Author Topic: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review  (Read 15701 times)

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Offline pftaylor

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Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« on: March 21, 2006, 09:19:55 PM »
Pizza Rating: Excellent. The best pie we ate by far. $15.95 for 16", $12.95 for 12"
Appetizer Rating: Excellent. We ordered an authentic Caprese. $7.95
Desert Rating: Excellent. Authentic Ricotta Cheese Cake - What could be better? $5.95
Overall Rating: The best pizzeria we encountered on our trip by a wide margin.
Lesson Learned: When pizzanapoletana and Il Pizzaiolo speak, listen. No one knows pizza better.

I had mixed feelings as the taxi crawled by Anthony's Una Pizza Napoltana (UPN) which is also located in the East Village section of NY. I had even worse feelings when I realized that Luzzo's was literally located 250 yards from UPN. The only saving grace was that UPN was customarily closed. I have never been fortunate enough to swing by there when he is open. As fate would have it he was open when I emerged from Luzzo's, but we couldn't stop by his place on this occasion due to having to catch a plane Sunday night. Oh well, at least I have something to look forward to in the future.

Michael, the owner of Luzzo's comes from Naples and makes great Neapolitan pizza. At first blush his pizzas look like typical NYC style coal-fired pies. Char everywhere. 16" sizes. Fresh Mozzarella (which he makes on the premises). I had no clue until I took the first bite that Luzzo's was different. Very different. The crust had perfect texture. Perfect. Not good. But perfect.

I still cannot get the crust out of my mind nearly three days later. It had a wafer thin layer of crunch which encompassed a silly-soft interior. The crunch was unique and disappeared almost immediately in the mouth. The pillow soft interior was an addictive contrast. Together they overcame a somewhat bland crust flavor, uninteresting cheese, and a plain sauce. The crust's texture mainstreamed a "Bulls-Eye" message to my brain which rendered the other uninteresting ingredients rather meaningless. I knew immediately that Michael didn't employ a Biga with his crust, and he confirmed my surmise. I could only imagine how tremendous his pizza would taste if he did. His pie would be illegal. For a guy who loves crust, this is as good as I have ever eaten even with the noticeable defects mentioned. Funny how perfect texture can overcome weak areas.

We ordered two pies. A 16" Fresh Mozzarella Margherita and a 12" Margherita featuring imported Bufala. The 16" pie was the clear winner. I ended up having to salt both pies to coax any flavor out of the sauce and cheese. The 12" pie was very wet. Too wet for our liking and the cheese had a funny aftertaste. Almost bitter and bordering on funny tasting. The crust however was completely consumed. Not a scrap was left by my family. That is a first. Michael dressed my pies after cooking with a circular dousing of olive oil and a sprig or two of fresh basil.

I examined the two coal-fired ovens quite closely. They appeared to be recently refurbished and were surprisingly clean inside. They both looked new on the inside. Michael claims his pies cook between 75 and 85 seconds, but didn't know the temperature. I offered to bring my laser thermometer on my next visit and he is eagerly awaiting my return.

Pictures of our meal are offered for your review.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2006, 06:26:52 AM by pftaylor »
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Offline varasano

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2006, 10:58:29 PM »
hey pft,  I'm going to try this one on my next trip in early May

Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2006, 09:07:23 AM »
PF Taylor,

I am glad you like it and also glad of your conclusion... ;-)

As I said in my early post, the crust still needs attention and it is still far from a super neapolitan pizza, however I think it is the best product available in NYC so far.

Michele (Michael) is not really from Naples, but from the Caserta province, in the country side. He has a background in home bread baking, as well as many in the Caserta's country side, his house a bread brick oven.

the pizza doesn't really cook in 80 seconds but not much longer.

Ciao

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2006, 03:02:09 PM »
pizzanapoletana,
I'm glad to see you have survived after eating all the bad American pizza we have here in the States. Do not give up on your mission of teaching us the proper ways to produce true Neapolitan pizza. Our promise back to you is that we will never stop learning from you. It is a lifetime commitment I feel.

In that respect, I wonder if you could illuminate the specifics of what Michael at Luzzo's needs to improve on. While I may have never eaten a true Italian Neapolitan pizza, I have had my share of what we Americans call Neapolitan pizza (see my post re: Naples 45). Michael's pie is the best commercially produced pie I have ever eaten. It doesn't strike me as a Neapolitan pie however.

