Pizza might as well be New York City's official dish. A slice represents a quick lunch for busy New Yorkers, who take it to go, hurriedly eating while walking down the street. It's salvation to visitors who need a quick, inexpensive snack between sightseeing stops. It's often said that the best way to start an argument (a friendly one, of course) between two New Yorkers is to ask where to find the best slice. In the interest of furthering that heated discussion, we offer our 16 favorite slices in NYC.
Famous Joe's Pizza
7 Carmine St., 212-366-1182, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
150 E. 14th St., 212-388-9474, East Village, Manhattan
Let's start with Famous Joe's Pizza and its plain slice—the quintessential New York slice. Ultrathin and crisp, yet chewy, it's flexible enough to fold without cracking and making a mess. The perfect slice is all about balance among crust, sauce and cheese. Joe's achieves it, with just the right amount of bright, fresh-tasting tomato sauce and enough cheese to satisfy (but not so much as to overwhelm things).
33 Havemeyer St., 718-599-2210, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The current pizza trend in New York City is the mania for wood-fired pies. That usually means Neapolitan-style pizza, served whole-pie-only and in a sit-down context. But our guide focuses on slices, and Best Pizza offers some of the only wood-fired, by-the-slice pizza in the City. Best marries old-school Brooklyn pizza with serious cooking chops. The head pizza man there, Frank Pinello, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and his new-school approach can be seen (and tasted) on the joint's white slice—"white" because it forgoes tomato sauce. Instead, it's topped with fresh ricotta and a judicious amount of caramelized onion. Along the crust, a dusting of sesame seeds lends an oven-toasted nuttiness that complements the sweetness of the onions. This is a white slice for people who normally don't go for this style.
Louie & Ernie's
1300 Crosby Ave., 718-829-6230, Throgs Neck, The Bronx
The plain slice at Louie & Ernie's is among the best in NYC, loaded with plenty of sharp Parmesan cheese for a tangy bite, but the sausage slice is what you need to get here. The juicy, fennel-studded pork, applied by the fistful, comes from S&D Pork Store, an Italian provisioner located just down the street. You really do need to go native for this one and fold your slice, since the sausage, which is thrown on a plain slice and reheated briefly, tends to fall off otherwise. Think of the slice as a sausage-delivery system—a great one.
Joe & Pat's
1758 Victory Blvd., 718-981-0887, Castleton Corners, Staten Island
Sadly, the vodka slice is something even many New Yorkers are unfamiliar with—or just don't order often enough. The tomato sauce on this slice is extra-savory thanks to the use of the namesake spirit in the recipe. It's there to bring out flavors in the tomato that are only soluble in alcohol. A generous amount of Parmesan cheese and pancetta in the mix doesn't hurt, either. It all comes together to create a rich-tasting slice that needs no further topping. (Needless to say, the slice may look meat-free, but vegetarians should skip it.)
L&B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th St., 718-449-1230, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
No slice guide would be complete without a nod to L&B Spumoni Gardens, which practically defines the perfect Sicilian slice. Whereas a "regular" New York slice is thin and triangular, a Sicilian is thick and rectangular (though often referred to by New Yorkers as a "square slice"). Sicilian pizza also often reverses the cheese-above-sauce arrangement, as at L&B, where the mozzarella is layered directly atop the dough, almost melding with the crust as the pizza bakes. Most people request corner or edge slices for the crispness, but a center slice at L&B is something else entirely—gooey and almost lasagna-like in texture. Grab plenty of napkins.
Rizzo's Fine Pizza
30-13 Steinway St., 718-721-9862, Astoria, Queens
Rizzo's is known throughout the City for its thin-crust Sicilian slice, a beautifully composed tableau with rectangles of creamy, slightly browned and crisp mozzarella floating atop a deep-red pool of tangy, garlic-infused sauce sprinkled with a heap of Parmesan and Romano, sharp and salty. Most Sicilian slices are thick, doughy affairs that are meals unto themselves. But at Rizzo's, a single crisp Sicilian slice will quickly lead to another.
Sal and Carmine
2671 Broadway, 212-663-7651, Upper West Side, Manhattan
Sal and Carmine is another benchmark by which to judge a great New York slice. Like at Famous Joe's, the slice here is a study in understatement. The crust is properly thin, crisp and foldable, with just enough whole-fat mozzarella pulling away from your bite in melty strings. Sal and Carmine uses a hefty amount of Parmesan on the pizza, which adds plenty of flavor and just as much saltiness—some say too much. If you're salt-averse, you've been warned.
2287 First Ave., 212-534-9783, East Harlem, Manhattan
Coal ovens are a rarity these days. Though used by bakeries throughout NYC at the turn of the 20th century and then later by pizzerias, they've been put out of service by tightening environmental laws and the hassle and expense of fueling them. Pizza aficionados seek out pizzerias that use them because these ovens' high heat create a crust that's unlike what you get from the typical gas oven—lighter, airier and thinner with a patchwork of charred bits that impart a slightly smoky flavor. The Patsy's in East Harlem is one of only two places in NYC where you can order coal-oven pizza by the slice (the other is Sac's Place in Astoria).
