One rainy afternoon at the WSWD offices, our conversation came around to, as it often does, the contentious, dangerous topic of pizza. Specifically, where to get the best in town.
Our squabbling was soon silenced, though, by an unassuming yet authoritative voice from yonder, beyond the copy machine and across the conference table: It was our tech guy. Mark Romano is a man of few but powerful words—and it turns out that many of them have to do with pizza. From his nuanced understanding of Totonno’s coal-oven baking techniques to his impassioned case for the superiority of the square slice at Di Fara (gasp!), Mark’s deep and surprising pizza knowledge had us quickly deferring to him on all matters of crust, sauce, and cheese.
Here, our Slice Sage shares his many, many picks for the best pizza in NYC.
The Three Pillars (of Pizza)
Mark has labeled the West Village “The Pizzaluminati” for a reason. The lucky ones who live in this homey hood most likely have weekly anxiety attacks: Should they commit to John’s old-school brick-oven whole pies or grab one of Joe’s “perfect” New York slices? Mark weighs in:
“Overall, I would have to say John’s holds the West Village throne most often for me, but that said, I would be honored to have a seat at any of their tables. Bleecker Street, Joe’s, and John’s are the heroes we deserve.” 278 Bleecker Street (between Morton and Jones Streets), West Village
“Few can match the flavor and impeccable crisp of Bleecker Street’s Nonna Maria pie. Don’t be fooled by the looks of some imposter Margherita slices.” 69 Seventh Avenue South (between Barrow and Jones Streets), West Village
“It’s an impressive feat to have consistency in excellence in all four of its locations. It’s like the security blanket of NYC. If a security blanket could be made out of pizza.” 7 Carmine Street (between Bleecker Street and Sixth Avenue), West Village
The New Kids on the Cheesy Block
These new West Village hot spots, though, are giving the Pizzaluminati a run for their mozz…err…money. But which ones do it for Mark?
“Everyone is aware of the namesake slice. Some love it, some guffaw at it. But people often overlook their excellent Margherita pie. The generous amount of Pecorino they sprinkle on the pizza at the end is such an amazing touch—very reminiscent of Di Fara and Totonno’s. Many joints overlook this final brushstroke. I say unto them, Shame!” 111 MacDougal Street (between Minetta Lane and Bleecker Street), West Village
“Emily gets a tip of the hat for overall creativity. It excels at throwing together nontraditional toppings (pickled daikon, miso queso, kimchi, and Szechuan oil just to name a few).” 35 Downing Street (between Bedford and Varick Streets), West Village
“Finally a pizza you can eat with your vegan/gluten-free friends where you’ll say ‘This is good’ instead of ‘This isn’t bad.’’’ 271 Bleecker Street (between Jones and Cornelia Streets), West Village
Be There and Be Square
Grandma slice, Sicilian, the Square—these nicknames all reference the most controversial pizza shape. Should we groove to Huey Lewis—“It’s hip to be square”—or stay true to the ancient Greeks, who revered the circle? Mark takes it from here:
“This might upset pizza traditionalists out there, but this square slice has quickly become one of my new addictions. It’s more like a masterful bread-pizza hybrid. The wizards of wheat here have crafted a matchless thin, crispy, airy crust.” 600 Eleventh Avenue (between West 44th and 45th Streets), Hell’s Kitchen
“I wish I could be shrunken into a human small enough to live on a Prince Street slice. That pillowy soft dough would be better than any bed on the market. Or to be able to just curl up into a ball and nap in those pepperoni craters.” 27 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott Streets), Nolita
“Call me crazy, but I enjoy Di Fara’s square more than its standard round. The stronger crust on the square gives Dom DeMarco’s masterful ingredient selection a much better platform to stand on.” 1424 Avenue J, Midwood
The Skinny on the Thins
New York thin-crust style has a lot of competition, but when you’ve been in the game for 93 years, there is really no competition to be had.
“Pies here are like a work of art. When creating art, you do not rush the process—and the chefs do not rush for anyone.The pies defy gravity with a superthin crust in the middle of the pie, but a cloudlike softness right on the edge. The fresh mozzarella and sauce are portioned perfectly, creating a beautiful landscape reminiscent of a red-and-white–flowered rolling prairie. The white pie is also a beaut; it comes out of the oven with these magnificent air bubbles that make the mozz glisten even more.” 1524 Neptune Avenue, Coney Island
“Don’t hold back: Order a whole pie for yourself here. You’ll inhale the cracker-thin crust in minutes.” 168 First Avenue (between East 10th and 11th Streets), East Village
“Rubirosa puts a ’grammable spin on the original Joe & Pat’s recipe. Delicious for your eyes—and taste buds.” 235 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring Streets), Nolita
The Pizza Pilgrimage: How Far Wood You Go?
To get the best wood-fired pies, Manhattanites must trek across some bridges and through some tunnels. But hey, if they’ll make the schlep to the Fulton Ferry District for a $99 drawer set at Ikea, pizza should prove to be an even worthier cause.
“Very few places execute the marriage of creative yet simple toppings, sturdy dough/crust, and fresh ingredients. The chef-owner here prides himself on sourcing the best ingredients from the Garden State. As a proud Jersey native, I can attest to the glory that is the New Jersey tomato. Every so often in life you find a perfect balance of everything where it feels like the planets align and nothing can go wrong.” 275 Grove Street, Jersey City, New Jersey
“Roberta’s brought the pizza party—and the Manhattanites—to Bushwick with its perfectly charred and chewy pies. There’s a reason you can’t avoid a line.” 261 Moore Street, Bushwick
“Your third cousin twice removed probably reported seeing Jay-Z and Beyoncé here once. Royals gotta pay their respects to other sovereignties.” 575 Henry Street, Carroll Gardens