How exactly did we rank the pizza in a city that claims to be the birthplace of America’s first-ever pies? A city where even the pigeons have slice preferences? Well, first we ate a lot of pizza. We revisited the classics and the new classics, debating which spots currently exemplify their genre. Does this Staten Island pizza have the proper cracker-y crust? Did that char-bubbled pizza inspire an idea to sell salt shakers of “coal-oven seasoning”? How did that layer of mozzarella stay put on a classic New York slice like it’s the Q train at Dekalb?
Pizza preference has always been and will always be deeply personal. Thin, olive oil-slick Roman pies don’t naturally compare to dough bricks of Detroit-style, for example. If you grew up watching Dom DeMarco fire your pies at Di Fara in Midwood, you might never want to travel to New Jersey to eat pizza. This is all fine. But consider our ranking the order of places we’d grab a slice from first, in a dream scenario where all of these pizzas are available to eat in the same liminal space.
If you want to engage in the democratic forum of pizza talk, send us an email at email@example.com. We want to hear your opinions, because it’s how we know you care about pizza more than you care about your second cousins. And, if nothing else, we can agree on that.
We could tell you about the way the pizzaiolo at Lucali rolls out the dough with empty wine bottles on a marble countertop in front of a brick oven. We could tell you that this cash-only restaurant is BYOB, and that the little room feels like a spiritual place of pizza worship. But those details, and the annoying fact that eating at this Carroll Gardens institution often requires lining up at 4pm, don’t matter for this guide. We’re here to talk about pizza - the thin New York-style pie, with the right balance of a floppy and crunchy crust, as well as tomato sauce that’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and good enough to eat with a spoon. Lucali’s standard offering includes low-moisture mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, a serious sprinkle of minced garlic, and a handful of basil (inspired by Dom DeMarco at Di Fara). If you want to add more toppings, you can, but you don’t need to. This pizza is absolutely perfect on its own, and it’s the best one we’ve had in New York. If you don’t think it’s worth waiting several hours for, we don’t have much in common.
“What the f*ck? It’s not even in New York.” This reaction is to be expected from some New Yorkers who see a Jersey City pizza place ranked this high. But even if Razza weren’t in the New York Metropolitan area (it is), and even if it weren’t closer to downtown Manhattan than most spots on this list (it is), the blistered, wood-fired pizza still belongs on a best list for New York and New Jersey and Mars. Rarely does a pizza exist where the toppings taste just as remarkable as the char-bubbly crust and the thin-but-sturdy bottom - and that’s what makes Razza stand out. Razza’s Jersey pride remains key in that equation, considering they load their pies with Jersey-grown hazelnuts, corn, zucchini, and housemade cheese. Before your next heated discussion about the best pizza in existence, take the PATH train to Razza.
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Di Fara Pizza
Di Fara opened in 1965, and they’ve been making legendary Neapolitan pies in South Brooklyn ever since. Owner Dom DeMarco made the pizzas himself right behind the counter for most of that time, but in recent years, he’s passed the pizza-making torch on to his sons. The pizza here is still being prepared with several different kinds of cheese, olive oil, and fresh basil will make you wonder why every pizza isn’t covered in fresh basil. The crunchy crust is notably salty, and each nearly weightless slice will offer a satisfying crackle as you fold it to consume. One slice will make you incredibly happy, and a second will make you want to get into a sleeping bag and watch a rom-com.
We’ve put a lot of energy into understanding what makes a particular pizza so delicious, and few places have stumped us like Bread And Salt in Jersey City. How is it possible that each bite of this thin, Roman-style pie crunches like a cracker, despite the generous layer of sweet tomato sauce hugging its top? Why is it that even the innermost part of the pizza remains crispy? If we knew the answers to these impossible questions, we’d open a successful pizzeria. To anyone who views the crust as the first, second, and third most important aspect of pizza, Bread And Salt will likely be your personal number one spot. Right now they’re only offering rosso and margherita by the half or full pie, each lathered in high-end olive oil so they shine like a trophy or a slip-n-slide. There are a couple of high-top tables set up by the counter, otherwise you can bring your pies (and sandwiches, bomboloni, and focaccia) to Riverview-Fisk Park down the street.
