Author Topic: NYC Pizza Reviews  (Read 2592 times)

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Offline Sacs

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NYC Pizza Reviews
« on: August 31, 2005, 12:39:51 PM »
My wife and I went to NYC this past weekend to try all the pizza I've been reading about.We were able to hit 8 places in two days ( not easy since most don't serve slices). We tried the margherita style at every place.I guess I'll list them from the ones I liked the least to my favorites.

8- Una Pizza Napoletana- Man, I really wanted to love this pizza after all that I've read about it. It's a small place a little bit out of the way. They were supposed to open at 5:00, but we sat there waiting for service for at least a half hour. That didn't really bother me though because we grabbed a menu that had a detailed description of the pizza and why it is better than the others. The owner Anthony Mangieri finally waited on us, and made the pizza. He obviously has a serious passion for his pizza. He made the pie just like I've seen it done in Naples. He makes the pizza on a stone (?) counter and slides it onto the peel and then into the wood burning oven. The pizza was done in about 2-3 minutes. The pizza looked good enough, but it was all down hill from there. The crust had dime sized black char marks on the bottom, but it was definitely under cooked. You could almost taste the raw dough. I would like to comment on the buffalo cheese and tomatoes, but they were completely saturated in olive oil. In fact that was about the only flavor of the pizza.We really thought this would have been out favorite NY pizza, but I really have to rate it at the bottom of the list. I'm hoping I just got a bad pie, and I don't want anybody to be discouraged from trying this place. I may even try it again next time I'm in NYC.

7- Totonno's- Went to the one on second ave. near NYU. The first thing I saw after we sat down was the couple next to us complaining because the bottom of their pizza was completely BLACK and burnt. Our pizza actually had a good crust and sauce. The problem I had was the flavor of the cheese. It had a really strange taste to it. It was so bad that we each had one slice and left.

6-Ray's on Prince street. (supposed to be the original). This place wins the award for the two most miserable bastards to ever serve me a slice. However the pizza was very good. It was closer to the typical NYC pizza you'll find at every other corner pizza shop but it was very good. ( Actually my favorite Ray's is on 7th ave and 49th. They always serve huge slices with tons of flavor).

5-Nick's in Manhattan- This was the first place we went to. Nice "newer" restaurant look to it. Woodstone gas ovens. Because this was our first pizza of the weekend we thought it was amazing. Excellent crust, but not much char flavor that I love, good tomato sauce and fresh mozz. cheese. But after trying the other places, the pizza is definitely not as good as some of the others like Lombardi's and DiFara.

4-Naples 45- Got a slice at the take out entrance. Certainly not the "old time" feel of some of the others, but the pizza was very good. Excellent charred crust, excellent raw tomato flavor of the sauce and very good cheese. The only beef I had was with the amount of cheese they use- not enough. I like to taste a little bit of cheese with each bite- not happening at Naples 45.  Very good pizza though.

3-Grimaldi's- Taking the water taxi to Brooklyn for $4 was a great idea. Cheap, and an awesome view of lower Manhattan. There was no line outside, but the inside was packed. I scored a table right next to the oven. The coal oven looked huge- the peel must have been 8 feet long. The pie we got had a perfect balance of ingredients. Nothing overpowered anything else and the crust, sauce, and cheese were all very good. The crust had a little bit of a burnt pancake taste, but it was still awesome.

2-DiFara- I read they opened at 11:00 so I got there at 11:30. They were closed so I asked Dom's son when they opened and he said 12:00 so we waited in the dunkin donuts next door. At 11:55 I saw one person in line. We got there at exactly noon and there must have been 15 people crowded at the counter. I was actually glad because I got to watch the master Dom Demarco work.  Everything I had read was true. He really takes his time with every pizza. He doesn't let his son make the pizza- he mainly serves the pizza if Dom is busy. I never once saw him pull a pie out of the oven with a peel. He always uses his hands! The pizza isn't the Lombardi/Grimaldi type, but it was amazing. The crust was the best I've had that didn't come from a coal oven. The sauce was good too, but the best part was the combination of cheeses-Grande aged, fresh buffalo, and grana padana. This pizza tasted like nothing I've had before and is well worth the trip. By the way, my wife thought this was the best we had all weekend.

