I was only able to make it to Rays on Prince once, but, from talking to other people, Ray's went through a similar descent in quality that Joes experienced. Not the crater that the rest of NY suffered through, but still a drop. The slice I had was solid, but not on par with any of the great slices further outside Manhattan. As you can see from the photo here:
the crumb is looking a lot like a quick, taste impaired fermentation.
Honestly, you can certainly continue to tweak your process in search of some ultimate goal, but, as far as NY style pizza goes... your fully on par or better than any of the places you have pictured, and better than 99.9% of the pizzerias in NY. You might even have pizzatown and new park beat. At this point, you're really only competing with yourself. Once you surpass your idols, it can become a bit of a head game, and you can start questioning yourself, but, as long as you have clear goals that you're striving for, you can continue to grow.
Btw, what kind of cheese is this? It's hard to judge the cheese with the aid of the extra fat from pepperoni, but it looks a lot like you've got it worked out.
You may be right about the 'head games'.
It's a thing that I have where I feel it can always be a tad better. I'm no perfectionist by any stretch but as a huge pizza fan (the last few months where sheer hell
) it's always a new challenge. So far, though, I think this home dough can certainly hang with the likes of Avellino or Marcello's. Don't know about Pizza Town or New park but I take your word for it, even if you can base your judgement solely on some of my pics.
I have a standing offer from Luc and Annie, the owners of Marcello's, to test my dough in their Rotoflex oven. And since they are customers of mine (currently doing a service job for them) I have to take them up on their offer. Hopefully some time soon.
The cheese, believe it or not, is the TJ's brand of low-moisture whole milk mozzarella. It has excellent melting capabilities, strings nicely, has exceptional flavor...well, for a mozzarella that is...and is on the creamy side. The pics I posted look a bit different on here (more reddish) than when I pull them up on my screen for some reason, though.
I think the next cheese I'll check out will be the Bella Rosano from Costco.