Ops perfected their sourdough long before society jumped on the naturally-leavened-dough train in 2020. Every time we’ve eaten here since they opened in 2016, their puffy-crusted, wood-fired pizzas get tangier. In terms of style, Ops’ pies fit somewhere between crispy New York and soppy-in-the-middle Neapolitan, as each slice remains straight when you hold them up in the air but the crust puffs up like a balloon. Truthfully it doesn’t matter what you call the style. What matters is that you’re going to want to come to their dim-lit Bushwick sexy sourdough pizza emporium (DLBSSPE) every week like you owe their starter money. Don’t leave without trying the “Cicero” which the menu accurately describes as having “many onions″ and a guanciale-pecorino-topped “Pops.” Ops pulls their own mozzarella in house almost daily, so do your best to follow any pie where it’s included. We’d also suggest a calzone or the thicker square pie if you’re with a group, both of which proudly show off the funk of the dough.
L’Industrie sets the new standard for New York’s great slice. Each bite of blistered thin crust puffs then crunches, tasting more like bakery bread than typical pizza thanks to a long fermentation process. Minimal tomato sauce and spot-on oven temperatures ensure that a layer of rich mozzarella stays perfectly in place, while a proper stream of orange grease drips down your wrist when you fold a slice. The difference between this Williamsburg spot and most other slice shops is that they prioritize ingredients imported from Italy. What results is a Frankenstein of thin crust you’d find in Roman varieties (like at Bread And Salt in Jersey City), basil and grated parmesan on every slice, and toppings like almost-sweet pepperoni and velvety burrata. L’Industrie makes the kind of pizza you’ll crave for no reason at all, like on a random Tuesday afternoon when a leaf falls on your head and reminds you of basil.
Home to several classic pizzerias, including the absolute best pizza place in the city, Carroll Gardens is NYC’s unofficial breeding ground for pizza talent. And this slice shop in a converted garage from The Franks, who also run Frankies 457 Spuntino and Franks Wine Bar right next door, is one of the neighborhood’s standouts. Their dough is fermented for three days before being baked in a fancy Swedish electric oven, and once you bite into the airy, slightly-tangy crust with bubbly edges, you’ll understand why it takes time to develop great flavor. Prioritize the New York-style slice topped with sage and brown butter sausage — a pizza remix of a popular pasta dish at Frankies 457 Spuntino that proves everything is better in pizza form.
The greatest places to grab a slice are generally not establishments where you want to stay and hang for a while. Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop is different though. It’s a counter-service spot that looks like a neighborhood pizza parlor from the 1970s, and it’s where you’ll find some excellent, foldable New York-style slices with crust that’s equal parts chewy and crispy. They’ve also got some pretty good square slices with sesame-crusted underskirts that should not be missed. Their “Hellboy” slice - with hot honey and spicy pepperoni - is one of the finest things in New York City that you can purchase for less than $5, and their garlicky white slice (called “The Mootz”) proves that several layers of rich cheese and a drizzle of olive oil can do just fine without tomato sauce. Bring a few friends, grab an orange booth, and have yourselves an old-school pizza party.
Leo is from the people behind another great restaurant on this guide, Ops in Bushwick. Like their sister location, Leo specializes in tangy sourdough pies, but with a completely different menu of toppings. Their briny clam pie will make you reconsider any allegiance to bivalve mollusk pizza you’ve enjoyed before, especially since the sourdough crust gives the shucked littlenecks a balance of acidic and sweet flavor. If you’re in the area and looking for a slice or two to go, grab the starch-dominant provola and potato square slice in Leo’s slice shop. When you eat Leo’s naturally-leavened pizza, you get a satisfying char in every bite.