The only facet holding it back, in my opinion, is the lack of flavor in the crust. Humbly, I submit, that either a Raquel or a Sophia easily surpasses Michael's crust flavor. What I have never been able to produce is the delicate crunch of his crust. Michael's pie seemed to visually resemble a NY-apolitan pizza. The same look and feel as what I am striving for with Pizza Raquel. Here are some specific questions which I have formulated since eating at Luzzo's:
- Are 16" pies typically produced in Naples?
- His crust had a distinctive crunch. Is that a defect? You have discussed ideal crusts as being soft. Why is there such a large gap on this crucial point? Is it due to poor preparation techniques, poor oven performance, or something else?

« Last Edit: March 22, 2006, 03:28:28 PM by pftaylor »
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Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2006, 05:03:33 PM »
The largest pizza that is made in Naples is 35cm (I believe about 13").

The more noticeble defect to a less expert mouth then mine or Ron's is te lack of salt in the crust. However one girl in my party also notice a major secondary defect of the pizza, which I immediatelly explained to her before finding out I was right following a discussion with Michele.


I cannot discuss all the other points, but I can say that if you have noticed that Luzzo is far superior to any NY pizza, you will also appreciate when finally meeting the real neapolitan pizza....

Ciao

Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2006, 05:32:32 PM »
I could be crazy, but to me the pies did not seem to have fermented fully.  I think that would be an improvement. 

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2006, 05:59:24 PM »
pizzanapoletana,
Thank you for what knowledge you could share. Upon re-reading my original post I noticed I wrote that we added salt to enhance some flavor in the Fresh Mozzarella, Bufala and tomato sauce. I can now see that perhaps the cheese and sauce were lightly salted but the crust was lacking at least a 2% level. Also, you wrote that Michael's pizza is the best in NYC. I find that to be an amazing feat in light of the fact that you also desribed two major flaws in his pizza. Do I then have it right that Luzzo's is a superior pie than Anthony's at UPN? Am I to then draw the conclusion that the two best tasting pies in NYC are also the ones with the least mistakes?

scott r,
I'm glad you have joined in this discussion. I value your opinion a great deal. You have proven you know how to make a great pie and furthermore, you can describe why. You are one of the few members who have had the pleasure of tasting Michael's crust to boot. So a few questions are in order.

Did you also notice the ever-so-slight crunch of the crust? How does it compare to Anthony's at UPN? I read in another post of yours that Michael shared with you some facts about his preparation method. Did any part strike you as being unusual like they may have with pizzanapoletana?
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Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2006, 10:38:02 PM »
PFT, the studio I am working at right now is right around the corner from both of these excellent pizzerias so I am going to hit UPN tomorrow and Luzzo's again on friday to do a better comparison. When I hit luzzo's the other day it was lunch time and I wonder if the pizza would have a longer fermentation and a hotter oven for dinner. 

From what I remember about the last time I was at UPN the dough was not as light and airy as Luzzo's but it did have better flavor.  Anthony lets his dough get very sour, even more so than the pizzerias that I tried in Naples that used a starter.  He also uses a stronger olive oil, more and stronger basil, and less cheese than Luzzo's.  His pies explode with flavor, but are not as crisp and light as Luzzo's.  The whole crisp pizza thing is not what I found common in Naples.   To me the luzzo's pies were pretty much a Patsy's style pie but with better quality ingredients.

The only thing I found unusual about the pies at Luzzo's was maybe the crust. The sauce and Buffalo mozzarella seemed right on to me.   The crust seemed a little bit more similar to American style pizzas than the true Neapolitan.  I think they are kneading longer,fermenting shorter, and using a dryer dough than typical Neapolitan.  I did think the crust was lacking some flavor, but I didn't realize that it was the lower salt level.  Now that Marco mentions it, yes, they were light on the salt.  Again, more in line with a typical American style crust.  Also, the flour did seem different than the Caputo pizzeria that I am used to .  Again, it seemed more American, but funny, I think it might be the Poselli flour that I had at some of the pizzerias in Naples.

Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2006, 08:39:02 AM »
It is not the Polselli flour I have mentioned in the past. This is another "Molino" (miller) based around Naples, polselli is made in Frosinone (Lazio).
The Pizze I had a luzzo (3) were all as soft as the average Neapolitan pizzeria but still far from the top notch traditional ones. The leap forward necessary to reach that superior status needs quite a lot of experience that many pizzaioli lack..

