(CNN) — Never before has the New York City pizza scene been as strong and diverse as it is today. World-famous pizzaiolos are continually trying to break ground in this food epicenter to see if their pies can compete, and other types, such as Detroit-style pizza, are starting to become popular pizza contenders too.
Even the venerable Anthony Mangieri — who is considered to be one of the most respected pizza-makers in the world — has returned to NYC from San Francisco to reopen Una Pizza Napoletana and rejoin the ranks of New York’s elite.
Sure, you can still find dollar slices from one of the many grab-and-go stores that still litter the city, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not visiting one of the many world-class pizzerias that New York City has been blessed with. These pizzerias take the time to source the freshest ingredients and make sure each pie is made to perfection. This means there is often a wait (and a higher price tag), but that’s quality for you.
Whether you’re craving Neapolitan (soft, chewy crusts baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with fresh toppings), Neo-Neapolitan (similar to Neapolitan but with a sturdier crust), a square Sicilian (rectangular pizza with a thick crust,) or a good ol’ New York-style (big, wide slices with a light layer of sauce and a lot of cheese on top), these are the best pizzerias in New York City.
* Pizzerias are listed in alphabetical order.
The Hot Italian pie from Beebe’s in Long Island City in Queens is worth a trek to the borough.
Queens doesn’t have much of a reputation when it comes to pizza, but Beebe’s, located in the Boro Hotel in Long Island City, is helping to fill that void.
While there are a number of specialty pies on the menu, diners are able to customize pies to their liking. You can choose the Margherita, vodka or blank page (mozzarella, housemade ricotta, pecorino and garlic) as a base and add on all types of toppings from anchovies to sweet fennel sausage.
The Stracciatella, which is topped with a housemade stracciatella cheese and blanketed in arugula, is one of the most popular pies on the menu. The Hot Italian is also a crowd favorite, and the Mike’s Hot Honey drizzled on top adds a touch of sweetness and heat.
Of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic ‘Roni. And while vodka pies served in NYC can be hit or miss, Beebe’s gets it right. Add meatballs for an ethereal experience.
Best Pizza in Williamsburg (Brooklyn’s hippest neighborhood) puts out a particularly good white pie.
Frank Pinello certainly seemed to have a lot of confidence when he opened a pizzeria in 2010 and decided to call it Best Pizza. Good thing, there’s truth to the name, for Pinello’s pizza is the best in Williamsburg, one of Brooklyn’s hottest neighborhoods.
Best Pizza has the feel of a local slice joint, where you can pop in and grab a slice (go for the white or square grandma) if you need a quick fix.
Best Pizza’s white slice has a serious claim to being the best in NYC. It’s topped with creamy ricotta and a generous helping of sweet caramelized onions. Sesame seeds decorate the crust to lend even more crunch and enhanced flavor.
Denino’s Pizzeria and Tavern
The clam pie from Denino’s Pizzeria and Tavern in Greenwich Village can also be found at the Staten Island location.
While Staten Island is not the birthplace of the thin, bar-style pies that the New York City borough is known for, it was certainly popularized here. And if you’re getting pizza on Staten Island, Denino’s Pizzeria and Tavern is your spot.
Using a gas oven with bricks inside, Denino’s cooks its pizza at about 575 F (300 C). Unlike other places that may use coal or wood and crank the heat to more than 800 F (425 C), Denino’s cooks its pies at a lower temperature for a longer amount of time — about 11 minutes. The result is a cracker-thin, crunchy crust that manages to maintain its shape — no folding required here.
Joseph Castellano, who owns the Greenwich Village outpost in Manhattan, considers the dough the most important part of Denino’s pizza. That firm crust holds up well even with the copious amount of clams piled on its famous clam pie, which is the best you can get in NYC. Pizza connoisseurs may argue that the best clam pie in the region actually hails from Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, but I stand by my Denino’s praise.
Dom DeMarco has been slinging dough at Di Fara in Brooklyn since 1965.