It’s almost impossible to resist the gravitational pull of Scarr’s - partly because of the stereotypically hypebeast-y LES crowd that lingers out front, and partly because a Scarr’s slice will make you want to investigate how crust can taste so flavorful. Part of the reason the pizza is so good: Scarr’s mills their own grains in house to create a nutritious dough. Browned cheese blankets the surface of the slightly yeasty crust, with a zesty tomato sauce underneath. In the sauce are hints of oregano that recall Sicilian bushels of the stuff showering down into bubbling vats of passata. Stick with thin-crust slices, as we’ve found the square slices to be inconsistent and doughy, and you’re in for the best pizza you can find on the LES. Not to mention there’s an equally lively scene to make you want to stick around and party.
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Totonno Pizzeria Napolitana
Totonno’s is temporarily closed
In 1924, Calvin Coolidge won a presidential election, Marlon Brando was born, and Totonno’s opened in Coney Island. And, after 90+ years, they still make an extremely good coal-oven pizza. The spot was originally opened by someone who worked at NYC’s first-ever pizza place, Lombardi’s, in Nolita. His family (mainly his granddaughters Cookie and Antoinette) still runs the show with just two menu items: small and large pies. The crust leans on the thinner side, and each pizza comes covered in equal parts cheese and tomato sauce, almost like a red-and-white leopard print. Just be sure to eat your pizza quickly, because the crust won’t stay crispy forever. This is, of course, a metaphor for life, and it’s yet another thing this old-school place in Coney Island has to offer.
Ace’s in Williamsburg makes the best Detroit-style pizza in the city. Their shop might look like any old slice joint, but it’s really somewhere you can hang out, sip some wine or beer, and play Mario Kart on N64. While they also do Sicilian pies and slices, your first move at Ace’s should unquestionably be some iteration of Detroit-style. Keep it simple and get it topped with pepperoni, and if you’re with one other person, order a small. You’ll get four airy slices with crispy cheese-webbed crust that will provide you with profound joy.
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We once went to Mama’s Too to eat their gas-oven Sicilian squares when it was 15 degrees outside. We had to wear pants under our pants, and it was 100% worth it. That was the first time we tried their shroom and sausage slice as well as the cacio e pepe pizza with its four types of cheese and cracked black pepper, both of which will enrich your life in ways you have yet to fathom. And those aren’t even the best slices here. The square pepperoni one is worth a trip across the city, and the house triangular slice with fresh basil is just about as noteworthy as the one at Di Fara. Big but surprisingly light and a bit crispy, this pizza is something you’ll want to eat in large quantities, the way Pac-Man consumes those tiny dots.
If you lived in lower Manhattan in 2012, you might think that Rubirosa is the only place that makes a super-thin-crust pie with excellent vodka sauce. News flash: Rubirosa borrows their recipes and style by from legendary Staten Island spot Joe & Pats (for context, the owner of Rubirosa is related to the team who started Joe & Pats). The crust here is almost as thin as matzoh, so we don’t recommend weighing it down with more than one additional topping on any one pie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: you can eat more cracker-thin pizza, which you will inevitably want to do here. If you don’t live on Staten Island, this place alone is worth the trip, but know that they also have a location in the East Village.
This pizza looks like the results of a Google image search of “NYC pizza.” But if you called it ordinary, that would be very wrong. Baked in a coal oven so that each slice has significant blackened char, this East Harlem spot claims to have invented the concept of selling pizza by the slice in the 1930′s. When you’re at the original East Harlem location, though, it doesn’t matter if you’re getting a whole pie or just a slice from the counter. What does matter is that you’ll need to order the plain – it’s thin and soft but holds up the bright red sauce and big circles of mozzarella cheese, and it’s the reason you’re coming to Patsy’s.
This pizza spot originally opened in East Harlem in the 1947, and then moved into a tiny brick building on the first floor of a white house in Pelham Bay about a decade later. We don’t know who lives in that house, but we hope they get Louie & Ernie’s New York-style pizza as often as their digestive tract allows. Whether you order a whole pie or a slice on a paper plate, our favorite topping here is a cheese pie with crumbly-salty sausage on top. Like the pies at NYC’s best old-school spots, these edges crisp up while the middle stays soft.
