father made his homemade red sauce, because she refused to eat sauce with "green crap" (basil, italian parsley, oregano, etc.) floating in it. She felt that sauce should be poured out of a Ragu jar and served.

Needless to say, my sauce is homemade, with lots of green crap in it.


"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."

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I nominate Sals Pizzeria - 316 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck, NY.

Incredible sicilian pizza like you wouldn't believe. They've got almost a cult following. No fancy-schmancy toppings, just traditional pizzeria fare, like you would expect from an old-fashioned pizzeria.


-James Kessler

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I don't know why but I have been on a pizza "kick" lately.

I am always up for pizza but given a certain laziness often

stay with what is in my neighborhood (deliverable etc).

That means Sacco on 9th Avenue in the fifties--pretty good

for a neighborhood place.

Angelos on 57th street--good too.

Recently, I tried Totonnos on the upper East side and was

disappointed--the pie was very good but maybe all the hype...

Also the uptown Patsy's--the flavor was good but the slices were a tad soggy.

(I shoulda inspected before they were boxed.)

I am heading to my old Arthur Ave neighborhood soon.

I have fond memories of the pie at Marios--one of the best I have ever had.

I also recall the fabled Half Moon--great pizza.

I also will revisit Catania's which makes only Sicilian pies--this place rarely gets mentioned

but the pies were superb and authentic--onions and cheese no sauce.

(I recall you can also get a sauced version).

I have also visited Sal's in Mamaroneck--Ed Levine is right this place

is good if you are in the area. (a favorite lunch of mine is to order two slices at Sal's

then head over to Walters for three dogs and some curley fries).

I don't know what it is with me--but--I also used to eat the vindaloo at Mumtaz and head over to

Papaya King for a couple of dogs when I lived in that neighborhood.

But recently, I "discovered" a place that has been around since 1942 (so they say).

Johnny's in Mount Vernon (just over the Bronx line and just off the Cross County Pkway).

This place makes excellent to outstanding pizza (pies only).

Very thin blistered crust, fresh mozzarella, subtle seasoning, really good sauce. Everything in

perfect balance.

This is the kind of pizza that after eating several slices you don't feel bloated you just crave more (I actually felt refreshed but that's me).

This place IMOP is worth a trip. (based on one visit)

I enjoyed watching the owner and his son make my pie while the little grandson was entertained by grandma (who takes the orders).

They also serve "traditional red checked table cloth" Italian food--which i am definitely going to try.

I am also going to try a pie with some toppings next time.

Curious, but this place doesn't seem to get a lot of mention (or maybe I am missing it).

Wonder if anyone has any comments on it? also the current state of affairs in

the world of the NY area pizza scene.


Edited by JohnL (log)

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Interesting stuff, John.

One comment on Totonno's: I think the hype is for their original Coney Island location, not the other locations. Sure, they have quotes from Zagat displayed, calling Totonno's the world's best pizza or whatever, but those quotes probably referred to the original location.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Catania's ain't what it used to be. I have been consistently disappointed the last few times I've been there.

I used to really like their calzones as well as their Sicilians, but now, I don't know, something has changed.

I think it's the Blue Moon, or Full Moon, not Half Moon, and I agree, I enjoy their slices.

I haven't been to Johnny's in MT Vernon, but it has been recommended highly to me by people in the know - my next visit to the apple will be in a week or so and I must get there. I'll report back.

One you missed in the Bronx, which has become my favorite, is Louie and Ernie's on Crosby Ave. Very thin crust, tasty sauce, cheese applied judiciously. When I'm in town I go there every day for a slice.

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Interesting stuff, John.

One comment on Totonno's: I think the hype is for their original Coney Island location, not the other locations. Sure, they have quotes from Zagat displayed, calling Totonno's  the world's best pizza or whatever, but those quotes probably referred to the original location.

I think you are right Pan!

You would think that given its seeming simplicity--one could replicate the process easily.

---dough/crust, sauce, cheese, hot oven.

I am beginning to believe that really good pizza is a matter of basic and high quality ingredients combined and cooked by someone who really cares.

Basically a pizza involves variations on a theme--the subtleties in preparation are amazing.

It is not something that can be mass produced--hence the wide disparity one gets when places like Totonnos or John's "branch out" --at one time "Ray's" probably meant something.

Often we take pizza for granted--we order it, we eat it.

I think if you watch it being made--and pizza is probably one of the few items (sushi comes to mind) that one can watch the entire preparation process --you can begin to see these subtleties that lead to greatness.