1- Lombardi's- I rate Lombardi's the best mainly because every ingredient was excellent, and it was the best balanced pizza(even better than Grimaldi's). I remember biting into my first slice and thinking I am finally tasting THE PERFECT pizza in existence. (I haven't had Sally's).This is exactly the pizza that I'm shooting for when I make them every Saturday at home.

We didn't have time or room in our stomachs to try more. We never got to John's, Angelo's, Patsy's, or Sal & Carmines.


Offline Steeb

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2005, 01:43:32 PM »
Making my mouth water.... don't suppose you took pictures?

Offline Repguy

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2005, 05:35:43 PM »
Thanks for posting the reviews of these places.  Sounds like you had a great time doing also.  I expect that you will take some heat for your review of Naples 45 though.  There are member on this fourm that hold fast that itis impossible for them to make a good pie because they don't have good ovens, although it sounds like you had a good pizza there. Again thanks for taking the time to post the reviews.

Offline foster444

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2005, 06:26:31 PM »
The Ray's on Prince St. is indeed the original.  And those times I've been there, I've been most unimpressed.  Nothing more than plain old pizzeria pizza.  I have had better at any number of the Ray's knockoffs.

Put John's near the top of your list for your next visit.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2005, 07:15:28 PM »
I personally owe a lot to Charlie Restivo, the chief pizza maker at Naples 45. When I first became interested in Neapolitan style pizzas, I stopped by Naples 45 to try out one of Charlie's pizzas. I went to Naples 45 because I had read that it was one of the two (at the time) NYC pizza establishments that was certified by the VPN.  At the time, I was using Bel Aria and Delverde 00 flours for my Neapolitan style pizzas (baked in a home oven) but full of questions. While at Naples 45 for the first time and meeting Charlie, I couldn't have asked for more. I spent well over an hour discussing Neapolitan style pizzas with Charlie on a one on one basis, and he couldn't have been more generous with his time and information. There wasn't a single question I posed that he did not try to answer honestly and fully. He even gave me his email address so that I could send him follow-up questions.

I still remember seeing the bags of Caputo 00 flour stacked in front of the oven area at Naples 45, although I had never heard of that brand and it wasn't until later that I even knew how good that flour was (thanks, in part to Ron Molinaro, aka ilpizzaiolo, with whom I had an early exchange about the flour). Charlie told me where he got his flour, and this led to my getting to know well the importer of the Caputo 00 flour, Fred Mortati at Orlando Foods. Charlie gave me my first Caputo flour, both the blue and red, and asked me to try them out separately and in different blends and to send him an email to tell him of the results I achieved from using the flours. Fred at Orlando was later kind enough to send me several bags (1 kilo) of the Caputo 00 (blue) when I called him to ask him about potential sources of the Caputo 00 flour (at the time, the flour came in only 25 kilo bags). We have spoken many times since then, and he is always anxious to hear about how the Caputo 00 flour is doing among our membership.

Whenever I am in NYC and time permits, I try to stop in to see Charlie. We occasionally exchange emails about our respective pizza efforts. So you will not hear me say a bad word about Naples 45. Never having been to Naples to sample the real thing, I have no frame of reference against which to judge the Naples 45 pizza. I know that Naples 45 is part of a much larger corporate enterprise (I knew this when I first stepped into the door of Naples 45), and undoubtedly that places demands on Naples 45 to perform well from a financial perspective. Having spent an entire career in the corporate sector, I understand that and accept it. But there has never been any doubt in my mind about Charlie's desire to do the best he can. He does not make the rules any more than I did when I was in the corporate sector.

