I’m dropping this here because I get this question all the time. Most recently via Twitter, where I don’t have the space to properly answer. So, if you’re coming to NYC and have time to eat at only one pizzeria, here’s a good list to choose from. My frame of mind for this was, “What if I moved away from NYC? Which pizzerias would I ABSOLUTELY CRAVE?”
Note: I originally wrote this in 2012! Ooof! So I’m updating now. I’ll add my newer recommendations at the top. I still stand by my original picks, which I’ll drop into a section at the bottom.
Mama’s Too: It opened in 2018, and by this point I kinda feel like most people love it for its squares, which are somewhere between focaccia and Detroit-style pan pizza. The square truly are great, don’t get me wrong, but the “house slice” (or “house pie”) is JUST AS GREAT. If I had to pick one over the other, I’d go with the house slice, which is simply another name for their regular slice. It’s anything but regular, though. High-hydration dough makes for a light and airy crust, and it’s finished with lots of 24-month-aged Parm and a shower of chopped basil—all in what seems an homage to Di Fara. Similar, but different, and truth be told, way more consistent. For squares, I like the plain, but a lot of people love the pear and gorgonzola slice. If that calls to you, try it. The foundation is solid, so you’ll probably love it. Also, DON’T SLEEP ON THE SANDWICHES. Owner-operator Frank Tuttolomondo makes an outrageously good sandwich special offered only on Wednesdays. Follow on Instagram to keep up with what each week’s star. 📍 2750 Broadway, New York NY 10025; mamastoo.com
L’Industrie: Popularly and critically acclaimed. And the pizza nerds (yours truly) and pizza industry folks mostly all seem to love it. You’ve probably also seen it in one of Action Bronson’s shows/videos as it’s one of his favorite pizza spots. I typically stick with the plain slice. It’s absolute perfection. But the popular choice is the burrata slice, so you kinda can’t miss that either. And if you’re going for a topped slice and aren’t veg/vegan, the fig jam and bacon is AMAZING. So to my mind, the move here is to get these three slices, followed by whatever gelato calls to you. Excellent stuff. SANDWICH WEDNESDAY ALERT! They also do a special Wednesday sandwich on house-made rolls or focaccia. Follow on Instagram for the weekly offering. 📍 254 S 2nd St, Brooklyn, NY 11211; lindustriebk.com
Philomena’s: I’ve only got a little bit of time left here on my lunch break, so no big write-up here. Just know that they have EXCELLENT squares here. Light and airy and crisp. At the risk of sounding boring and basic, I’m just going to say that I prefer the plain square, which lets owner-operator Dave Acocella’s pizza sauce shine. It’s a nicely seasoned garlicky sauce, and even though it’s been months as I write this, I can taste it and CRAVE it. Acocella also makes fantastic round pies. I prefer the larger 16-inch pizzas to the personal-size round pies. Again, the plain is my go-to in that format. 📍 4116 Queens Blvd, Queens NY 11104; philomenasqueens.com
Motorino: My favorite wood-fired-oven pizzeria in NYC. Get anything but the Margherita, which ends up being quite boring compared to their other pies. (Although I’m not a huge fan of the Colatura pie. Not because it’s probably not good, just because I’m not a huge anchovy fan.) 📍 Various locations in NYC, including the East Village and the Upper East Side in Manhattan and Williamsburg in Brooklyn; motorinony.com
John’s of Bleecker: The one on Bleecker. The others are owned by a different part of the family and aren’t as good. It’s workmanlike pizza. Won’t blow your doors off compared to some of the others on this list, but when I’m in the right mood I love it. 📍 278 Bleecker Street, New York NY 10014; johnsofbleecker.com
Best Pizza: Great all around, but the grandma pies are excellent. They have killer sandwiches, too. Get an Italian combo to go and eat it later. 📍 33 Havemeyer Street, Brooklyn NY 11211; bestpizzawilliamsburg.com
Adrienne’s Pizzabar: possibly my favorite grandma pie in NYC. It’s called the “old fashioned” or some such. Don’t even bother ordering the round pie here. 📍 54 Stone Street, New York NY 10004; adriennespizza.com
Patsy’s in East Harlem: And only the one in East Harlem. Like John’s, someone else owns the others, while the original remains within the same line of folks tracing back to Patsy Lancieri. One of the few coal-oven joints that offers both fresh and regular mozzarella. I prefer the regular mozzarella. It’s also one of only two coal-oven places to offer pizza by the slice. It’s a good deal, but get a whole pie. For some reason, I think they do the whole, made-to-order pies better than the slicing pies. (They seem to put too much cheese on the slice pies.) 📍 2287 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10035; facebook.com/PatsysPizzeria
Louie & Ernie’s: A solid pizza all around, but I CRAVE their sausage pizza. Sausage and onion, even better. GREAT sausage here. Yes, you can get it by the slice, but you really have to order a whole sausage pie. A slice with sausage, he just puts the sausage on after the fact and then gives it a reheat. Then the chunks fall off because they’re not melted into the cheese. Oh, this one is in The Bronx, by the way. Pretty far by train, and then a bit of a walk from the train to boot. 📍 1300 Crosby Avenue, Bronx NY 10461; louieanderniespizza.com
Paulie Gee’s: Inventive and inspired topping combos and a great atmosphere. I love the Greenpointer, the Grapeful Dead, and the Cherry Jones. You do yourself a disservice if you order the Regina here (Paulie’s equivalent of the Margherita). 📍 60 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11222; pauliegee.com/greenpoint
Note: I did this list in, like, 5 minutes. Maybe I’ll go back and add contact info/addresses. Maybe I won’t. You do know how to google, don’t you?