When I watched my pie being made at Johnny's in Mount Vernon a couple of things hit me: first, my pie was made by a member of a family that owned the place--this was a father and son (or son in law) who obviously have a stake in the success of the place and a lot of family pride. This is sadly lacking today--most owners are "entrepreneurs" who don't get their hands "dirty." And many family operations are "farmed"out to employees when they expand.

I felt as though I was in their kitchen and they were sharing their food with me. There is a huge difference between: "just like mama made" and "made by mama."

Second, I noticed that there was a careful "technique" applied in the assemblage of the ingredients at Johnny's--that is each pie was made the same way. Sauce, olive oil, cheese, spices were applied in the same order/manner for every pie made (while I was there they must have done ten pies. Another important note--the place was pretty busy and each pie was made to order.

Basically, it was as though the family had found "the way" to make a pizza and there was no way they were going to deviate from it!

I can't imagine asking for "extra cheese" in a place like this.

Maybe I am making too much of my Johnny;'s experience--it is only pizza after all!

Next time I go I will try to get some pictures to post.

I only hope they have not become a "chain" by then.


Edited by JohnL (log)

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Also the uptown Patsy's--the flavor was good but the slices were a tad soggy.

(I shoulda inspected before they were boxed.)

boxed? soggy? could be some connection.... I'm not there enough to be authoritative, but the last pizza I had at Patsy's in East Harlem had an absolutely incredible crust, but then, I was able to eat it there, seconds out of the oven. I think it's the only way to go with super thin-crust pizza like that.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Also the uptown Patsy's--the flavor was good but the slices were a tad soggy.

(I shoulda inspected before they were boxed.)

boxed? soggy? could be some connection.... I'm not there enough to be authoritative, but the last pizza I had at Patsy's in East Harlem had an absolutely incredible crust, but then, I was able to eat it there, seconds out of the oven. I think it's the only way to go with super thin-crust pizza like that.

It was in the box for a few seconds--I jumped in my car and ate the pizza immediately.

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Maybe I am making too much of my Johnny;'s experience--it is only pizza after all!

John, you are definitely not making too much of your Johnny's experience. Having grown up in Mount Vernon, the standard that I measure any pizza against is Johnny's. It is great to finally see them get some well deserved recognition outside of Mount Vernon.

Johnny's pizza is so good it's addictive. I remember once in my younger days, my cousin Sal and I actually had lunch there 5 days in a row. When we walked in on the 5th day, Johnny (who is no longer with us) threw his hands up in the air and yelled, "Is that all you guys eat, Pizza!?" Back then Johnny's was known for it's "soup nazi" type atmosphere almost as much as it's pizza.

Since I live in Connecticut now, it has been a while since I have had Johnny's, and this thread has given me a hankering. Next time I go down to visit my parents I will have to make time to stop there.

As far as a couple of the other NY area Pizzas mentioned here, Lombardi's is excellent, but I must say I was very disappointed with Grimaldi's. I was only there once and maybe I caught them on an off night, but the crust was limp and undercooked.

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Maybe I am making too much of my Johnny;'s experience--it is only pizza after all!

John, you are definitely not making too much of your Johnny's experience. Having grown up in Mount Vernon, the standard that I measure any pizza against is Johnny's. It is great to finally see them get some well deserved recognition outside of Mount Vernon.

Johnny's pizza is so good it's addictive. I remember once in my younger days, my cousin Sal and I actually had lunch there 5 days in a row. When we walked in on the 5th day, Johnny (who is no longer with us) threw his hands up in the air and yelled, "Is that all you guys eat, Pizza!?" Back then Johnny's was known for it's "soup nazi" type atmosphere almost as much as it's pizza.

Since I live in Connecticut now, it has been a while since I have had Johnny's, and this thread has given me a hankering. Next time I go down to visit my parents I will have to make time to stop there.

As far as a couple of the other NY area Pizzas mentioned here, Lombardi's is excellent, but I must say I was very disappointed with Grimaldi's. I was only there once and maybe I caught them on an off night, but the crust was limp and undercooked.

Thanks Phil!

I heard about Johnny's on the Bronx Board web site. There was a thread about the old Half Moon and someone mentioned Johnny's.

I must admit--I had never heard of them before--I lived in the Bronx (Arthur Avenue and Fordham Hill) as well as Westchester--New Rochelle and White Plains.

I can't believe I missed them!

Anyway--I definitely believe that Johnny's is worth a trip--this is pizza that stands above the everyday (even good everyday) neighborhood pie.

There does seem to be a following (albeit small and rabid) but they seem to be just under the radar.

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I finally made it to Johnny's in Mount Vernon. It may be the best pizza between Harlem and New Haven.

