For most people the Big Apple conjures up images of the Statue of Liberty, Broadway or the Empire State Building. Though for the food obsessed among us Pizza is the first thing that springs to mind. This Italian staple can be found in every style you can imagine here in NYC; whether you prefer thin-crust, or deep-dish; extra sauce, or more cheese; simple-and-plain, or loaded with toppings, you’ll find it here. As a self-confessed pizza addict, I am a tough critic when it comes to finding the perfect pie.
Lucky for me, I live in one of the best cities in the world to satisfy my deep and everlasting love for pizza. Thickness of the dough, sauce, quality of toppings and, of course, the crust are harshly critiqued when hunting for excellence. Identifying the very best joints can be difficult when there’s a pizzeria on practically every corner, and some are considered landmarks by foodies and critics alike. Whatever your preference, there is an ideal pizza for everyone in NYC.
I’ve done the not-so-painstaking work of narrowing down the best on offer; from my favourite pizza joints, to the best ‘pizza by the slice’ spots.
Speedy Romeo, Clinton Hill and East Village, NY
Quirky pizza names and daring topping combinations at this auto-shop turned pizzeria are what make Speedy Romeo a firm favourite in New York for wood-fired pizzas. The standout thin-crust pies have a remarkable smokey flavour from the wood oven like no other. Both restaurants are minimalistic, allowing the pizzas to be the star of the show. Creative pairings like the Dick Dale, a pie topped with speck, pineapple, provel and grilled scallions or the brunch only Lox pizza are the reason why Speedy Romeo is a must-visit for both traditional and creative Neapolitan pizza hybrids.
Sottocasa, Boerum Hill, Williamsburg and Harlem, NY
“Sotto” meaning under and “Casa” translating as home, is how this traditional pizzeria began. Nestled under a bustling footpath below a house in Brooklyn hides a cute and homely pizzeria with a warm and friendly vibe, specialising in Neapolitan pies loaded with fresh ingredients. The staff and owners are so welcoming and really know their stuff, if they recommend something, trust them. The talented Pizzaiolos manage to create genuine Italian flavours which you would think are unachievable so far from Naples. I am obsessed with the Quattro Stagioni, a thin, charred base with a traditional soupiness in the centre that’s layered generously with rich tomatoes, milky mozzarella, juicy black olives, a variety of mushrooms, Italian ham, artichoke hearts and basil. My mouth is watering even thinking about it!
Kesté Pizza & Vino, 271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
‘Kesté’ in Italian means “this is it” and I certainly agree! This tiny West Village pizzeria serves mouth-watering pizzas exactly like those you would find in Naples. Friendly, knowledgeable service, a cosy atmosphere, great pizza and a nice wine selection makes this spot faultless. Everything from the creamy, chewy cheese generously spread throughout, to the soft expertly cooked crust makes their pies some of the best in the city. The hand-shaped crust has just the right amount of char to balance the slightly soupy centre, which is distinctive of this style of pizza. They also do takeaway and delivery but, this is an experience that needs to be enjoyed straight out of the wood burning oven. As tempting as it may be to try something creative from the menu I recommend sticking to the humble Margherita, I promise you will not be disappointed.
Olio e Piú, 3 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014
Being an al fresco dining enthusiast I cannot resist this West Village Trattoria. Ample outdoor seating nestled amongst dinky flower pots and plants may draw you in but the pizza is the true hero here. Naples meets NYC with thin-crust pizza, Italian wines and the most wonderful laid back atmosphere. I enjoyed a traditional Margherita generously strewn with fresh basil and the addition of salty, rich Italian black olives was the perfect pairing to cut through the creamy mozzarella. The crust was magnificently crunchy with just the right amount of doughiness to soak up the wide variety of flavoured olive oils they have on offer. Olio e Piú is a true dining pleasure and one not to be missed.
Roberta’s, 261 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206
This Brooklyn phenomenon is a famous destination for authentic wood-fired pizzas. The true Neapolitan style transports you to Italy with every mouthful. Expect long waits, but when the pizza is this good you won’t mind being a part of the trend. Roberta’s consists of communal farm tables each with a perfect view of their signature brick oven and an outside bar with benches to seat the abundance of hungry pizza lovers. Try the ‘Bee Sting’, a spicy soppressata and honey combo, where the sweetness of the runny honey cuts through the crispy spiced soppressata. The tomato sauce is magnificent, the cheese faultlessly distributed and lusciously creamy and the chewy crust, spotted with little charred bubbles is unrivalled. These pizzas are so popular that you can even buy them frozen in Wholefoods stores.
Union Pizza Works, 423 Troutman St, Brooklyn, NY 11237
This garage-like pizzeria serves authentic Italian food in the heart of Bushwick. Hidden amongst the derelict looking, graffitied warehouses you’ll find delicious wood-fired pies that match the standard at Robertas without the two hour long wait. The trendy, laid back atmosphere and spacious outdoor patio ensure a relaxed evening every time with truly memorable pizzas.
Ribalta, 48 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003
When I’m craving pizza in the city after work my go-to pizza joint is Ribalta, a lively pizzeria in the heart of Union Square in Manhattan with the most perfect sauce to mozzarella ratio I have come across so far on my journey.
Lombardi’s, 32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
This landmark pizzeria, bang in the middle of Little Italy, has been nailing the thin crust coal-fired Neapolitan pizza since 1905. When a pizza joint has been around this long you know it must be good. Albeit a tourist trap known worldwide for being the “first pizzeria in America”, everyone should visit at least once not only for the claim to fame but also to enjoy the ‘standard plain pie’. This classic was way ahead of it’s time and has barely changed over the past one hundred years, the simple grouping of fresh mozzarella, crushed san marzano tomatoes, romano cheese and basil is what Lombardi’s is most famous for. It may not be as authentic as it’s trendy decedents Speedy Romeo or Roberta’s, but this age old joint has been succeeding at making delicious pizzas for over a century and that’s saying something.
There are few things more satisfying than a New York style pizza bought by the slice, you can practically get a waft of dough cooking and cheese melting on every other street. Traditionally served in large slices these crisp along the edge yet soft and pliable enough to fold in half and devour are the perfect snack on the go, a quick lunch or a way to satisfy the late night hunger pangs for many New Yorkers, and I don’t blame them.
Joe’s Pizza, Various Locations, NY
Joes is the figure of New York pizza slice perfection. The plain cheese slice is the quintessential NY slice and is what shot Joes into stardom. Ultra-thin and crispy yet perfectly chewy, generously topped with tomato sauce and lashings of melted cheese they achieve the precise crust vs. toppings balance and most importantly can be picked up and folded in two without cracking or making a mess.
Prince Street Pizza, 27 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
Breaking the mould, Prince Street serves thick square pies and the slices that come from them are phenomenal. Meat lovers should look no further than the Spicy Spring. These huge squares are crispy, bready and are topped with salty mozzarella, generously lathered in tomato sauce and most importantly are piled high with curls of pepperoni that cradle pools of pepperoni oil.
I can’t wait to continue eating my way around New York cities pizzerias and uncover even more delicious places one slice at a time.
I moved to New York in November 2015 on a graduate visa after studying communication studies in DCU. I am currently working in a Food PR company in Soho where I can incorporate my love of all things food related and my career. I like to spend my free time wining and dining with friends, cooking or reading cookbooks/blogs and I am forever on the hunt for new places to try. I will be continuing to eat my way around New York City over the coming months and I’m sure that the proof of my foodie escapades will be shared on my Instagram.