Other than the Italian motherland, New York City has become the pizza capital of the world. Home of what pizza scholars claim to be the first pizzeria in the United States, New York’s pizza-making skills have only gone uphill from 1905. The best pies in the city are spread across all five boroughs: from the legendary Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to Brooklyn, one of NYC’s finest pizza hubs. Here are 10 pizzerias in New York where Italians will feel at home.
Zero Otto Nove
2357 Arthur Ave, Bronx, NY 10458. +1 212-242-0899
Nestled in the heart of Italian culture in the Bronx – the “real” Little Italy of Arthur Avenue – Trattoria Zero Otto Nove is known as the best pizza on the avenue. Chef Roberto Paciullo, owner of Roberto Restaurant in the Belmont section of the Bronx, named the trattoria Zero Otto Nove (zero eight nine) after the 089 area code of his native city, Salerno. Here visitors can enjoy a variety of Southern Italian dishes, such as rabbit stew and baccalà; the highest feature still remains their pizza, with fresh mozzarella and house-pureed San Marzano tomatoes. (A/N: My relatives from Bari claim it’s the most “Italian” pizza they’ve had in the U.S.).
235 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012. +1 212-965-0500
Rubirosa is complete with mood lighting, for the most charming pizza date you’ve ever had. It is one of NoLIta’s (the area north of Manhattan’s Little Italy) culinary gems. The story began with the Staten Island pizza joint Joe & Pat’s in 1960; owner Giuseppe Pappalardo decided to team up with his son A.J. and chef Al Di Meglio to open Rubirosa. This Manhattan version of their original pizzeria was than named after the family’s favorite Florence eatery. Taste the classic paper-thin tomato sauce pie, a product of the Pappalardo family recipe, or give their vodka sauce or even tie-dye pizza – a blend of vodka sauce, pesto, tomato, and fresh mozzarella – a try.
1 Front St, Brooklyn, NY 11201. +1 212-965-0500
Don’t let the long lines deter you from experiencing this DUMBO coal oven favorite, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s hard to believe that Grimaldi’s has only had its doors open since 1990. Grimaldi learned the pizza trade from his uncle Patsy Lancieri, a former employee of pizza originator Lombardi’s and original owner of the Harlem classic Patsy’s. Grimaldi and his wife Carol, who made the fresh mozzarella by hand, were involved in every aspect of pizza production while they owned the pizzeria; the famous Front Street pizza joint has since been sold to current owner Frank Ciolli. Still, the tradition of the coal-fired brick oven that original owner Patsy Grimaldi insisted upon remains.
32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012. +1 212-941-7994
Established in 1905, Lombardi’s is, as far as we know, the oldest pizza in America (which makes us question: how were people living for almost two centuries in America without it?!). Pizza entrepreneur Gennaro Lombardi came straight from Naples in 1895 and opened a small grocery store on Spring Street. He couldn’t help making pizza, though, and turned the store into a pizzeria by 1905. Working at Lombardi’s became the equivalent of apprenticeship for other now-famous New York pizza chefs. New Yorkers were deprived of the classic Neapolitan-style crust from 1984 to 1994; then the pizzeria finally reopened at its current location with a new owner, family friend John Brescio, on the corner of Spring Street and Mott Street.
575 Henry St, New York, NY 11231. +1 718-858-4086
The owner Mark Iacono was inspired by his grandmother’s cooking. He took over the space previously occupied by a candy store, owned by a man named Louie, and then learned the tricks of the trade. Iacono combined Louie’s name with that of his daughter, Kalista, to form the name Lucali. The owner forms and stretches his pies on a marble counter; he then follows up the whole pizza-making process with a generous topping of basil for a punch of flavor. In the battle of Brooklyn pizzerias, Lucali’s pies definitely hold their own.
271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014. +1 212-243-1500
One of the youngest pizzerias on this list, Kesté has only been open since 2009. Pontinia, Italy, native Roberto Caporuscio moved to New York and opened the pizzeria’s doors in Greenwich Village. Caporuscio had mastered the Neapolitan pizza, and decided to call the pizzeria “kesté,” which translates to “this is it” in Neapolitan dialect. The restaurant is renowned for its “Keste” pie: bufala mozzarella and prosciutto di Parma, arugula, and Pecorino Gran Cru cheese. Try just one of Kesté’s specialties, and you’ll agree that this is it.
Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230. +1 718-258-1367
Domenico DeMarco founded the hopping Midwood joint in 1959, after emigrating from Caserta. He started out with a business partner with the last name Farina; he then combined both of their last names to create the name Di Fara. DeMarco has continued the fine pizza-making tradition throughout the past sixty years; he used only imported olive oil, bufala mozzarella, and Grana Padano cheeses, and his own fresh greens as seasonings. Crowds flock to Di Fara for a $5 slice of the DiFara Classic Pie, made with sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms, or even one of Di Fara’s square Sicilian slices. Some of Di Fara’s dedicated pizza fans wait up to two hours for a coveted slice.
Basil Brick Oven Pizza
28-17 Astoria Blvd, Astoria, NY 11102. +1 718-204-1205
On a list dominated by Neapolitan brick oven pizza, Basil Brick Oven Pizza brings something different to the table: “a taste of Piemonte“, as their website professes. Chef Daniel Barbois of Piedmont, Italy, tries to achieve a less doughy, crispier, cheesier version of the Neapolitan-style pie. Basil is a diamond-in-the-rough in its Astoria neighborhood, a true mom-and-pop restaurant serving authentic Italian pizza. Barbois has established some unique specialty pies, such as the Pizzucca, topped with a pumpkin-walnut sauce, Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and pancetta, as well as a variety of pies made with Basil’s famous pesto sauce.
278 New Dorp Ln, Staten Island, NY 10306. +1 347-286-0635
It’s no surprise that this Staten Island pizzeria is a family affair: the Giove brothers, Giorgio, Frank, Marco, and Fabio, give credit for their business’ success to their father, Pietro Giove. They even nicknamed him the Maestro Pizzaiolo, Master Pizza-Maker. Pietro perfected the art of pizza in the small town of Gravina, in Apulia, then moved to the U.S. in 1972. He had a part in opening another pizza landmark, Brother’s Pizza in Queens, and shortly brought back to Apulia New York-style pizza. The four sons learned the ins-and-outs of the family business and returned to New York to open Pizzeria Giove in 2011. The oldest brother, Giorgio, made one pie particularly famous: the Variopinta. With the unusual pairing of zucchini, stracciatella, and olive oil, this zesty concoction beat chef Bobby Flay’s on Food Network’s “Throwdown” in 2006. This award-winning pie alone is enough to draw hungry crowds to Giove’s.
349 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003; 510 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024; 139 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211.
Last but not least on the pizza tour of New York: Motorino has three New York locations and is rapidly growing; it even has locations in Hong Kong, Manila, and Singapore. The head chef and owner, Mathieu Palombino, is actually not Italian but Belgian; in fact, he gave up the world of French cuisine to open this Neapolitan-style pizzeria. The original Motorino is located Williamsburg, followed by the East Village location, established in 2009. Chef Palombino has created quite an interesting specialty: the Brussels Sprout pie. An homage to his native Belgium, it features oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, fior di latte, and smoked pancetta. The best part of all? Finish off a delicious pizza with the restaurant’s homemade soft-serve ice cream. You’ll feel completely satisfied.