The place is in a marginal neighborhood a few blocks from where the Bronx River Parkway and Cross County Parkway intersect -- and it's just a few additional blocks to 87. Beware, if you Mapquest it, there's a lot of construction in the area and not every exit is going to work for you -- there are detours galore. We were coming from Manhattan and took 87 to Yonkers Ave./Raceway and then Yonkers Ave. East about a mile and a half and then a left on Lincoln Avenue for about half a mile. Johnny's is in a little plaza and not well marked, though the Mexican place ("Cancun," I believe it's called) in the same plaza is quite visible. The parking lot accommodates about ten cars so chances are you'll need to find street parking nearby.

Anyway . . . Johnny's turns out faithful, old-school (as in the 1970s) pies from a plain old steel pizza oven. When you note that DiFara's also uses a regular pizza oven, the whole coal/wood thing sort of gets thrown into question. I mean, why can't everybody make pizza like this? No special equipment required.

The pies are not at all like DiFara's, though. DiFara's is more towards the gourmet end of the spectrum, especially now that there's a cult following willing to support the buffalo mozzarella, baby artichokes and all that. Johnny's is more like a beautifully preserved specimen of a good Bronx (well, Mount Vernon) pizzeria of one's youth. Nothing fancy here. Just a really nice crust with a thin, crunchy bottom layer and a sourdough-like interior (I'm guessing there's some preferment at play here, but maybe not), and good sauce, barely enough cheese to tell if the cheese is good or not, and good sausage and pepperoni (those are the ones we tried).

There's also a full menu of exactly the stuff you'd expect: iceberg lettuce salads, heroes, pastas, etc. The salad is appropriate for the setting, and the house vinaigrette dressing is actually pretty good -- it has some parmigiano mixed in.

The waitresses also have well-preserved 1970s Bronx-ish accents, even though they don't seem to have been born until the 1980s.

Johnnys Pizzeria

30 W Lincoln Ave

Mount Vernon, NY

914-668-1957


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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. . .When you note that DiFara's also uses a regular pizza oven, the whole coal/wood thing sort of gets thrown into question. I mean, why can't everybody make pizza like this? No special equipment required.

I think you answer this question yourself below:

Just a really nice crust with a thin, crunchy bottom layer and a sourdough-like interior (I'm guessing there's some preferment at play here, but maybe not), and good sauce, barely enough cheese to tell if the cheese is good or not, and good sausage and pepperoni...

(Emphasis mine.) I can't stress how important this can be in making a good pizza at any level, regardless of the quality of the ingredients. Loading on the cheese (and any other toppings) is a sure-fire way to a mediocre pizza -- especially when you consider that it's often a huge pile of crappy cheese. Also, if you are using crappy cheese, and I'm not saying Johnny's does, using a light hand with the cheese and a decent sauce can go a long way towards getting the most out of the ingredients. And, you're right. . . there's no reason 75% of the pizzeria in the greater New York City area can't be turning out pizza on this level. In fact, I think overall quality would take a huge leap up if pizzeria owners simply started using half the cheese they're currently using.

Sounds like an interesting place.


--

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When I lived on THAT side of the river, a friend from the area recommended Mama Lorusso (Yahoo Details) in Pamona. When ever I am in the area, which is infrequently, I buy a pie.

The place is old and there really isn't anyplace to eat-in. I love the pizza there, though.

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. . .When you note that DiFara's also uses a regular pizza oven, the whole coal/wood thing sort of gets thrown into question. I mean, why can't everybody make pizza like this? No special equipment required.

I think you answer this question yourself below:

Just a really nice crust with a thin, crunchy bottom layer and a sourdough-like interior (I'm guessing there's some preferment at play here, but maybe not), and good sauce, barely enough cheese to tell if the cheese is good or not, and good sausage and pepperoni...

(Emphasis mine.) I can't stress how important this can be in making a good pizza at any level, regardless of the quality of the ingredients. Loading on the cheese (and any other toppings) is a sure-fire way to a mediocre pizza -- especially when you consider that it's often a huge pile of crappy cheese. Also, if you are using crappy cheese, and I'm not saying Johnny's does, using a light hand with the cheese and a decent sauce can go a long way towards getting the most out of the ingredients. And, you're right. . . there's no reason 75% of the pizzeria in the greater New York City area can't be turning out pizza on this level. In fact, I think overall quality would take a huge leap up if pizzeria owners simply started using half the cheese they're currently using.

Sounds like an interesting place.

You are on to something!

To me the elements of pizza are

--crust

--sauce

--toppings

--oven temperature

The key is to achieve a balance that results in all three food elements complementing each other.

