New York City. The Mecca of the pizza world (Sorry Chicago); the pizza in this city is unlike any other pizza you will try. While many judge pizza restaurants using a cheese slice as their gold-standard, we will compare the best pizzas at various locations throughout New York City. We will even compare different styles against each other; Neapolitan (wood-fired or gas-fired), Sicilian, the classic New York greasy slice to go.
Here are a few factors we consider when ranking our pizzas:
- The dough/crust: Too doughy? Too crispy? That perfect blend that creates a firm, yet flavorful base that you can truly only get in New York?
- The sauce: Is the sauce out of a can or can you really taste the homemade freshness and heart of a restaurant? The flavor profile of the sauce speaks wonders about a restaurant.
- The cheese/other toppings: The quality and freshness of the cheese can take a pizza to the next level and we’ll analyze how in our rankings.
- The consistency of the pizza: Is it burned or undercooked sometimes? Or does it always give you the same consistent flavor profile?
As traditionally Neapolitan as it gets. Both restaurant owners Rosario Procino and Pasquale Cozzolino are from Naples and even host watch parties for Italian soccer and in particular for Napoli, a European force based in (you guessed it) Naples. Now to the pizza: the DOC has the most amazing buffalo mozzarella and basil to accompany their sauce and perfectly crispy base. It truly is freshness straight from Napoli that you can taste. Go with that special someone and get a heart-shaped pizza.
Photo credit: Yelp user Tasha C.
This relatively small wood-fired restaurant in the East Village boasts some of the best dough/crust I’ve ever had. It really is the perfect blend of being light, chewy and crispy at the same time (seems impossible to possess all these qualities at once but try for yourself!). Go simple and get the Margherita or Soppressata Picante or be brave and go for the Brussels Sprout (you won’t regret it). The sauce and cheese are good, not great. Despite some consistency issues, Motorino earns the respectful number 9 position on our list.
Brussels Sprouts and Soppressata Picante Photo credit: Yelp user Alexa B.
Rubirosa creates a homey, warm environment that is perfect for a cozy winter night. The classic tomato and mozzarella pie is as simple as it gets, but there is nothing simple about the flavor profile of this 50-year old family recipe. Their vodka and tye-dye (vodka plus pesto sauce to create the perfect Instagram pic) pizza are also popular favorites and are indeed also delicious. The crust is nothing to write home about, however the intensely flavorful sauce and cheese at Rubirosa truly make it a stand-out restaurant.
Half vodka, half classic. Photo credit: Yelp user Cara S.
Juliana’s is names after the mother of master pizzaiolo Patsy Grimaldi, original founder of the legendary Grimaldi’s Pizzeria which is now under new management. While I could write an entire blog on the history of pizza, I will get straight to the pizza at Juliana’s. A classic Margherita pizza (plus or minus pepperoni) will take you to heaven. It truly has an almost flawless combination of chewy, yet crispy dough, homemade fresh sauce and the perfect amount of cheese. If Patsy Grimaldi is in the restaurant, rest assured you will get one of the best pizzas of your life. Unfortunately, the consistency at Juliana’s can be questionable, “dropping” it to a respectful number 7 on our list.
Photo credit: Paul T.
Another restaurant drenched in history. Totonno’s has been making pizzas the same way since 1924 when Anthony (Totonno) Pero immigrated from Naples, became the first pizzaiolo and began to work for Lombardi in Spring Street in Manhattan. This family restaurant which is still run by Totonno’s two granddaughters has survived two major fires and Hurricane Sandy. Michael Gammone is the current pizzaiolo at Totonno’s and uses the same coal-fired oven from 1924. He says that a couple inches can make the difference between a burnt pizza and a perfectly cooked pizza. The pizza itself is to die for, the perfectly crispy crust, the fresh mozzarella and the tomato sauce that gushes like flavorful lava with every bite. If you’re ever in Coney Island, be absolutely sure to stop at Totonno’s; even if you’re not in Coney Island it is worth the trek! Get the margherita plain and take a trip through time to enjoy pizza how it’s supposed to be made.
Photo credit: Yelp user JohnnyPrimeC. C.
Before we divulge our top 5, here is a list of our honorable mentions in no particular order; those pizzas that would’ve made a top 20 list:
- San Matteo (UES)
- Keste (West Village)
- Patsy’s (East Harlem)
- Bleeker Street (West Village)
- John’s (West Village)
- Little Luzzos (UES, whole pies only)
- Sottocasa (Cobble Hill)
- Barboncino (Crown Heights)
- Lucia (Flushing)
- Grimaldi’s (DUMBO)
- Pauli Gees
The cozy interior of this restaurant along with the delectable wood-fired pies churned out every night will make for a quite the dinner experience. Pauli himself regularly visits every table to strikes up a meaningful conversation with all his customers…if he really likes you, he’ll even give you free limoncello! The Delboy is our favorite and comes with fresh mozzarella, flavorful Italian tomatoes, the perfectly spicy Berkshire soppressata picante and fresh-shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. Add Mike’s famous Hot Honey to the pizza and you have the ever popular Hellboy. If you haven’t tried honey on a pizza, Pauli Gee’s (or Roberta’s) is the place to do it, the honey perfectly complements the soppressata picante to create a unique sweet, yet spicy taste that when combined with the fresh mozzarella creates a truly unforgettable flavor profile. Although we highly recommend going to the original location to get a full pie, their newly opened slice shop is a fun atmosphere to hang out and grab some of the best slices Pauli has to offer.