PFT,

In my opinion (as well as Ron's) nobody as yet to make the real Pizza Napoletana in NYC, so the best would need to be the one that get closer then others..

UPN has only the name and passion of the true thing. As I said before, the pizza I have tested there were not cooked properly (burnt, all 6 ), did not have the fluffiness, and tested more like bread then pizza... This is the key! Pizza & Bread have the same root but then have followed different routes during history. That is why we should not confuse methodologies (like Biga, Poolish etc), with fermentation agents (Commercial yeast & wild yeast).
UPN uses a poolish method with a sourdough starter. The effect of this is that the pizza becomes very sour and also, what is more damaging, compromises the true characteristics  of a Pizza Napoletana.
Still, by using quality ingredients and passion, he manage to achieve better results that other places located in NYC.

Ciao


Offline varasano

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2006, 10:17:51 AM »
Sheeeshh....

Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2006, 06:42:06 PM »
Didn't make it to UPN today, as my only oppertunity for pizza was at lunch time.  I tried another place called Sezz Medi.  The pizza was definitely neapolitan and close to the quality of Luzzo's.  Anyone interested might want to check out my review.

Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2006, 12:35:39 PM »
Made it to Luzzo's a second time.  The pizza was again amazing.  The pizza was just like it was the other day, so I have a feeling they are very consistent as the pies on this second visit were even made by a different guy (the owner).  He was very nice and seems genuinely excited about pizza.  He was also kind enough to share with us his techniques.  I feel a little weird about disclosing them on the forum.  I wish I had asked him if it would be all right to do so. 

This may be the lightest pizza I have ever had.  It is so hard to describe here what I am talking about, but although the pizza is light the texture seems off from what I had in Naples.  As Marco has pointed out I am no expert on authentic Neapolitan pizza after only one visit to Naples so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I just wish it had the large voids with a more fluffy (not just light) texture and more character to the crumb.  I don't know if it is the lower salt content letting the yeast go crazy, or the unusual flour they are using, but it is almost like eating air.  I would prefer a dough made with a starter and more salt.  They are using a very elaborate process to make this dough, and they are blending an American flour in with an Italian (not Caputo) flour.

I feel bad that I have been pointing out what I think are some weaknesses with this pizza, but I really did like the pizza.  I am such a harsh critic.  I have spent so much time perfecting my recipe and mixing/dough management techniques to my tastes that it might very well just be that anything different from my style of crust would taste sub par to me.  I think that anybody that goes to Luzzo's will absolutely fall in love with the pizza and more than likely think it is the best pizza they have ever had.  We had just come from around the corner eating pizza at Una Pizza Napoletanna when I tried Luzzo's this second time.  It was very interesting to see how the two pizzerias approached their Neapolitan inspired pies.  Between the two I could not pick a "better" pizza, as they were such different products.  The pies at UPN were much less soft, and in my opinion were a little dry, but they did have the most amazing flavor I have ever had in a pizza.  From this trip I think that in some ways Sezz Medi' might actually be slightly closer to what I had in Naples than Luzzo's, but so far Luzzo's and UPN tie for the best pizza I have had yet in the US.  I am anxiously awaiting a visit to Pittsburgh in the near future.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2006, 11:50:54 AM by scott r »

Offline scpizza

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2006, 07:29:41 AM »
Ate at Luzzo's and UPN and both are excellent but very distinct pizzas.  I felt Luzzo's had more traditional pizza-like flavor while UPN was more sour and salty with a lot of olive oil on it.

I chatted with Anthony at UPN mentioning my attempts to use quarry tile at home and he said he tried it as a kid but it never worked.  He recommended instead pre-cooking the cust with a light brush of olive oil then adding the sauce, etc. and cooking again.  He also explained he imports all his wood from Europe, not for flavor but for even burning quality - when added to the hot oven it immediately kindles and does not temporarily take the oven temperature down as US produced woods do.

I asked permission to use my Raytek MT6 on his oven and he readily agreed.  Immediately at the base of the wood, the temp read approximately 950F tapering down across the floor of the oven to 750F at the far side.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2006, 07:59:39 AM »
He also explained he imports all his wood from Europe, not for flavor but for even burning quality - when added to the hot oven it immediately kindles and does not temporarily take the oven temperature down as US produced woods do.

