A typical NYC slice shop has a few basic elements. A counter and a glass case, for example, as well an area where you can spritz your pizza with chili flakes and burn your mouth on some cheese that’s only slightly hotter than the Earth’s core (if you’re an impatient kind of person). Mama’s Too has all of these things—but it isn’t your average counter-service pizza place.
This is a tiny spot on the Upper West Side, and it makes some of the best pizza within walking distance of Central Park. The main attraction here is the square slice covered in thick little pieces of pepperoni, the edges of which reach toward the sky as if thanking the pizza gods for making them so delicious. It’s crunchy on the bottom and crispy around edges, with a sweet and garlicky sauce under what would seem like an excessive amount of melted mozzarella, if melted mozzarella weren’t such an objectively desirable food.
If you’ve ever been to Prince St. Pizza, all of this might sound familiar. You might even be thinking to yourself, “This sounds like Prince St.’s pepperoni square,” or, “I’d like a Prince St. pepperoni square right now.” In both cases, you would be correct. But that shouldn’t diminish your appreciation of this one. Fresh out of the oven, it’s a near-perfect mass of dough, cheese, and mildly spicy cured meat. Also, Mama’s Too has something Prince St. doesn’t: triangular slices worth going out of your way for. The house triangular slice comes spotted with cheese and sauce (similar to a leopard print) and topped with fresh basil. It’s big, but surprisingly light and a little bit crispy, and it’s something you’ll want to eat in large quantities, the way Pac-Man consumes those tiny dots.
As good as the house slice is, though, the cacio e pepe (which, like everything here, you can get in either square or triangular form) is even better. It’s rich, salty, and covered in cheese, and it’ll convince you that every pasta should be brought to a lab and reverse-engineered into a pizza. The only problem is that you might not find it when you stop by—and that’s the one real downside of this place. Slices go quickly, and since you never know what will be available at a given time, a visit can feel like scratching off a lottery ticket or opening a pack of Pokemon cards circa 1999, hoping to get a Charizard. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, but sometimes you won’t.
The good news is, you can always order a whole pie of your favorite variety. This will probably result in an excess of pizza, but it will also make you a more charming and interesting-seeming person who’s suddenly extremely good at making friends. Because as much as this might look like your average slice place, the pizza at Mama’s Too is exceptional. If you pride yourself on the fact that you’ve already tried all the best pizza in NYC, make it a point to cross this off your list, too.
There are no wrong choices in this food rundown, so it’s essentially a better and more rewarding version of The Dating Game—and we’re going to treat it as such.
First up, we have the pepperoni square. The pepperoni square is constantly in demand, and it’s never in one place too long. But if you happen to see it behind the counter at Mama’s Too, you should point and say, “That. Please.”
On Friday nights, the House Round Slice likes to stay home and watch movies starring Ingrid Bergman or Montgomery Clift on TCM. It isn’t the most exciting slice in the world, but it’s classic and a little refined, and you’ll want to spend time with it on your couch.
House Round With Pepperoni
This one used to be a House Round, then it went and got some pepperoni, and now it thinks it’s better than everyone else. And it actually is, if you like pepperoni.
Cacio E Pepe
One day, this slice saw a bowl of cacio e pepe on TV and thought, “That’s what I’d like to be.” And it worked out well. If you want what is essentially a rich slice of white pizza covered in black pepper and various kinds of cheese (you do), pick this.
Sausage & Peppers
This slice is covered in big chunks of sausage and sweet peppers, and it doesn’t try to hide what it is. While it isn’t quite in our top tier of slices, it’s still a solid choice.
Mushroom, Onion, and Ricotta
When you were young, you knew a mushroom slice or two - and they were perfectly fine and comforting in a mushroom-y sort of way. This is those other slices all grown up. It has two types of cheese and caramelized onions, and you’ll want to fall asleep next to it.