It’s a few minutes past noon on a cool and drizzly Friday when Di Fara’s gates go up, and its doors open to the line of customers that have gathered outside. “We got a late start today,” Margaret Miales, one of Dominque DeMarco’s daughters says, as she finishes setting up shop.
Her setup includes a blank sheet of paper and a pen. It’s how she takes orders and how Di Fara pizza has been taking orders since 1965 when DeMarco opened the joint in a quiet part of Brooklyn known as Midwood.
It’s a cash-only spot where customers visiting from all over the world will gladly fork out more than $5 for a slice of the pizzeria’s Margherita, a slice that many will wait over an hour for. In spite of the no-frills shop, the prices can raise eyebrows. But, says Mieles of Di Fara’s price point: “We go the extra mile to source our ingredients.”
Thanks to DeMarco’s handiwork — he’s 81 and often still behind the counter tossing around dough and painting it with sauce, fresh mozzarella and other classic pizza ingredients — it’s the stuff of delicious legends. If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself front and center when DeMarco wields a pair of scissors and expertly cuts fresh basil over his masterpiece.
Emily in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn dishes up interesting flavor combinations. You might find pickled chilis and honey waking up your taste buds.
Courtesy Jill Futter/Emily
Named after his wife, Emily was opened in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn in 2014 by Matt and Emily Hyland.
Learning everything he knows about pizza from Luca Arrigoni from Sottocasa (another pizzeria in NYC), Hyland applied those lessons to help build the rapidly growing Emily empire. The pizzas at Emily are wood-fired like a Neapolitan but charred like New Haven pizzas.
Hyland jokes and calls it “New Havapolitan.”
The signature pie is the Emily, which is as distinctive as they come, as it’s topped with truffle Sottocenere, honey and pistachios. The Colony is also one of the most requested pies, which has pepperoni, pickled chilis and honey on top.
While Emily is the flagship restaurant, Hyland can also be credited with helping to popularize Detroit-style pizza in New York with Emmy Squared.
A hybrid between a Sicilian and a deep-dish pizza, this outpost serves up square pies with thick crusts that are typically baked twice and then topped with sauce afterward.
John’s of Bleecker Street
A sausage and pepperoni pizza from John’s of Bleecker Street retains its crisp in spite of the heavy helping of meat.
John’s of Bleecker Street is practically an NYC institution, serving its first pizza in 1929. It’s considered to be one of the four original pizzerias in NYC alongside Lombardi’s, Patsy’s and Totonno’s.
John’s hasn’t changed its recipe since its inception, and pizzas are still made the same way with the cheese going on first before adding sauce on top, which allows the cheese to melt right onto the dough and prevents the dough from absorbing too much moisture from the sauce. And the coal-fired oven that’s been a part of the restaurant for decades is still churning out six pies at a time at a blistering 850 F (454 C).
One step inside the restaurant is like walking through history. The booths and tables have carvings dating back decades, and diners are welcome to carve their name into the graffiti-covered wood — just leave the walls alone.
Something that has changed at John’s is the meatball recipe, and it’s better than ever before. So, make sure you add meatballs on at least one of your pies, and if you’re having trouble deciding, split the pie up and get different toppings on each half. Don’t be afraid to load up on toppings, as the thin, crunchy crust is sturdy and holds up great even with a mess of ingredients piled on top.
The House Special No. 1 coming out of the oven at Juliana’s in Brooklyn, NY is actually better than its neighbor’s pies at Grimaldi’s.
Patsy Grimaldi may have sold Grimaldi’s back in 1998, but after a long hiatus, he made his triumphant return with the opening of Juliana’s in 2012. While he was no longer able to use the Grimaldi name, he was able to reclaim his old space on 19 Fulton St. alongside the coal-fired oven that he used for decades.
While tourists line up around the block at Grimaldi’s in DUMBO (a Brooklyn neighborhood that stands for “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass”), we recommend going to Juliana’s instead. The pizza, along with the wait, does not compare. Everything from the crust, sauce and toppings are better, which should come as no surprise considering Patsy Grimaldi is one of the most renowned pizziaolos the world has ever seen.