The oven (heat) is the catalyst that facilitates the process. All three (or more) ingredients need to heated so that they all achieve optimal levels of doneness at the same time.

Simple?

Obviously not! There is an awful lot of mediocrity (and maybe even more awfulness) out there.

As you point out so well.

I believe a big culprit is the cheese. Not even the quality--the quantity.

For some reason far too many New Yorkers are in love with the notion that the more cheese on a slice (or pie) the more "value" they are getting.

Witness the number of pies and slices overloaded with the stuff. So much cheese that the crust can't adequately hold it. (eating a crappy slice of NY pizza is in itself a well developed art that combines origami and yoga). Even the masters of this art know that a good dry cleaner is the requisite safety net.

How often, while standing in line at a NY pizzeria, does one hear the request/demand/plea for "extra cheese."

Even more insane is the practice wherein one asks for a topping like sausage or broccoli or...

and on top of the topping the pie man sees fit to add.....more cheese!!!!!

IMOP--the bane of much MYC pizza is not even the quality it is the quantity. Regardless of the oven and the skill of the pizza maker most slices have no chance even before they are put into the oven--they are doomed. Soo much cheese results in a situation where the crust becomes soggy (the weight of the cheese aside--the moisture released--the oil running out of the cheese).

Invariably the cheese never reaches the appropriate degree of doneness and the crust is either overdone or underdone and/or soggy.

To me the oven--coal or gas fired or whatever is last on the list of priorities (coal may be as FG notes, vastly over rated). The real starting point is the assemblage process--the proportion of ingredients.

Until most people realize the subtlety of a well made pie or slice we will have to suffer the "more cheese the better" syndrome!

I wonder if anyone else has some thoughts as to why cheese has become the "key" ingredient in pizza. Why do we emphasize it so much???

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I believe a big culprit is the cheese. Not even the quality--the quantity.

For some reason far too many New Yorkers are in love with the notion that the more cheese on a slice (or pie) the more "value" they are getting.

I wonder how much pizza-eating you have done outside of the general Philadelphia-to-Boston area. I ask this simply because, although I agree with your basic premise that the pizza here is often burdened with too much cheese and toppings, I think this is much more prevalent around the country in general than it is in the Philadelphia-to-Boston area, where the pizza tends to be thinner and less copiously topped. Think of one of those disgusting Pizza Hut "meat lover's" pizzas. . . that's considered standard in most of the country.

To me the oven--coal or gas fired or whatever is last on the list of priorities (coal may be as FG notes, vastly over rated). The real starting point is the assemblage process--the proportion of ingredients.

I absolutely agree with your premise that the assemblage and proportion (and quality) of the ingredients is of primary importance. If you don't have that right, you can never achieve a superior pizza. However, it is fact that wood or coal fired retained heat ovens are capable of producing certain effects that stainless steel deck ovens cannot. So, for example, as much as I love the pizza at Di Fara, the actual crust itself just doesn't match up to, say, Patsy's East Harlem.

I wonder if anyone else has some thoughts as to why cheese has become the "key" ingredient in pizza. Why do we emphasize it so much???

I have a theory about this. From a post in the NYC Pizza Favorites thread:

I have a theory about the way people think about pizza. 

For some people, pizza is CRUST (with some stuff on top).  This is the way I think about pizza, and the way I think most Italians think about pizza.  For this reason, the idea of "bagel pizza" or "French bread pizza" doesn't make any sense to me.  Where's the crust?  For other people, perhaps most in America, pizza is PIZZA TOPPINGS (on top of something).  This is where the "piled to the sky = good" philosophy comes from.  I'm not making a judgment here... just pointing out that there are differences.

One thing that happened to a lot of Italian foods that came to America and became Italian-American foods is that they became more about the condiments than the base ingredients.  Take pasta, for example.  In Italy, pasta dishes are about the pasta and the sauce is there as an accent to enhance the pasta.  In America, however, pasta dishes have become much more about the sauce than the pasta -- the pasta is simply a vehicle for the sauce.  For this reason, the typical American pasta dish has around triple the amount of sauce compared to the typical Italian pasta dish.  To make another example about pasta, an Italian would never call a dish "lasagne" that didn't actually contain lasagne, whereas in America we would have no problem layering up sauce and cheese with thin slices of potato and calling the result "potato lasagna."


--

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In Boston, Greek ownership was the sign of a truly horrible pizza.

Are you kidding??? I lived in New England for years, where Greek pizza is ubiquitous, and I truly miss it. The top NYC pizza places may be better, but run of the mill NYC pizza doesn't hold a candle to the pizza from the Greek joints in Boston.

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