Pizza Box (2008)


In New York's expanding pizza scene, there are five types of pies to choose from: thin-crust high-temp coal oven (type A); boutiquey thin-crust high-temp wood oven (type B); standard conventional oven, usually available by the slice (type C); Sicilian (type D); and bakery pizza (type E). Following is a ranked list of my current faves. Don't blame me if your list is different!

1New York's first pizza parlor (founded 1905)—where American pizza was invented—remains the best in town. Especially when it comes to the sainted clam pie. At LOMBARDI'S, freshly shucked littlenecks are deposited on the crust at the last minute and barely cooked, leaving them supremely juicy and briny. Type A. 32 Spring Street, 941-7994

2Every hour or so a new pie flies out of the oven at ROSE & JOE'S ITALIAN BAKERY, hinting at the origins of pizza as decorated bread. This unpretentious Astoria establishment provides a Sicilian-style slice in the usual square format, topped only with zesty tomato sauce and good cheese, with a firm and deliciously oily crust. Type E. 22-40 31st Street, Queens, 718-721-9422

3The artichoke slice at DIFARA PIZZERIA is every bit as good as its obsessed advocates claim. The freshly cooked vegetable is carefully laid on a perfect thin crust with two types of cheese by a dude who's become a Brooklyn legend, and the seedy premises only make the slice tastier. Type C. 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, 718-258-1367

4The founder of TOTONNO'S PIZZERIA NAPOLITANO trained at Lombardi's, then took his skills with him seaside. Using the most perfect local ingredients, and stopping production abruptly when the day's supply of dough ran out, he originated a product that perfectly matched the terroir of Coney Island, and his successors have kept his coal-oven dream alive. If you think the pie is too moist—grab a knife and fork. Type A. 1524 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-372-8606

5An organization of Neapolitan bakers has taken the laughable step of "certifying" the authenticity of American pizzas, and in their infinite wisdom, have only canonized a few. New York is lucky enough to be the site of one of them—LA PIZZA FRESCA. The spare, individual-size pies with the self-consciously irregular crusts are indeed spectacular, but you don't need a bunch of Italians to tell you that. Type B. 31 East 20th Street, 598-0141

6When I want pizza like I get in Tuscany and Umbria, I go to SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY, where simple flatbreads with single toppings like mushrooms, zucchini, and potatoes are cut into big rectangles and sold by weight. Nowhere in town is the relationship of dough to pie more apparent, with the possible exception of Rose & Joe's, above, where they make a more conventional Sicilian slice. Type E. 73 Sullivan Street, 334-9435

7Among the Sicilian-leaning pizza parlors of Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, and Dyker Heights, a current fad is the nonna ("grandmother") slice, which turns back the calendar by offering fresh mozzarella and crushed tomatoes, sometimes fresh, on a thick crust. The nonna at KRISPY PIZZERIA is superb, and I swear the cheese is only a few hours old when it's thrown on the pie. Type D. 7112 13th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-748-5797

8There are three entrances to PATSY'S, one of the original five New York pizzerias, and don't go into any except the uptown one. There you'll be confronted by a massive coal-fired oven like the gate of hell, from which the baker pulls only a single, rudimentary type of pizza, exceedingly well charred around the edges. No toppings but tomato and cheese—pizza doesn't get any better. Contrary to type, slices are available. Type A. 2291 First Avenue, 534-9783

9Most people think Maspeth is somewhere out on Long Island—it's actually right north of Bushwick. Just off the LIE is a sprawling Irish bar named O'NEILL'S with a constellation of dining rooms. The one furthest into the interior sports an OTB window, floor-to-ceiling monitors tuned to horse races, and, almost as an afterthought, great conventional pizza made with ingredients of stunning quality. Type C. 64-21 53rd Drive, Queens, 718-672-9696

10It shouldn't surprise you that there's lots of great pizza in Staten Island, where plenty of Italians moved from Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst as soon as the Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in 1964. Foremost is DENINO'S, a working-class bar with a pizzeria slouching behind it. Staten Island pizza is midway between Sicilian and Neapolitan, hence the split classification. Type C/D. 524 Port Richmond Avenue, Staten Island, 718-442-9401


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