The House Special No. 1 at Juliana’s is a revelation. Topped with mozzarella, scamorza affumicata (Italian cow’s milk cheese), pancetta, scallions and white truffles in olive oil, there is no pizza like it in NYC. You could argue that it is the single best specialty pie you can get in this great city. Grimaldi took something great and made it brilliant.
Louie & Ernie’s
John Tiso from Louie & Ernie’s Pizza in the Bronx has been making pizza since 1987, and this is the go-to neighborhood spot.
Any trip to the Bronx should require a stop at Louie & Ernie’s. First started in 1947 in Harlem, Louie & Ernie’s moved to the Bronx in 1947 and has been there ever since.
It has the feel of a true neighborhood slice joint, and everyone that goes there feels like a regular that lives up the block. Nearly every customer that walked in during our visit seemed to know everyone working behind the counter. Brothers John and Cosima Tiso took over the pizzeria in 1987 and haven’t changed a thing. Everything from the sauce to the cornmeal (it’s dusted on before going in the oven to add some crispiness) to the recipe for the dough is the same.
The menu is made up of only pizza and calzones, but the stand-out is the sausage pizza. The sausages are scattered liberally in huge pieces across the pizza, and the thin, crunchy New York-style crust holds up admirably. Pizzas are baked for nearly 15 minutes, which helps the crust maintain its shape.
When you think of a classic New York pizzeria, this is it.
Mark Iacono first opened the doors to Lucali in 2006, building most of the space by himself, including the oven used to make all of the pies. He’s one of the most unlikely pizza masters to emerge from NYC, having taught himself to make pizzas with no family recipe or pedigree to build off of.
If you plan to go to Lucali, go early and prepare to wait (or resign yourself to the separate takeout line). While the restaurant now accepts reservations through Resy, the limited number of slots fill up quickly.
Coming to Lucali is part dining experience, part theater. Watching Iacono make each pie on the marble top separating the kitchen from the dining area is mesmerizing, and it’s eerily reminiscent of watching pizza master Dom DeMarco work the counter at Di Fara, which should come as no surprise considering that DeMarco was Iacono’s inspiration.
The menu is as simple as they come. Pies only come in one size, each of which are topped with fresh basil, and there are no pre-set pies on the menu. You start with a plain pie and add toppings such as pepperoni, onions or peppers. It’s pizza at its most basic, and yet there’s nothing basic about it. From the fresh toppings to the sublime sauce that tops each pie, this is the type of pizza that all pizzerias should strive to make.
Best of all, the restaurant is BYOB, so feel free to bring a few beers or a bottle of wine to enjoy alongside your food. And who knows, if you’re lucky you might just catch Jay-Z and Beyoncé dining there.
The Hellboy from Brooklyn’s Paulie Gee’s contains fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, Berkshire soppressata picante, Parmigiano Reggiano and Mike’s Hot Honey.
Paul Giannone, tired of working a 9-5 job in IT, decided to give it all up in pursuit of his one true passion: pizza. And thank God that he did, because his pizzeria, Paulie Gee’s, serves the best neo-Neapolitan pizza in New York.
The list of wood-fired pizzas at Paulie Gee’s is as lengthy as pizza menus come, and each pie has a quirky name to boot. The Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me (fresh mozzarella, Canadian bacon, sweet Italian fennel sausage, fresh basil, and post-oven fresh ricotta dollops), Hellboy (fresh mozzarella, Italian tomatoes, Berkshire soppressata picante, Parmigiano Reggiano and Mike’s Hot Honey) and Cherry Jones (fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto di Parma, dried Bing cherries, and orange blossom honey) are all favorites at this Greenpoint pizzeria.
For the more carnivorous eaters out there, the Hometown Brisket (fresh mozzarella, beef brisket from Hometown BBQ in Brooklyn, house-pickled red onions and a drizzle of Hometown BBQ sauce) is fantastic.
On any given night, you can also expect Giannone himself to come by your table for a quick chat. It’s this type of personal touch that makes Paulie Gee’s feel more like a neighborhood restaurant than a world-class pizzeria, and it’ll have you coming back time and time again.