Any idea what kind of wood? That is most unusual - importing wood from Europe? Must be very expensive.  You sure he wasn't pulling your leg?

I use domestic pecan and oak and have no problem keeping an even temp. The "burning quality" seems dependent on the degree of seasoning of the wood and the size of the logs. 

Bill/SFNM
« Last Edit: June 15, 2006, 09:37:30 AM by Bill/SFNM »

Offline scpizza

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2006, 09:17:27 AM »
He mentioned what kind of wood, but I forgot.  He said it came from forests near Russia.  This article on UPN says it's birch:

http://www.nypost.com/food/mystic_pizza_food_andrea_strong.htm

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2006, 09:36:58 AM »
Well this guy has definitely baked a gagillion more pies than I have, so who am I to say he is crazy? But the use of imported wood seems ridiculous to me. He must have an unusual oven or the suppliers of wood in his area don't know how to season it properly or he is just hyping to stand out from the competition.  Does he think pizza makers in Naples import wood from Russia?  ???

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Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2006, 08:49:56 PM »
Now we know why he charges 17 bucks for a small plain pizza.




Offline David

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2006, 09:40:13 PM »
  He also explained he imports all his wood from Europe, not for flavor but for even burning quality - when added to the hot oven it immediately kindles and does not temporarily take the oven temperature down as US produced woods do.

I don't get it?I'm betting $4-6K /container plus actual lumber cost and then storage for a wood than although good,does not burn as hot as Oak?I know he is one of the few who uses the Neapolitan sawdust technique for adding a quick burst of heat / flame,but this I just don't understand.Marco had previously commented that his oven was not right  and problematic at the Manhattan location and he used a modular pre-fab at his previous spot,so why would he go to all the expense and trouble of sourcing his European seasoned wood before getting the oven right?Still, it makes for a more interesting story on an Editors Desk.
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Offline scott r

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2006, 10:08:40 PM »
Wow, just read the article and the pies are 19 dollars now.


Offline pizzanapoletana

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2006, 08:05:00 AM »
If he really imports the wood, and from East Europe/Russia, I believe it is Beech (Fagus sylvatica), which as I said before, IS THE BEST wood to burn in a pizza oven. When well seasoned, it burns for long and produce the perfect characoal to keep the floor at temperature. I have heard numerous complaints from professional pizzamakers in various part of the US about not finding the proper wood and/or seasoned enough. Domestic Beech is almost impossible to find, apparently. I have personally used all sort of fruit/nut woods as well as oak, beech and olive, and have to say that the top 2 woods have to be Beech and olive.


Ciao

PS there is beech wood imported from east europe even in Italy.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2006, 09:07:23 AM »
Wow, Marco, that is really interesting. I would guess that the fuel has to be the most expensive ingredient in the pizza.

I have had a chance to use California olive wood in my BBQ pit and I liked it very much - burned very hot and the coal bed did last a long time - but it is nothing I can easily obtain. Pecans are a major crop in this region, so getting well-seasoned pecan wood is very easy, as is oak. I just fired up my oven and am enjoying the sweet smell of pecan and oak wood.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2006, 04:52:02 PM »
For more photos of Luzzo's pizzas, see http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=luzzo%27s+pizza.

