Mozzarella Sticks Are Getting a Major Glow-Up in NYC

Chefs are putting their own spins on the classic dish, here’s where to try them.

Penny Bridge
Penny Bridge | Photo by Evan Sung
Penny Bridge | Photo by Evan Sung

From local pizza joints to Smorgasburg’s Big Mozz, there’s no shortage of spots to find mozzarella sticks in NYC—but lately, the indulgent dish is really having a moment.

And it’s not just that mozzarella sticks are surging in popularity—they’ve also gotten a glow-up. When chef Dan Kluger set out to open Penny Bridge, his third NYC restaurant, in Long Island City this August, mozzarella sticks were one of the first dishes he tested. The dish is a natural fit on his comfort food-focused menu because Kluger says: “it’s a classic, approachable appetizer that everyone is familiar with.” But his version is not your average mozz stick. “It can be done really well when you are using fresh ingredients,” he says, so his version starts with a blend of cheeses coated in Parmesan-panko crumbs and fried to crispy perfection before being plated with a smoky tomato sauce for dipping.

And he’s not alone in giving mozzarella sticks the star treatment. At Carne Mare—Andrew Carmellini’s upscale Italian steakhouse that opened in a shiny new Seaport space in June—the dish is dialed up several notches with the help of caviar served atop each stick. For Carmellini, the dish works alongside steakhouse classics salads coated with creamy dressing and rich steaks, but “it's the things you pepper the menu with that make it unique and interesting.”

So from classic versions that stick true to form to creative options that push the boundaries of this simple dish, here are all of the places you can enjoy glowed-up mozzarella sticks in NYC.

Penny Bridge

Long Island City

Chef Dan Kluger is pushing the envelope of this comfort food classic at his newest restaurant, Penny Bridge. His version blends mozzarella and fontina cheeses for a richer, creamier flavor, and each stick is coated in Parmesan-panko crumbs and given some added brightness from the addition of a bit of lemon zest. Finally, the mozzarella sticks are served with a rich, smoky tomato sauce that adds a kick.

Available for Reservations

Bernie's

Greenpoint

This neighborhood favorite is a mainstay for a reason. Bernie’s has cheeseburgers, hearty plates of chicken parm, and wedge salads to round out the American comfort food menu. But the must-have atop every red-checkered table is an order of mozzarella sticks. This version comes a bit oversized and fried to crispy perfection with a welcome bit of extra cheese grated on top.

Carne Mare

Seaport

When chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini debuted his Italian-style chophouse in Seaport earlier this year, mozzarella sticks were the spot’s unexpected hit. One may not expect the dish to stand out alongside decadent options like a sirloin cured in gorgonzola cheese and a 45-day dry-aged porterhouse steak, but these aren’t just any old mozz sticks. Carne Mare’s version comes a bit oversized for maximum cheese-pull potential and the starring feature is a dollop of caviar resting upon each stick—making it the ultimate high-low food experience.

Champs Diner

Williamsburg

This is not your ordinary diner. At Champs, the entire slate of diner favorites—from cauliflower wings to housemade veggie burgers and milkshakes—is all vegan. So, of course, the Williamsburg favorite has its own version of mozzarella sticks served with marinara sauce. And with a cheese pull that good, you won’t miss the mozzarella.

Available for Reservations
Emmett's
Photo courtesy of Emmett’s

This Chicago-style pizza joint is basically the holy grail of cheesy, saucy creations in the city, and that reputation goes far beyond Emmett’s killer deep-dish pizza. Owner and Chicago native Emmett Burke supplements the deep-dish and tavern-style, thin-crust pies with sandwiches and a Chicago dog—and the menu also offers a handful of starters like a classic order of mozzarella sticks with a rich, thick marinara sauce for dipping.

Available for Reservations

Oh K-Dog

Lower East Side

Korean corn dogs have been taking the city (and our Instagram feeds) by storm. Beyond hot dogs fried in batter or tiny cubed potatoes, Oh K-Dog offers mozza dogs that are basically like one giant mozzarella stick. Choose the traditional mozza dog for a classic option or mix things up with a potato- or sweet potato-coated mozzarella stick.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Parm

Multiple locations

This casual offshoot from Major Food Group has been a mainstay for more than a decade, so Parm has always been a go-to for mozzarella sticks. Whether at the Upper West Side or Little Italy location, order the spot’s namesake dish as a hero or with a side of pasta. But an order of expertly crafted, fresh-cut mozzarella sticks is a welcome addition to any table.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Aj Pappalardo’s Rubirosa Ristorante is known for giant pies dressed up with vodka sauce or in a tie-dye style with a hypnotizing swirl of pesto. But even one of the city’s most well-loved pizza shops offers mozzarella sticks to kick things off. The restaurant’s version remains true to the classic, with golden fried sticks served with a marinara sauce that you know is on point.

Available for Reservations

Zazzy’s Pizza

Multiple locations

With locations in the West Village and on the Lower East Side, this slice shop is making plant-based pizza the new norm. Sure, Zazzy’s has regular pies with all the melty high-quality cheeses you’d expect, but New Yorkers will be converted by top-notch vegan pie options and an entire appetizer menu made up of plant-based dishes. It may seem impossible, but the shop successfully executes mozzarella sticks with homemade marinara sauce and a “secret blend of plant-based ingredients” that your non-vegan friends won’t even know are cheeseless.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Liz Provencher is an associate editor at Thrillist.