200 Park Ave., 212-972-7001, Midtown East, Manhattan
Naples 45 might be rightly known for its certified-authentic Neapolitan pizzas, but its slice counter makes a phenomenal New York–style pizza that's perfect for the kind of grab-and-go eating that seems to be the rule in Midtown during lunch hours. Instead of heading for the dining room, always packed with business types, make a right and you'll find Naples to Go, a pizzeria within a pizzeria. The default "New York Margherita" slice is good enough—able to hold its own with some of the storied coal-oven joints in the City—but the pepperoni slice is something else, almost the platonic ideal of pepperoni pizza. The thick meaty rounds, crisp at the edges, curl up on baking into little cups holding bits of oil. If that's not your thing, soak up the extra grease with some napkins—just don't miss this slice.
22-55 31st St., 718-728-2920, Astoria, Queens
One of the things that draws people to visit, live or remain in New York City is the sense of the unexpected, the thrill of discovering something amazing in a completely random place. Take the pizza slices at Rosario's Deli in Astoria. By all appearances, Rosario's is a typical Italian deli. Boxes and boxes of imported pastas line an entire wall. A refrigerator case of Italian cheeses and meats greets you as you enter. But locals know that in the back of the store is one of NYC's best pizza slices. It might have something to do with owner Rosario DiMarco's access to great ingredients. Imported Italian tomatoes are cooked down to a concentrated savory sauce, and the mozzarella cheese is freshly made in the deli several times a day.
328 E. 14th St., 212-228-2004, East Village, Manhattan
114 Tenth Ave., 212-792-9200, Chelsea, Manhattan
111 MacDougal St., 646-278-6100, Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Artichoke Basille's is best known for its artichoke slice, a creamy blend of sautéed artichoke hearts, garlic and spinach that's almost like a party dip on a pizza. It has fans among legions of late-night barhoppers who line up out the door for a quick meal before heading home. But the Sicilian slice here might be even better. Cooked in large rectangular pans, the crust is oily and crisp and almost fried in places. It's topped with three cheeses: fresh mozzarella, regular mozzarella and a scattering of good-quality Pecorino Romano. Add to that a post-bake handful of basil and a pour of olive oil, and you've got an enormously satisfying slice.
1910 Hylan Blvd., 718-979-4700, Grant City, Staten Island
A relative newcomer in Staten Island, where the borough's legendary pizzerias date back decades, Sharkey's Square opened in the summer of 2010, drawing immediate comparisons to L&B Spumoni Gardens. The slices here are a little denser but still layer the cheese right on top of the dough, which itself is a bit sweet. The sauce is rich and garlic-laden and also leans to the sweet side. It's a slice that should keep Sicilian fans on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Famous Frank's Original Pizza
2823 Middletown Road, 718-892-8202, Country Club, The Bronx
The grandma slice (also known as a "nonna slice") is a Long Island invention that has made some inroads into New York City in the last decade. Essentially a thin-crust Sicilian, it's also defined by its thick, cooked-down, garlicky sauce—and often by the fact that said sauce goes on last, in visually pleasing diagonal stripes. Frank's nails all the hallmarks in a thoroughly old-school NYC setting.
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J, 718-258-1367, Midwood, Brooklyn
There is almost no pizzeria in NYC these days more polarizing than Di Fara. Known for its hours-long waits and high prices ($5 for a regular slice), it has as many detractors as rabid fans. It's a must-visit pizzeria, though—if only to say you've been. The slice to get here is the semi-dried cherry tomato pizza, a recent addition (relatively speaking, that is—the place has been around since 1964) to the pizzeria's menu. The partially dried tomatoes offer juicy hits of concentrated flavor, like summer distilled into a bite. In fact, the semi-dried cherry tomato pizza has become so popular that according to Di Fara manager Margaret Mieles, it has eclipsed the pizzeria's artichoke slice as its number one specialty slice.
Prince Street Pizza
27 Prince St., 212-966-4100, NoLITa, Manhattan
These days Prince Street Pizza is a bit of an anomaly in NoLITa—a workaday slice shop nestled among tony boutiques and sit-down cafés. But Prince Street serves no ordinary slice, and it has the celebrity clientele to prove it (as witnessed by the gallery of framed photos that line the walls). The regular round pizzas here would be standouts anywhere else, but the thicker square pies and the slices that come from them are phenomenal and are the thing to get. Carnivores should absolutely steer toward the Spicy Spring, piled with crisp pepperoni, cupped to cradle pools of pepperoni oil. The Prince Perfection lives up to its name—a spot-on square slice topped first with mozzarella and then a tangy sauce atop the cheese (also known as an "upside-down" slice).
265 Union Ave., 718-596-6584, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Pizza aficionados and old-time New Yorkers often lament that the City’s slices have been going downhill for years. That sentiment might be a bit of nostalgia speaking, but if you believe it, then you would do well to get to Williamsburg Pizza. Along with Best (see above), Williamsburg Pizza is carrying the torch for the kind of simple but magical slices New York City is known for. The regular round and the grandma slices are equally good—but the Tartufo (mozzarella, wild mushrooms, rosemary, truffle oil), grandma style, is fantastic.