New York City may be a culinary wonderland, but we all know what food we really think of when this city comes to mind: pizza!
It’s an iconic New York dish, and one that’s hotly debated. What makes a good pizza? Thick or thin crust? Slices or squares? Who makes the best NYC pizza? I’m here to answer those questions and more as I serve up 10 pizzerias that’ll change your life.
As the oldest Pizzeria in New York City, Lombardi’s defines what a classic New York City pizza should be. The pizza parlor, with red and white checkered tablecloths and vibrant paintings, has an old-world charm. Their thin crust Neapolitan pizzas are made with a tried and true recipe (the same since 1905), and coal-fired for extra flavor. Order the original Margherita pizza, add deli-style pepperoni. Then, be prepared for ooey-gooey cheesy goodness that doesn’t end. Lombardi’s introduced pizza to America and this alone makes them one of the best NYC pizza places.
John’s of Times Square
A famous pizzeria slinging trademark thin-crust pies, John’s of Times Square is a massive Midtown space meaning no waits and fast service. Located in a former church, there are still design elements, like stained glass mosaics, that make the setting standout. The made-to-order wood oven pizzas are huge. HUGE. The sauce is spot on. And the toppings are fresh. You can’t go wrong with the classic Margherita pizza but pepperoni does make everything better.
John’s of Bleecker Street
So John’s are apparently very good at making pizzas. That said, this pizzeria, open since 1929, has a totally different spin on pies. A crispy yet chewy crust has a hand-tossed thickness kissed by a charcoal oven for extra flavor. The sauce is rich, basil and garlic essential, and their calzones are raved about by locals in the know. The dining rooms at John’s, with faded wood paneling and murals, look like they haven't been updated since opening—but that’s part of the charm. Be prepared for a wait as space is limited.
Don Antonio by Starita
The first time I ate at Don Antonio’s, I stumbled across it before a Broadway show. Little did I know I’d found one of the most raved-about NYC pizza joints. Don Antonio’s deep fried pies are a love song to all things dough. As a crust enthusiast, my taste buds lit up at the taste. Thick and chewy, it has a light crisp. Then, there’s the buffalo mozzarella, ripe tomatoes and wood-burning oven that brings it all together. If you’re dining solo, opt for a seat at the window counter and people watch. I recommend the Marina Starita (their signature pie), side of Peroni, please.
Located under the Brooklyn Bridge, Grimaldi’s is a Brooklyn staple serving some of the best NYC pizza. Their reputation for tasty pizza pies creates lines that are out the door, and down the street. Don’t worry—this delicious delight is worth it! A thin, light and airy crust topped with fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, and toppings of your choice is cooked to perfection in an aged brick oven. As you pass by (or stand in line) the smell alone will taunt your taste buds. Grimaldi’s portions are massive, and they don’t skimp on the ingredients. When I order my favorite, each bite includes pepperoni and sausage. It adds to the oh-my-gosh-this-is-good flavor.
Helmed by Dom Demarco since 1964, Di Fara is renowned for its pizza and has the lines to prove it. The fandom isn’t without cause: Di Fara was #1 on the Zagat Survey’s pizza list for eight years running (2007-2014) and is lauded by the Food Network, Anthony Bourdain and publications like New York, Serious Eats and Frommer’s. Even with all of those acclaims, the restaurant is unassuming and deeply casual. Ingredients are ordered from Italy, and Demarco is the only one allowed to make the pies. If he’s unavailable, no pizza for you!
This rustic pizza parlor is run by Paul Giannone, a pizza enthusiast turned professional since opening Paulie Gee’s in 2010. Known for their dedication to quality ingredients and pun-filled menus, guests can expect the unexpected while dining here. Unusual combos like the brunch-inspired Monte Cristo combines mild Gouda, Canadian bacon and maple syrup, while the Greenpoint Benedict layers fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, Canadian bacon, and a post-oven hollandaise drizzle. The punny-menu is also filled with mouth-watering creations like the King Henry and Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me that put a fresh spin on old favorites.
The president of the American chapter of Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, Robert Caporuscio, owns Keste which means he creates some of the best certified authentic Neapolitan pie. They're made with imported tomatoes, cheese and flour, then wood-fired in a 1000-degree oven for a smoky char. To add to the authenticity, the oven was made by craftsmen from Naples to ensure the correct Neapolitan flavors. The shoebox-sized establishment may be a tight squeeze for diners, but the pizzas deliver a love letter of scrumptiousness.
Helmed by the Best New Chef of 2011 by Food & Wine magazine, Roberta’s is well known for its quirky recipes and independent spirit. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it location, next to graffitied walls, gives it a total hipster vibe. Offbeat ingredients like honey, kale, and cojita cheese shape a menu that blends the best of domestic and imported flavors. The crust is light and fluffy yet crisp, toppings high quality and tomato sauce robust. I prefer to make my own custom pie, but two of my premade favorites are the Bee Sting and Beastmaster. The menu is ever-changing, though, so I’m sure I’ll have a new pick after my next visit.
At Motorino, Chef Mathieu Palombino designs pizzas that are upscale. Fancy ingredients like oreganata butter and fior de latte take pizza to new levels of awesomeness. Plus, Palombino isn’t afraid to get creative with his pies, with Brussel sprouts, clams, and smoked pancetta topping options. The crust is classically thin and crunchy but substantial enough to please this crust lover. I recommend choosing the Soppressata Piccanta, then topping it with sweet sausage, arugula, and roasted red peppers. Yum!
Which Best NYC Pizza Will You Try?
The incredible thing is this is just the start of the best NYC pizza places. You can eat your way around New York City, one pizza place at a time!