New York City’s love affair with pizza stretches back well over a century, but only in the past two decades have diners seen an expanding range of regional pie styles and artisanal (occasionally outlandish) ingredients championed by local pizzaioli. Today, Neapolitan-style pies are the norm among newly opened shops, and everything from blood sausage to rabbits and snails wiggle their way onto contemporary crusts.
We’ll probably always be a pizza town, but our threshold for the experimental stuff seemingly knows no bounds. With that in mind (and keeping an open mind), here are our ten best new-school pizzas:
10. Marta (29 East 29th Street, 212-651-3800)
Despite what R. Kelly crooned in “Ignition (Remix),” hotel lobbies make great party venues. To wit, there’s a veritable pizza shindig going on in the Martha Washington thanks to chef Nick Anderer and juggernaut restaurateur Danny Meyer. Emerging from two massive wood-burning ovens, Anderer’s cracker-thin Roman-style pies embrace regional Italian flavors. One references southern puttanesca sauce with capers, olives, and anchovies. Another recalls the country’s northern reaches via combinations of fontina and mushrooms (meaty hen-of-the-woods and chanterelles) and leeks, bacon, and scallions. Don’t miss the carbonara riff (on the menu since day one), featuring coddled eggs poured with Di Fara–like care over crisped potatoes, guanciale, and showers of pecorino and black pepper.
9. Rubirosa (235 Mulberry Street, 212-965-0500)
Pizza fiends seek out this Italian-American gem for a taste of the Pappalardo family’s exceptional thin-crust pies, first made famous 55 years ago at Joe & Pat’s in Staten Island’s Castleton Corners neighborhood. Rubirosa’s pitch-perfect “classic” recipe banks on sweet tomato sauce festooned with dabs of fresh mozzarella. And while you won’t find buffalo chicken slices on the menu here, the kitchen’s Tie-Dye pizza gets playful with vodka, pesto, and marinara sauces squirted about in Jackson Pollock–like fashion for a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors on both plate and palate.
8. Best Pizza (33 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn; 718-599-2210)
Frank Pinello’s spare and humble five-year-old slice shop traffics in wood-fired New York–style thin-crust and Sicilian pizzas made with high-quality ingredients. His menu sticks to the basics, letting customers choose toppings like pickled vegetables, caramelized onions, or kale. The gluten-free dough he’s devised mercifully doesn’t suck, and the Bensonhurst-reared pizza paddler bakes a white pie that’s second to none. Painted with broad dollops of melted ricotta and pecorino, its dark crust gets a dusting of sesame seeds that teases the charred dough’s inherent nuttiness. Caramelized onions lend a full-bodied sweetness that ably punctuates the barrage of dairy.
7. Roberta’s Bakery (263 Moore Street, Brooklyn; 718-417-1118)
Roberta’s, Bushwick’s famed pizzeria and gastronomic commune — which hosts beehives, an indie radio station, and a destination tasting counter within its concrete walls — puts out some of the city’s most creative wood-fired Neapolitan pies. It also commands hours-long waits frequently enough that it sprouted a pizzeria and bakery down the street to absorb runoff and service the area’s delivery needs. There, people will find many of the restaurant’s greatest hits, like the three-cheese Cheesus Christ and the Axl Rosenberg, a spicy number with soppressata, jalapeños, and mushrooms. Pizzaiolo Anthony Falco’s pillowy crusts stand up to all kinds of bold flavors, including the heady combination of pastrami, pickle juice, garlic, pepperoncini, and peppery Italian goat cheese known as the Dad Bod.
6. Whit’s End (97-14 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Queens)
Fine-dining vet Whitney Aycock runs the show at this tiny pie parlor nestled into a low-slung building that’s walking distance from the Rockaway Park boardwalk. With only a handful of stools and a couch for seating, the restaurant is dominated by a massive wood-burning oven, its domed cover painted with a vivid seascape, which takes up nearly a third of the space. Both Aycock and the oven roar throughout the night, the man calling out to his crew as he stretches dough and chops wood to feed his furnace, the furnace charring the chef’s inspired creations, like littleneck clams bolstered by house-made sausage and fried artichoke hearts scattered over charred-lemon ricotta. Aycock divides his airy and blistered single-serving pizzas into quarters — a good thing, since you’ll want to try as many of them as possible.
