In this week’s magazine, we present a list of the top twenty pizzas in New York, the result of many months of research, not to mention a lifetime of extreme carbo-loading. We analyzed cheeses, scrutinized sauce, and publicly poked and prodded our cornicioni. We noted char, checked for interior air pockets, and listened intently like a doctor with a stethoscope for the faintest audible crunch. In short, our idea of a good time.
Pizza, of course, is a popular — and, who knew? — touchy subject, and the critics have already weighed in to voice their opinions of our list. Even as we type, the charges of blatant corruption and/or mental incapacity continue to roll in — leaving us with the impression that if we escape the ordeal without being forcibly unclothed in public or made to wear a scarlet letter “P” around our necks, we should consider ourselves lucky. But before we sign off on the subject and relocate to an out-of-the-way dirt hut in Brazil or maybe Siberia, we would like to mention a few noteworthy places that didn’t make the cut, owing to space limitations, which will either mollify our readers or incense them even more.
San Marzano came on the scene stealthily this winter, and has mostly gone under the pizza-cognoscenti radar (perhaps because of its California Pizza Kitchen–ish willingness to outfit its pies with toppings like “Buffalo” chicken and Gorgonzola, which actually works quite nicely in the calzone). That’s a shame, especially since the Lower East Side joint produces such a tender-crusted Margherita, made with fresh mozzarella and bright, zingy sauce, and it’s the only place we can think of that sells wood-burning-oven pizza by the slice.
Then there’s Pizza Mezzaluna, the marble-countered offshoot of the Upper East Side’s venerable Mezzaluna, where pizzaiolo Francesco Vitale stoked the wood-burning oven for years. Downtown, in the old DeMarco’s takeout space, he bakes pies that are light and fragrant, cracking only slightly at the rim when folded, and topped with characteristic Neapolitan restraint. We’re partial to his Stromboli, a pungent combination of olives, capers, anchovy, and sun-dried tomatoes, which we like to doctor with Vitale’s special chile peppers in oil. Vitale invented his seven-inch pizzette as a tasty, single-serving answer to the eternal request for grab-and-go slices, and he can make one to order in about the time it takes to reheat a slice-joint slab.
Toby’s Public House has delivered high-quality, wood-oven pizza to Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, and the house style has seemed to evolve from Neapolitan upon opening to a crisper, thinner Roman permutation. You don’t expect to find two serious Italian pizzaioli in what otherwise seems to be a cozy Irish sports bar, but there they are, turning out terrific Bufalina DOCs, and a signature pizza lavished with black truffle cream, truffle oil, and a few gossamer shavings of prosciutto cotto.
We reserve a special place in our hearts, too, for Pizza Moto, the portable wood-fired pizza oven that David Sclarow tows to Brooklyn Flea every Saturday, where folks line up for his amorphous, randomly charred Neapolitan-style pies. And we can’t neglect the toothsome pies at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Mario Batali’s brave experiment in griddled pizza. They, too, have their detractors, but we think they’re the best thing to happen to pizza delivery since the invention of that little plastic doohickey — you know, the one that prevents the pie from sticking to the top of the cardboard box.