New York might be called the Big Apple, but what any New Yorker will tell you is that the city really runs on pizza. You can buy a dollar slice on every corner, and world-famous pizza establishments draw crowds from Brooklyn to the Bronx. So which pie is the best of the best? We surveyed our Pique staff to find out . . .
Erica Finkel, associate editor
Recently I made the pilgrimage to Di Fara Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn, “the Best Hand-Made Pizza in New York City” according to Frommer’s and “the best of the best” per Anthony Bourdain. I’m not normally one to wait hours for famous food, but one Sunday I was on a walk with friends from Grand Army Plaza to Coney Island (about eight miles), and someone far more patient than me had scheduled it into the itinerary. We lined up outside the teeny storefront an hour before opening (and were not the first in line!), and only when our pizza was finally ready could we sit at one of the sparse eatery’s three tables. The whole process took two hours, but was it the best pizza I’ve ever eaten? Yes. The crust on the square pie was so buttery, it tasted caramelized. Yum. And you know an old-school pizza place is legit when their official business hours are “open sometimes”:
Susan Van Metre, editorial director
Our friend Will, a great chef and bartender, lives around the corner from Luigi’s Pizza, a Brooklyn institution, famous for its fresh mozzarella slices. It’s equally famous for the owner’s son, Giovanni or Gio, who serves up the slices with plenty of opinions. He quizzes the local kids their grades and rewards them with a free slice for good results. He knows everybody in the neighborhood. Will loves the place but he once had the temerity to ask for extra cheese on his pizza and this was Gio’s response: “What? You pay me extra to ruin your pizza? I put just the right amount of cheese on it! How can you doubt it?” For me this captures something quintessential about New Yorkers. We work hard, we’re generous and accepting, but question how we do our jobs, even innocently, and fuggedaboutit!
Orlando Dos Reis, assistant editor
Ironically, the world’s best New York-style pizza is not in New York City, but in the college town of Manhattan, KS, home to Kansas State University. It’s called AJ’s New York-Style Pizza, and it’s so popular in the area that there are actually two locations—a larger restaurant downtown (all decked out with NYC-related things), and a tinier location in the K-State vicinity. The latter is open only on the weekends and only during the late-night hours, obviously meant for the college students stumbling home from a night out. Anyway, you can order pizza by the slice—and they’re huge slices—with virtually any topping. I was fond of the buffalo chicken slice, myself. Once they put all the toppings on, the enormous pizza slice went through a conveyer belt for minute and came out all hot and gooey and ready to eat. It was a staple in the Little Apple (as was the mac & cheese grilled cheese sandwich [with bacon!], but that’s a different story). Nowadays, I still crave it, and will sometimes text my friends in Manhattan, KS, to let them know how jealous I am, which annoys them because, well, I should probably be able to find something similar to AJ’s New York-Style Pizza in NYC . . .
Julia Marvel, junior designer
During my time as a millennial, I have sampled pizza from every corner of the pizza universe: Dessert Pizza Buffet in a strip mall of Memphis, TN; “Wood Fired Pizza” from the hippest of spots in The Village; All You Can Eat “White Pizza” from the grumpy man at my dining hall (thanks for those 15 collegiate pounds, sir); an entire fresh pie for myself straight out of the oven in Naples, Italy; and, of course, the probably thousands of slices I’ve consumed from my neighborhood pizzeria serving up consistent no frills, great pizza to the north end of my New York City suburb. I used to be picky about my pizza: I’M FROM NEW YORK. But lately, as the adult world continues to grind away at me, my pizza snobbery is not a battle I care much about fighting anymore. And let me tell you, no pizza has been as satisfying as the semi-cooked, lava temperatured, greasy, cheesy, I-PAID-ONE-DOLLAR-FOR-MY-LUNCH heaven that is Dollar Slice.
Alyssa Nassner, senior designer
Emily in Clinton Hill is my Brooklyn pizza of choice. They do delicious traditional pies, but my weakness is the “Emily” pie – I guess it’s their namesake for a reason. It’s a white pizza topped with pistachios and honey. You will be sticky for three days after eating it, but it is the most delicious combo of flavors ever! Supposedly they have really good burgers there, but I’ll never make it past the pizza.
Courtney Code, editorial assistant
Sentimentally enough, my favorite slice of pizza in New York City comes from my college pizzeria: Pugsley’s, located in the heart of the Bronx’s Little Italy near my alma mater, Fordham University. The walls and tabletops are covered in scratched graffiti from couples, roommates, and post-performance theatre casts. Every order is served up with a side of well-aged wisdom from beloved neighborhood pizza whisperer (and talented saxophonist!) Sal. Pugsley’s mission statement is so pervasive to the experience that you can almost taste it in the crust: Pizza is good, but love is it!
Anne Heltzel, editor
New York obviously has no shortage of excellent pizza options (shoutout to Williamsburg Pizza, my neighborhood fave). But when I think of a truly transcendent pie, my mind wanders to Sunrise Inn of Warren, Ohio. I’ve been a patron of Sunrise since I learned to chew. It was there that I experienced my first slice of deep dish; a sausage-laden affair that contributed in no small part to my childhood chub.
A classic Sunrise pie, though, is the Old World pepperoni. It’s loaded in marinara sauce, sprinkled with roasted green peppers, and topped with thick-cut pepperoni as well as a smattering of grated Romano. Normally I wouldn’t be down for a nearly cheese-less pizza; this is the exception. I swear to you, it is worth a quick stop off Route 80. Lest you doubt that a humble Ohio establishment can produce authentic Italian fare, draw your attention to this enlightening piece on organized crime in the Mahoning Valley. Saluti!
Jody Mosley, associate publisher
My favorite pizza topping is . . . mushrooms and jalapenos. I know it sounds bizarre but it’s actually delicious. The earthiness of the mushrooms, the saltiness of the cheese, the tangy tomato sauce is all brought to a new level of awesomeness by the spicy jalapeno. Trust me. And if you don’t trust me – fine! I didn’t come up with the combo. I first had this when I lived in Denver. It was as common a topping choice as pepperoni. Denverites like things spicy!