My wife and I went to New York last weekend for the Big Apple BBQ, but ended up skipping the BBQ in search of pizza. This was actually our fifth pizza trip to NYC. Thanks to Scott r and others for the recommendations.
1. Patsy's- Our first stop was Patsy's in Harlem. We decided to drive to a few places in Harlem before checking in to the hotel. We took 125th street (MLK BLVD.) to get to 1st ave. which was pretty cool. We drove by the Cotton Club and the Apollo theater. When we got to Patsy's there was no place to park so we took Scott's advice and double parked in front. There is a sit down restaurant on the left and a small counter on the right for slices. I ran in and grabbed two regular cheese slices. They didn't look much different than any other cheese slice but no other slices I've tried taste anything like this. Hands down the best street slice I've ever had. The cheese and sauce were good, but the crust was unbelievable. I've read that Patsy's has gone down hill, but we couldn't believe how good this pizza tasted. My favorite slice used to be DiFara, but the coal oven crust from Patsy's blows away DiFara.
2. Sezz Medi- After driving around for almost a half hour looking for a place to park, we checked out Sezz Medi. We were seated right in front of the oven (Acunto?). I immediately noticed that the fire was all but dead- just a few smoking logs. We ordered a couple sodas and a margherita pie. This is when everything went downhill. I watched in horror as a couple waitresses tried to get the fire going. One came by and said it might be a little while for the pizza. I explained that we drove from Syracuse just for the pizza and didn't mind waiting. A half hour later she explained that not only is the fire not ready, but the pizza maker didn't show up for work. After wasting almost an hour of our trip, we told the waitress we were not going to stay. She came back a minute later with the check for two sodas!
3. Sal & Carmine's- I've read a lot of great things about this place so I double parked (again) in front and grabbed two slices. It's a little place that's easy to miss on Broadway. There was an older guy working the counter (maybe Sal or Carmine?). I got a cheese slice and a sausage slice. The best part was the sausage- awesome! Nobody in Syracuse serves pizza with sausage that good. The pizza was kind of a letdown. It was good, but nothing special. Not much different from Ben's or Bleeker St. Pizza.
4. N. 28- After checking into the hotel and catching the train to Greenwich village we stopped at "N.28 Pizza from Naples". We sat outside in front of the wood burning oven. We ordered the Margherita. Most of the reviews that I've read said the pizza was good but nothing great. I'm not sure I agree. I couldn't find anything wrong with our pizza. The crust wasn't as good as Luzzo's, but other than that, it was one of the best margherita's I've had. It was perfectly balanced. The buffalo mozz, tomatoes,basil and olive oil were outstanding, and there were perfect amounts of each. The crust was also very good with dime sized black char marks that I love.
5. Joe's- The last time I tried Joe's I thought it was horrible with no flavor. So many people have bragged about this place that I had to give it a second chance. I got a slice with fresh mozz. One of the thinest slices I've ever had, the crust was very crispy and dry. The problem with Joe's is the pizza has absolutely no flavor. Just to make sure it wasn't just me, I asked my wife's opinion. She took a bite and said "it doesn't taste like anything!"
6.Arturo's- Sat outside and ordered a small cheese pizza. It was nothing like I expected .You couldn't really tell it came from a coal burning oven. The crust was dry and a lot thicker than I expected. The cheese and sauce were good. Overall, the pizza was good. If Arturo's opened in my home town they'd make millions, but being in New York, they are not as good as Luzzo's, Patsy's, etc.
7.Ben's Pizzeria- A lot of people think this is the best slice in New York. I guess they haven't been to Patsy's or DiFara. The pizza was good, but not much better than any other New York street slice.
8. L'asso- Walked into L'asso on a Saturday afternoon and nobody was in there which I thought was strange because there were so many people walking around Little Italy. I ordered a Margherita slice. The guy grabbed some cold sorry looking slice and threw it into the brick oven for a minute. I hate to put down any pizza restaurant, but this slice was just horrible. The crust was dry and flavorless, the cheese was OK, but the sauce is what ruined it for me. I really don't know if it was cooked or just had too much oregano, but it wasn't very good.
9.- Lazzara's- We walked upstairs into Lazzara's dark dining room. We ordered the Margherita. Lazzara's is not like anything I've ever had. It is a rectangle shaped pizza with six slices. The crust is very thin and flakey almost like a pie crust. On top of the crust is a layer of OK sauce and very good fresh mozz and slices of fresh tomato. This pizza is nothing like I've ever had before. My wife and I both agreed it was good, but we probably wouldn't go out of our way for it. We also had to wonder if that was because it was the ninth pizza we tried that day!
10. Lil Frankies-The next morning we took the train to the lower east side to Lil Frankie's. We again got the Margherita. I was very good, but not as good as N. 28. The crust was a little dry and the cheese and sauce were good.This is another pizza that would be oustanding outside of NYC, but there its just average.
11. Vinny Vincenz- Got the thin Margherita slice and a thick slice. The thin slice was very good. The crust was typical gas oven crust similar to Ben's, Ray's, etc., but the fresh mozz was very good and the sauce was crushed fresh tomatoes with little or no spices. The thick slice also had a typical Sicilian crust with good mozz, but the sauce on the thick slice was amazing- much more flavor than the sauce on the thin slice. Not as good as DiFara's thick slice, but very good.
12. Luzzo's- My wife and I have been waiting a long time to try Luzzo's again. We both had been craving the pizza and my wife had been craving the Caesar salad that she thought was the best she ever had last time we visited. Unfortunately we had to send back the salad. Last time it was a huge bright green beautiful salad. This time it was a small bowl of white lettuce with brown edges and a little bit of dressing. The waiter took it off our bill. The margherita pizza with buffalo mozz is still the best I've ever had. No other crust I've had comes close. It is so soft and delicate with awesome flavor. The sauce,cheese, basil and olive oil are all excellent and perfectly balanced. Still my favorite Neapolitan pizza of all time!
13. Artichoke- I've read a lot about this new place. The pizza is supposed to be pretty good, but the hours are unpredictable and the owners seem to keep the doors locked just to get a line started to create a buzz about this place. I wasn't surprised then when we got there around 1:00 and the owners were inside, but the doors were locked. I couldn't be bothered, and just left.
So far I've tried about 30 different pizza shops in New York. Rather than rank MY favorites from best to worst, I'll just say that DiFara is my favorite gas oven slice, Patsy's is my favorite overall slice, and Luzzo's is my favorite Neapolitan style pizza with Franny's in second place. Next time I might try five or six places in Brooklyn. I also still have not tried Il Pizzaiolo in Pitt. Some day I might even get to try Pizzeria Bianco.