Prince Street Pizza
Detroit-style pizza seems to be all the craze these days in NYC, but if you’re craving a square pizza, Prince Street Pizza stands head and shoulders above the rest.
While the hole-in-the-wall pizza shop — standing room only — has Neapolitan pies on the menu that are quite good, you’re coming here for the “Soho Squares.” The Spicy Spring is the signature pizza here, and it’s topped with fra diavolo sauce, fresh mozzarella and the type of spicy pepperoni that curls up into little grease-filled cups after coming out of the oven. And you could certainly not accuse them of skimping on the toppings, as the pepperoni cups cover practically every inch of the pizza.
Your hands will get greasy, there will be oil everywhere and you will need piles of napkins to clean up after yourself. But one thing’s for certain: You will walk away happily sated. It’s worth the wait.
Roberta’s makes a lot of good pizza, but the stellar choice is almost always the classic margherita.
Started in 2008, Roberta’s helped usher in a new wave of pizzerias in NYC. A pilgrimage to its Bushwick outpost in Brooklyn was a must for any pizza-lover in its early years, and the waits could be expected to stretch upwards of three hours long.
While it’s much easier to get some of Roberta’s pizza now, with outposts spread across NYC in various food halls and pop-ups, a trip to the original location is still worth the trek. And while you should most certainly come for the pizza, you should stay for some of the fantastic non-pizza dishes coming out of the kitchen.
Roberta’s makes one of the best Margherita pies that NYC has to offer, and you can’t go wrong with one of the signature pies from its wood-fired oven: the Speckenwolf (mozzarella, speck, cremini mushrooms, onion, oregano and black pepper) or the Beastmaster (tomato, mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, onion, caper and jalapeno).
Totonno’s in Coney Island has been open since 1924, making it one of the oldest pizzerias in the United States.
Opened on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island in 1924, Totonno’s is one of the oldest pizzerias in the United States. Despite having to rebuild the restaurant twice since 2009 due to a fire and damage from Hurricane Sandy, Totonno’s is still standing today and is better than ever.
Make sure that you come hungry but not starving. The oven here is small, and on busy days expect to wait nearly an hour for your pizza to come out. Pies come in two sizes and toppings are added on as extras. The coal-fired oven gets the crust nice and crispy, but it still folds perfectly for easy eating.
You can’t go wrong with a pepperoni pie with garlic, which are the perfect complements to the sweet yet slightly tangy sauce that gets layered on thick along with a generous helping of fresh mozzarella. While it’s not on the main menu, you can order a white pie, which is covered in fresh mozzarella and garlic. Regulars swear by it and say it’s the best they’ve ever had.
Una Pizza Napoletana
A margherita from Una Pizza Napoletana in New York City is all about the base.
Courtesy Alex Lau/Una Pizza Napoleta
Una Pizza Napoletana is unlike any other pizzeria in NYC and that’s due to owner Anthony Mangieri’s tireless pursuit of perfection and devotion to Naples-style pizza. Mangieri considers the dough the most important part of a pizza and this care is apparent upon first bite. The perfectly charred and blistering crust has a soft, chewy interior that is so good, you’ll be using every last piece of the crust to sop the oil off your plate as you devour every bite.
Pies are on the smaller side and seem perfectly proportioned for one person, which makes sense since pizzas here are not precut and require you to use a fork and knife to cut your own slices. The pies won’t come cheap either, as the Margherita is one of the most expensive in the city, priced at $22.
On any given night, there are only five different pizzas served on the menu — no add-ons or substitutes are allowed. The Filetti (fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, garlic, basil) is a standout from its selection of permanent pies. On Fridays, the Concetta (San Marzano tomatoes, piennolo, corbarino, estratto della casa, parmigiano) is served. And the only pie with meat or eggs, the Apollonia (named after his daughter and made of mozzarella di bufala, parmigiano, egg, salami, black pepper, garlic and basil), is offered on Saturdays.
Make sure you leave room for dessert, because the tiramisu is almost reason enough to to visit Una Pizza Napoletana.
Stacey Lastoe contributed to reporting on this story.