It began from a desire to understand why New York pizza was so famous. Two years ago, we drove through all five boroughs and bought at least one pie (and several random slices) from each of the 5 NYC boroughs. We found the question not to be: “Which is best?” but rather “What is exceptional about each?” These pizzerias have nearly perfected the craft. Therefore, we usually order a simple plain cheese, or in certain cases, the specialty pie of the establishment. The day begins at 10:00 in a coffee shop in South Philadelphia, where we plan our route.
Beginning in Staten Island, our first stop is Nunzio’s (2155 Hylan Blvd.) where we ordered a half mozzarella and half margherita pie. Their sauce is a standout as well as the authentic NY accents of the men serving the food. The hardest part of the first stop is not eating a second slice.
We moved north to Joe & Pat’s (1758 Victory Blvd.) where pictures inside were proibito. The pizza wasn’t ruined by a manager’s sour attitude. Their cheese had some delicious, aged quality we couldn’t identify. The dough was very flimsy in the middle and hard to handle, still good though.
Heading to Denino’s (524 Port Richmond Ave.) we were surprised at the staff’s friendliness here. They asked us about our plan for the day and offered tips. Their slogan is “In Crust We Trust” and rightly so, as the crust is uniformly crunchy and fantastic. We ordered a half cheese and half M.O.R. (meatball, onion, ricotta). Those ingredients are a potent and patently palatable combination. We loved this place with their cheerful servers, jukebox ambience and tasty food. A recurring theme of smiles surrounding a pizza begins~~~~
A brief stop to walk off the first few slices, we found ourselves at the Staten Island Ferry and Lighthouse Museum while our next pizza was cooking. It was a brutally cold day, but provided great views of the Big Apple. I can imagine the bustling city docks before they were just broken pilings rotting in the Hudson Bay.
The last stop in Shaolin Island was Pier 76 (76 Bay St.), where the son of Joe and Pat’s opened his own place. We got the vodka pie. Simply outstanding flavors. It was a masterpiece of comfort pizza with the cheese literally becoming part of the dough and the rich vodka sauce holding it all together.
We moved into Brooklyn’s Coney Island and stopped at Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Ave.). 91 years of experience prove enough to give a quality pie. The pizzaiolo was a friendly guy who smiled as he worked. Their pizza was intricately flavored with burned crust and a pleasing appearance. This feels like ‘old school’ NYC pizza.
Next was a rather forgettable stop at Ramagi (594 Rogers Ave.) as we ran some errands. To be fair it was the only place where we ordered slices, and it was in the slow time of 15:00, but the service was poor and my buffalo chicken slice was boring. The pesto slice smelled and looked much better.
Hoping to please my taste buds after such blandness, we went to the legendary DiFara’s (1424 Ave J.). I love this pizza! The olive oil and basil added immediately after exiting the oven creates veritable pizza alchemy. Dom DeMarco stills crafts each pizza with the help of a few assistants. Arrive early as waiting time often hovers over the 60 minute mark. The only downside was that the cheese didn’t migrate towards the crust enough, so my slice had too much charred dough at the end. As I often say, you can’t win ’em all.
Darkness descending upon us, snow babies ripening in the clouds above, stomachs shrouded in cheese, we crawled into our last stop, the ever so funky, Roberta’s (261 Moore St.). This is a large place that serves as a nightclub and pizzeria. Their pizzas are smaller, at 6 slices each, so we ordered several to taste test. I don’t remember all the names, but the soft doughy texture and spicy arrangements of toppings was a perfect finish to our day.
Lost in conversation, we forgot about the incoming blizzard; therefore, driving the 80 miles south to Philly was treacherous, and took us about 4 white knuckled hours to finally sleep the well deserved pizza coma we were all awaiting.
This is the car the next day looking like we drove through the ice planet of Hoth.