Sure, New York City boasts some of the most famous restaurants in the world, but everyone knows that when you visit the five boroughs, you simply have to a grab a slice. As you dig into that perfect pizza, you’re not just indulging in a guilty pleasure—you’re also actually experiencing history firsthand (at least that’s what you can tell your friends and family if you don’t make it to a museum). A little background: When the now iconic (though a tad too touristy for our tastes) Lombardi’s opened in Little Italy in 1905, it became the first licensed pizzeria to set up shop in the United States, dishing out Neapolitan-style pies. From then on, pizza by the slice became as synonymous with New York City as bagels and lox.
Over the years, New Yorkers’ pizza palates have evolved; thin crust used to be the reigning champ here, but locals have grown to embrace a number of different styles. Whether it’s Chicago-style, wood-fired, “square” (aka Sicilian), or piled high with loads of delicious and unusual toppings, there’s something for everyone.
So skip the questionable dollar slice from the corner bodega and treat yourself to a quality pie. From borough to borough, there are literally hundreds of options to choose from, but we’ve narrowed down the very best of the bunch for you here. From artisanal pies to traditional wood-fired pizzas, these nine pizzerias rank tops in New York:
Two NYC locations: 919 Fulton St., Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and 35 Downing St., Greenwich Village, Manhattan; pizzalovesemily.com
Matt and Emily Hyland opened their first of two Emily eateries in 2014 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, before expanding their empire throughout the city with a second location in Manhattan, as well as via a sister restaurant chain, Emily Squared. Trained under Luca Arrigoni from Sottocasa (another celebrated New York City pizzeria), the Hylands serve traditional wood-fired pies with a twist, incorporating unique and high-quality ingredients that make for a more elevated culinary experience. Their most notable offering, the Emily, is a white pie with honey, mozzarella, pistachio, and truffle sottocenere cheese that offers a perfect balance between sweet and savory.
575 Henry St., Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn; lucali.com
Walking into Lucali in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood is like stepping back in time. With distressed wood floors, a pressed tin ceiling, and eclectic wood tables and chairs, Lucali looks as if it was pulled straight from a turn-of-the-20th-century movie set, and that’s just how owner Mark Lacano intended it (he built most of the interior himself). Watching Lacano roll out pies with empty wine bottles in front of the wood-fired pizza oven is a theatrical experience that gives you both dinner and a show.
But don’t let the showmanship fool you: Lacano keeps it simple with one customizable thin-crust pie and a small handful of topping options. Although you can add pepperoni, shallots, onion, hot or sweet peppers, or mushrooms to your pie, there’s really no need: The cheese pizza with basil is a crowd favorite. If you don’t make an advance reservation (available exclusively via booking site Resy), be prepared to wait; the small space fills quickly. Also, this spot is BYOB, so stock up before you visit if you care to imbibe.
346 Himrod St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, opsbk.com
This stylish spot, with its wood-planked ceiling, exposed brick walls, and sleek wood counter, has a bar that’s almost as impressive as the Neapolitan pies it creates. But don’t spend too much time throwing back Manhattans; you came here for a slice. Made with sourdough and cooked to toasted perfection in the wood-fired oven, the pies at Ops are as close to a traditional pizza as you’ll find. Try a simple Marinara while you sip your cocktail, or for a heavier flavor punch, order the Rojo, made with mortadella, pickled peppers, and gooey crescenza cheese.
Prince Street Pizza
27 Prince St. A, NoLIta, Manhattan; princestreetpizzanyc.com
While Prince Street Pizza serves up a plethora of thick-crust deliciousness, it’s the Spicy Spring Pie that draws the crowds. Made with spiced tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni that forms the perfect little flavor-filled pockets when cooked in the brick oven, this pizza has garnered a dedicated following. And while its square pies are famously massive, the space is ironically small.
With barely any standing room, you may be lucky to snag a spot at the long counter that runs the length of the restaurant. But if you’d prefer to eat your slice with some elbow room, walk a few blocks to Sara D. Roosevelt Park and grab a bench.
33 Havemeyer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; bestpizzaofbrooklyn.com
It may seem overly confident to claim a name like Best Pizza, but this Williamsburg joint, opened by Roberta’s alum Frank Pinello, definitely delivers. The simple space itself isn’t much to celebrate, which is essentially a handful of slate-top tables and a chaotic assortment of decorated paper plates that line the walls and ceiling. But you’re not here for the decor—it’s all about the pies: Don’t miss the wood-fired, white sauce pie, served with caramelized onions, Parmesan, and sliced mushrooms.
Three NYC locations: 261 Moore St., Bushwick, Brooklyn; 230 Park Ave., Midtown, Manhattan; 570 Lexington Ave., Midtown, Manhattan; robertaspizza.com
When Roberta’s first opened in Bushwick in 2008, it instantly became a Brooklyn staple, drawing hipsters from all corners of the five boroughs. The graffitied building with no-frills decor and an outdoor tiki bar deemed this the place to be, but its quality pizzas has kept the crowds coming (and the restaurant brand growing; it has since launched two Manhattan outposts).
The wood-fired Margherita pie with a light and fluffy crust could alone warrant the restaurant’s inclusion on this list, but its specialty offerings make it easily one of the absolute best in the city. For a flavor overload, try the Beastmaster, made with tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, onion, capers, and jalapeños.
19 Old Fulton St., DUMBO, Brooklyn; julianaspizza.com
Patsy Grimaldi spent years serving some of the best slices in Brooklyn before selling his namesake pizzeria in 1998; in 2012, he reopened under the name Juliana’s in the DUMBO neighborhood. All pies are made in the restaurant’s original coal-fired oven—the one Grimaldi cooked in for decades before selling the space; the Specialty No. 4, made with tomato, mozzarella, arugula, and prosciutto, is a must-try.
Two NYC locations: 524 Port Richmond Ave., Staten Island, deninossi.com, and 93 MacDougal St., Greenwich Village, Manhattan, deninosgreenwichvillage.com
With a history stretching back to the 1930s, Denino’s is a tried-and-true New York City staple. Happily, as of 2016, Manhattanites need no longer make the trek to the original Staten Island location, as they have a second spot right in Greenwich Village.
What makes this pizza joint so popular is its focus on creating a light pie with a super-thin crust and its low and slow cooking technique—the pies are baked in a gas oven at 575 degrees Fahrenheit for a longer time, compared to most wood- or gas-fired pies that are generally cooked at 800 degrees. Be sure to order the clam pie, made with garlic, parsley, olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese—no sauce needed.
Razza Pizza Artigianale
275 Grove St., Jersey City, NJ; razzanj.com
This artisanal spot may not technically fall within the five boroughs, but it was recently declared (somewhat controversially) the “Best Pizza in New York City” by the New York Times—and we have to likewise extend the boundaries for this list because we wholeheartedly agree. Only an 8-minute PATH train ride away from Manhattan’s World Trade Center, Razza Pizza Artigianale, in Jersey City, New Jersey, looks straight out of Naples with its unfinished green and gray plaster walls, exposed kitchen, and simple wood tables and chairs. W
hether or not you agree with the Times designation, the one thing that can’t be argued with is the quality of these pies. The Di Natale can only be described as perfection with its fresh tomato sauce, gooey mozzarella, olives, pine nuts, raisins, garlic, basil, and zesty chili oil finish. And compared to most NYC spots, the prices can’t be beat, with whole pies selling for just $12 to $18.
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