Peter

Offline David

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2006, 10:58:10 AM »
My Wife and I stopped in for lunch yesterday at Luzzo's.Predictably I had a Margherita and she had a Sausage,both with Bufala.This was my first time here and although i found it good,I must admit i was not exactly "Blown Away".
This is deffinitely one of the lightest Pizzas i have had,but I thought that the crust lacked flavor and was somewhat bland.It had the light crispness and soft chew on the cornicone that we associate with this type of pizza,but I was expecting something more pronounced either in texture or flavor from the san felice?The airiness of the cornicone was easily better than any I  have ever had at UPN .The bottom of the pizza was very soft ,though almost "Leathery" for want of a better term.I was sat far away from the oven,so didn't pay any attention to the timing or methods used during prep.The single leaf of Basil was obviously added after the pizza left the oven and very little olive oil was apparent.I enjoyed the quite acidic taste of the Tomatoes used,and the tangy bufala.Personally I like my pizza to be a "Molten Pool" of combined cheese/tomatoes/Evoo. (as found @UPN).Here it was not the case.I expect that due to the higher temperature of the Coal Oven,the crust was cooked faster than the cheese and as such had left  little firm mounds of chewy semi melted buffala to adorn the surface,another case for Wood v Coal IMO.Overall I would say that although I enjoyed my lunch,i left somewhat underwhelmed.To date,the best Neapolitan style pie I have had in a restaurant in the US has been at IL Pizzaiolo in Pittsburgh  which could only have been improved IMO with a slightly hotter oven (again for lunch).
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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2006, 01:16:28 PM »
During my recent visit to NYC I had a chance to try Luzzo’s. About a week before, I had visited Una Pizza Napoletana so I was anxious to compare the pizzas produced by both places. I arrived at Luzzo’s at around 5 PM on a Saturday night. At that time of evening, I was only the second patron in the restaurant. For those who are interested, the restaurant is fairly long and narrow, with seating for about 60-70 people. In front of the oven itself, there are larger tables that can accommodate larger groups. Since Luzzo’s takes reservations, that is the area to book for larger groups. Unlike UPN, which basically has Anthony Mangieri and a couple of waitpersons, Luzzo’s has a much larger staff. Given the comparative sizes of the two restaurants, this should not be surprising.

I was hoping to meet and speak about pizza with the owner Michael, but he was scheduled to arrive after I left the restaurant. The pizza maker who was then on duty said he did not speak English. So I cannot add to whatever is already known about the Luzzo pizza dough.

As I did at UPN, I ordered the Pizza Margherita with bufala di mozzarella cheese. I pretty much agree with David’s analysis of the pizza, except that I appear to have liked the pizza more than David did. The cheese was indeed chewier than at UPN, but the tart flavor of the tomato sauce (which was present in abundance) and the softness, lightness, and airiness of the crust were quite pleasing. I agree with David that the crust was not as flavorful as at UPN, but it was still nice.

As between the UPN and Luzzo’s Margherita pizzas, I would give the nod to UPN, mainly because I preferred the Caputo crust to the San Felice crust and the more delicate nature of the bufala. However, since the prices at Luzzo’s are lower than at UPN, by several dollars a pie, one may be able to argue that Luzzo’s is a better value. I would be perfectly satisfied with either pizza.

Peter

Offline pftaylor

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Re: Luzzo's Pizzeria Review
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2006, 04:10:45 PM »
I had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a certain moderator of this board over the Thanksgiving holiday. Where did we decide to meet? You guessed it - Luzzo's in the East Village.

And Una Pizza Napoletana. I finally had the pleasure of tasting Anthony's pies.

Oh, and for good measure I managed to say hi to Charlie at Naples 45 where my family ordered a 1/2 meter Margherita and a white pie.

Finally, my family wondered up to Spanish Harlem on our way back to La Guardia and we devoured a couple of Jose's latest.

Over the coming days, I will submit pictures and subjective thoughts of the other pizzas in the original threads for their establishments but know this - my revised rank order is as follows based upon this visit:
1) Luzzo's
2) Patsy's
3) Naples 45
4) UPN

We ordered a couple of pies from Michael and he did not disappoint us with the quality of his pies. The abundant char was emblematic of an elite NY style pie. As a result, his crust was the best of the bunch. While I could not denote any additional flavoring due to his odd preferment process, it must of added somehow to the complex texture which led the pack. Wafer thin exterior with a silly soft middle - just like I imagined. He has switched to using only high quality fresh bufala cheese which was astronomically priced according to Michael. His choice of tomatoes produced the best balanced overall flavor I encountered during my trip.

My pizza savvy friend tried his best to pin Michael down on his exact dough formula and mixing process but I'm still uncertain if I can properly convey what I heard. Suffice to say that Michael admitted to intentionally deceiving another senior member of this board who prides himself on making authentic NY style pies. As Michael so eloquently put it "I will always keep one secret about my recipe. No one will ever really know what I'm doing."

Perhaps my dining companion will choose to illuminate the membership on our experience. My summation would be that Michael is having fun making pies the way his grandmother instructed him to. Other than that, I'm not sure I would trust anything as fact. His story changed at least three times in front of me.

All I know is his grandmother clearly knew best.
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