The Delboy. Photo credit: Yelp user
- Prince Street Pizza
This is the home of the best Sicilian slice on the planet. I regularly walk in, hold up anywhere between 2 and 5 fingers (depending on how many slices I want), pay and exit with my Sicilian slices without having said a single word. That is because the ONLY slice to get at Prince Street Pizza is the SoHo square, a Sicilian slice which comes with the most exquisitely flavored pepperoni with the perfect spicy, yet meaty flavor. The owner, Frank Morano, and his son, Dominic Morano, have mastered the consistency of the SoHo square, every time you will get a slice that has dough that is extremely fluffy, has spicy diavolo sauce that literally oozes flavor, the best pepperoni’s you’ve ever had in your life and cheese that serves as glue to bring it all together. The liquid that built up in the cups of pepperoni slices on top of the pizza is olive oil, NOT grease, so please don’t grab a napkin to soak up that extra flavor. Prince Street Pizza is not a fancy sit-down restaurant, but it is a place where you can expect to wait, be cramped, eat outside and experience what it truly means to be a New Yorker.
Photo credit: Yelp user Janice H.
This hipster restaurant out in Bushwick (in Brooklyn) embodies a “new-school” attitude to wood-fired pizzas while still serving up all the classics. They boast unique combinations like their Beastmaster which brings together tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, onion, caper, jalapeno for a uniquely savory pie or the Bee Sting which has tomato, mozzarella, soppresassata, chili flake, chili oil, honey to create that perfect blend of spicy yet sweet that we also experienced at Pauli Gee’s. They are always coming out with new and unique pies; however, our favorite is the Famous Original which has tomato, mozzarella, caciocavallo (delicious stretched curd-cheese), parmigiano, oregano and chili. The Famous Original is the true embodiment of why New York pizza is the best pizza in the world. The combination of the perfect dough you can’t find anywhere else in the world (ok ok, maybe in Italy), the fresh tomato sauce and the cheese that is homemade every day at Roberta’s makes my mouth water just thinking about it. Roberta’s has recently opened up a location in Los Angeles, but don’t kid yourself LA, it is nowhere as near as good as the pizza heaven that is Roberta’s in Bushwick. They also have a location near Grand Central, however for the full experience and for the best flavors, venture out to Bushwick, you’ll be glad you did. While there is usually a long line, they have a take-out option, where you can eat in their garden or under a trendy, large tent that serves amazing beer.
Photo credit: Yelp user Asia C.
- Di Fara’s
Di Fara’s not being number 1 is nothing short of blasphemous as their pizzas are nothing short of life-changing. Dom De Marco is the king of pizza, he emigrated from Caserta, Italy in 1965 and eventually settled in Midwood, Brooklyn. He’s been the inspiration for numerous pizzerias throughout the city and is the unquestionable king pizzaiolo in town. Customers do not even think twice about the $5 a slice or the $30 a pie price point, because the pizza is that good. Dom used to make every single pizza himself, however not even the king himself can beat father time, and he understandably must take breaks and allow his children (who do a fantastic job) to make pies. I could literally watch Dom make pies for hours a day, it’s clear he still has a mastery when making pizza. The first time I tried this family owned and operated institution 5 years ago, I didn’t think I would ever have a pizza that good again. I have come back time and time again to experience the magisterial flavors that are the tangy yet intensely flavorful tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, perfectly crispy dough topped off with fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil by the master himself. Words do not describe how monumentally life-altering the sauce at Di Fara’s is. We recommend the regular pie, but the classic pie (sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions) or even their square pie are solid options. So why is it number 2? The consistency at Di Fara’s has recently come into question. Consistency is one of the hardest things to master for a pizzaiolo. There are times where Di Fara serve pizzas that are slightly over or undercooked or just not quite as magical as it once was. Customers that wait 3 hours and get an overcooked pizza may be disgruntled, but the legend that is Di Fara’s pizza will always live in pizza folklore.
The king and his masterpiece. Photo credit: Yelp users Nic G. and Becky L.
Ladies and gentlemen, the torch has officially been passed; Mark Iacono now owns the best pizzeria in New York (and therefore, the world). Although Mark humbly pronounces Dom De Marco the king of pizza (as evidenced by his latest Instagram post https://www.instagram.com/lucali_bk/?utm_source=ig_embe where he was honored to have Dom sign his shirt), we truly believe that Mark serves the best pizza in New York. Lucali patrons often line up well over an hour before this Carroll Gardens establishment opens to put their name down as there are no reservations. We went at 5:00 pm (an hour before it opens at 6:00 pm) and got a seating for two at 8:15pm. It is clearly no secret that Lucali serves some of the best pies in town and the simplicity of their menu (large or small pie, large or small calzone, choice of various toppings, side of sauce) along with its BYOB and cash only policy make it an extremely warm and family friendly atmosphere. We recommend the large pie as is (no toppings needed) with basil on it and a calzone (small or large) with a side of sauce. Their pie really is flawless. You can see the dough be transformed from a dough ball rolled into the immaculate base of the pie in front of your eyes. You can taste the freshness and profound flavors of the can’t miss sauce. You’ll drool over the perfectly melted and fresh mozzarella. Top it all off with some basil and, if you like, a bit of parmigiana you have a pie that consistently delivers time and time again. We never thought we’d say this, but do not skip on the calzone; the blend of fresh mozzarella, ricotta and parmigiano create an exquisitely creamy texture that in combination to the perfectly crispy and fluffy dough come together to create a flavor profile that you can’t miss on. Add some of their unparalleled tomato sauce and it really is game over. Lucali truly is perfection personified and will be for many years to come.
The master, Mark Iacono, and his creation. Photo credit: Yelp users Michelle G. and Alex W.