5. Paulie Gee’s (60 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-987-3747)
In 2010, pizza fanatic Paul Giannone took the plunge and went pro, opening his eponymous pizzeria in a warm and rustic space on the edge of Greenpoint. The former software engineer starts with a Neapolitan backbone. Through the power of punny names and imaginative ingredient combinations, Giannone then turns the genre on its head. The kitchen drizzles anisette cream over layers of braised fennel and guanciale for the Anise and Anephew and melts mozzarella with salty Canadian bacon and sweet Italian sausage to make the Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me, which gets finishing dollops of the namesake dairy. Giannone also champions local ingredients, adorning his beautifully char-speckled pies with spicy soppressata, Mike’s Hot Honey, and Billy Durney’s brisket imported from Red Hook’s Hometown BBQ.
4. Giuseppina’s (691 Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-499-5052)
Before opening this sleepy, dimly lit Sunset Park pizzeria, Chris Iacono spent time at his brother Mark’s esteemed Carroll Gardens parlor Lucali (a favorite of Beyoncé and Jay Z). Here, the star power’s centered squarely on the open kitchen and the exceedingly crisp thin-crust pies that emerge from the oven plugged into the dining room’s back wall. Giuseppina’s had already positioned itself as the accessible alternative to Lucali and its perpetual waits, but with the mother ship closed for renovations (“until further notice,” threatens the answering machine), this is currently the only spot serving the Iaconos’ ample and remarkable brick oven pizzas. Dappled with char, they soar from lashings of sweet, long-simmered marinara and the piquant creaminess of mozzarella and parmigiano-reggiano. Don’t forget to ask for basil or garlic (or both), offered free of charge.
3. Emily (919 Fulton Street, Brooklyn; 347-844-9588)
Yes, Matthew Hyland’s Clinton Hill pizzeria (named after wife and co-owner Emily Hyland) griddles a gorgeous and obsessively engineered dry-aged burger, but the borough native also serves up some of the city’s finest madcap Neapolitan-style pizza. Divided by sauce color on the menu — red, pink, green, and white — his charmingly irregular wood-fired pies sate a wide range of tastes, from the subtly tangy Luca, dappled with homemade buttermilk stracciatella to the ¡PXG!, which plasters ‘nduja sausage across tomatillo-sauced dough. Beyond tomatoes and cheese, Hyland gets funky with condiments like ranch dressing, scallion-cilantro sauce, and Sichuan chile oil, the latter of which perfumes the Uncle Ray, a four-cheese pie topped with country ham.
2. GG’s (511 East 5th Street, 212-687-3641)
Bobby Hellen channels his Italian-American roots at this dapper East Village pizzeria from ice cream impresario Nick Morgenstern. The Staten Island–raised chef puts a modern spin on New York–style pizza using a classic double-decker oven, which produces crisp-edged crusts bearing a yeasty chew. Round pies run the gamut; the kitchen melds smoked gouda with sunchokes and gives New Haven a run for its money with a three-clam pizza bolstered by mushrooms and garlic confit. Hellen, an avid Mets fan, honors his home team and former player Ron Darling with two yeasty tributes. Like the rest of the doughy rounds, they’re perfect for dipping into the gratis ramekins of house-made ricotta with moats of olive oil. Squares (sans the free ricotta dip) include the textbook “grandma” pizza and a carnivore-friendly eggplant parmigiana pie studded with ‘nduja.
1. Bruno Pizza (204 East 13th Street, 212-598-3080)
Justin Slojkowski and Dave Gulino opened their stark, modern pie parlor and New American restaurant to much buzz, having garnered acclaim for their wild ingredient pairings and obsessively seasonal approach to cooking. At Bruno, the duo mills the 00 flour for their pizza from local red spring wheat, which gives the resulting buoyant crust a dark, yeasty savor and nuttiness. Toppings are appropriately aggressive in turn, with combinations like salty country ham and peaches and lamb coppa riding waves of béchamel and sheep’s-milk cheese. Nightly pie specials (available via request) yield improvised recipes, the airy rounds blank canvases for, among other things, corn kernels and floral, earthy New Mexican Hatch chiles. Lumbar support might be in short supply in the dining room, but we’d hang from the ceiling using only our nipple rings (or hell, stand) if that’s what it took to get our hands on a unique product that, frankly, warrants the hype.