If pizza is an essential fixture in New York's culinary history, then Lombardi's is an essential fixture in the grander history of pizza as a whole. Established in 1905, the place is cited as the first American Pizzeria, aptly stationed for the past full century on Manhattan soil (or pavement, I should say). Still located in Little Italy, the iconic red-brick pizza joint has checkered plastic tablecloths, a smoking coal oven, and a white-tiled open kitchen. The menu offers a handful of traditional sides -- meatballs, calzones, Caesar salad -- but you'd be remiss to walk away from Lombardi's sans pizza-related food coma. The pies are smoky-crusted and coal fired, topped with house-made san Marzano tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella, and served on rotating, silver pizza platters with toppings like ricotta, black-pepper garlic sauce, pancetta, and sweet Italian sausage (we recommend you go half and half on the toppings). And while nowadays, the place certainly caters to its fair share of tourists, it has yet to lose its sense of old-school New York character.
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1. Lombardi's Pizza 32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Nolita)