Rubirosa has been one of Manhattan’s best Italian restaurants for some time, and even though the waits here are still long, the pizza is worth it. In addition to serving perfect Staten Island-style, crackery crust vodka and tie-dyed swirl pies, the gluten-free pizza is somehow just as good - there’s a whole menu with glutenless masterpieces that are surprisingly thin and have all the same excellent toppings.
Even though typing the name of this place into Google pulls up every pizza spot in the city, the wood-fired slices here are so good that you’ll keep burning the roof of your mouth instead of waiting two minutes for them to cool off. The grandma square is one of the saucier slices on this list but still manages to be sturdy enough to have a crispy and foccacia-like crust. If you don’t feel like drippy tomato sauce ruining your outfit, go for the white slice with ricotta and caramelized onions. Sesame seeds get sprinkled near the edge of the crust, and act as a nutty balance to the rich clumps of onions and spread-out ricotta.
Much like a seven-year-old’s birthday party or most notable office meetings, pizza and ice cream are the primary focus at L&B Spumoni Gardens. The famous Sicilian square slice here is thick and rectangular, with a crispy base and a large amount of slightly undercooked dough in the middle that’s soft and chewy in a good way. On top, you’ll find tomato sauce, melted cheese, then even more tomato sauce - producing a surprisingly heavy, gooey pie worth traveling several miles across town for. Every slice is so substantial that you shouldn’t add toppings. You do, however, need to end your meal with spumoni – a kind of gelato/ice cream hybrid. Devouring a whole pie at a picnic table with a group here is a classic NYC summer experience.
Lee’s Tavern feels like it’s frozen in an era before cell phone reception or the team known as the New York Metropolitans were invented. Every table at this 1940s-founded sports bar on Staten Island features at least one pitcher of light beer and a couple of cracker-thin crust pizzas oozing onto paper plates. The pies here are some of our favorite in the Staten-Island style, with slightly charred bottoms and crust bubbles you could break with a single little tap. Always order their clam pie, even if you were raised to think that mollusks and cheese don’t belong together. Lee’s Tavern’s clam pie is proof that food rules are mostly stupid. The mild, low-moisture cheese, fresh hunks of garlic, and briny clams work so well together that they should form an LLC.
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Emily in Clinton Hill is definitely not the cool restaurant it was when it opened in 2014, but they still crank out some of our favorite pizza and burgers in the city. Pepperoni, jalapeños, and hot honey - found on their “Colony” pie - are now a part of NYC’s pizza-topping canon (first started by Roberta’s “Bee Sting”). Emily’s crust remains light and tasty, with some satisfying leoparding crawling over the dough.
Roberta’s helped start the new Neapolitan movement in this city, and this pizza list would probably look very different without the influence of their chewy-fluffy crust. As was the case in 2008, Roberta’s still bakes their pies in a massive wood-burning oven at temperatures high enough to develop black char flecks. Despite the fact that they now sell their pies in the frozen aisle at Whole Foods and run a location in LA, the crust here remains pretty good. Also important: this is still an excellent place to bring 10 people on a whim for pizza-fueled dinner outside.
After trying their thin-crust and square options made with sourdough, we’d almost always send somebody to Upside over Joe’s. The dough from Upside is noticeably tangy and there are patches of bubbly caramelized cheese that make us thankful for fire. The square slices shouldn’t be missed, especially their cheese-less Sicilian that’s covered in thin slices of garlic, crisped up basil leaves, and perfectly seasoned tomato sauce that’s zesty and not too sweet.
There are slice shops on almost every street in the city that strive for that mix of foldable crust, stretching mozzarella, sweet tomato sauce, and droplets of grease. And the Carmine Street location of Joe’s is on this guide because of its legacy as one of the greats. The cheese slice at Joe’s isn’t the best in the class anymore, but it still folds like it’s been constructed to have a perforated edge through the middle. It’s a rite of passage to eat this pizza, even just once at 11pm surrounded by NYU seniors.