The above is significant for reasons beyond a trip down memory lane. Because of those few bags and samples of the Caputo 00 flour that Charlie and Fred were kind enough to give me, and the experiments I conducted with those flours and reported on on this forum, many more of us now know a great deal more about the Caputo 00 flour and its significance to a high-quality Neapolitan style pizza. There are entire threads on this forum devoted to the Caputo 00 flour, and there are more recipes on this forum calling for Caputo 00 flour than any other place on the planet (with the possible exception of someplace in Italy). Even Fred at Orlando is amazed by its acceptance by the individuals on this forum, and particularly their willingness to buy 25 kilo bags. And now PennMac, one of whose key employees (Rose) is a member of this forum, sells the Caputo 00 in small (repackaged) bags. Even Caputo in Italy is considering selling the flour in smaller quantities, largely as a result of the experiences of our members as related to Fred at Orlando Foods. If I had never set foot in Naples 45, it is quite likely that the Caputo flour would have surfaced somewhere on the forum, particularly after pizzanapoletana joined our midst, but I'd like to think that folks such as Charlie and Fred played a major role in the adoption of the Caputo 00 flour by our members.

Peter

« Last Edit: August 31, 2005, 09:27:51 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline PizzaBrewer

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2005, 12:57:49 AM »
I finally made it to Una Pizza and Lombardi's today for the first time.  Both places make reference to Neapolitan pizza but the pizza is rather different.  Both were quite good.  Of the 2 I prefer Lombardi's but my favorite NY pizza is still DiFara's.  I guess I don't "get" the mystique of baking pizza with a live fire. 

Anyway does anyone have knowledge of the flour used by these pizzerias?  I tried searching the site and didn't find much info.  Does UPN and/or Lombardi's use the famous Caputo?  Also, how close does UPN come to the ideal of an authentic Naples-made pizza?  I know Marco has commented that the oven is not quite right, but how does the final product stack up? 

---Guy
Man does not live by bread alone.  There's also tomato, cheese and pepperoni.

Offline scott r

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2005, 11:39:24 AM »
Marco might disagree here, but to my tastes UPN was definitely in the same ballpark of what I had in Naples.  I can almost guarantee that he is using Caputo.  The two main differences are that UPN is using more oil on top of the pizza, and has more sourdough flavor in the crust than what I found typical in Naples.  There was one place, Costa in Naples that I visited a few times on my vacation. One of the times I tried it they had a sour dough similar to UPN, but as Marco pointed out they have bad dough management technique.  In Anthony's (UPN's) case he is doing it on purpose. I quite liked it, but I can see where some people would not. The cheese is definitely mozzarella made from buffalo milk, and improted from Italy.  The sauce seems to be crushed San Marzano's.   Hoping not to get flamed here, but to my palate the cheese sauce and crust texture were pretty much the same as a typical pizzeria in Naples.

Lombardi's may look a little like a real Neapolitan pizza with the splotches of cheese, but that is where the similarity ends.  Don't get me wrong, I love the place, but It is just very different.  To me the crust at Lombardi's definitely does not taste like Caputo.  It tastes like an American (or Canadian) flour to me.  I would guess that it is a high gluten flour not only because of the flavor and texture, but also by the amount of charring that they get.  This dough is quite bready tasting and fairly dense, very unlike the fluffy dough in Naples.  The sauce does not have the somewhat dry (in the not sweet sense) flavor of San Marzanos.  I would guess that they are using a brighter, sweeter tomato from California.  They could be using an Italian tomato, but I don't think it is of the ultra high quality that is typical of Naples.  I do love their sauce though.  The cheese also tastes American to me, definitely not buffalo mozzarella.  Even in Naples most places do not use buffalo mozzarella unless you special order it.  They tend to use a fresh cheese in Naples that does taste more similar to buffalo than what we can get over here.  To me most of the commercial American cows milk fresh mozzarella has a slightly plastic consistency when melted compared to what I had in Italy. 

Basically Lombardi's is pizza that is emulating a Neapolitan pizza, but with American ingredients, and more of a bread mixing technique.  The good news for you pizzabrewer is that it would be easier and much cheaper for you to duplicate the Lombardi's pizza at home.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: NYC Pizza Reviews
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2005, 12:02:01 PM »
scott,

I believe you are correct on all counts. I can confirm that UPN uses the Caputo flour because the importer told me so. As for Lombardi's, I went back to what I had written in an early post about Lombardi's, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,505.msg4376.html#msg4376, to refresh my memory on what I learned when I visited Lombardi's some tome ago. As noted in my post, I was told that the flour used was a high-gluten flour and that the tomatoes were San Marzanos (but it's doubtful that they were DOP). The mozzarella was a locally produced mozzarella.

Peter