Clinton Hill (& Lower East Side)
St. Louis style-pizza is unlike any other pizza you've had. It uses an ultra-thin, crispy crust made with yeast (making it not at all suitable for folding), topped with the city's beloved Provel cheese (a processed blend of cheddar, provolone, and Swiss), and typically cut into squares. Speedy Romeo, the hip Clinton Hill/Bed-Stuy pizza joint that once served as the Brooklyn location of Cafe Grumpy on Girls, is probably the only place in New York where you can find it. There are a number of other crazy wood-oven pies, like a brunch-only lox pizza and an LES-exclusive pizza made with Katz’s pastrami. Kind of stunt-y? Maybe, but they work.
Dom DeMarco opened his Avenue J pizzeria in 1964, and to this day, the now 80-year-old makes nearly every single pie by hand. Using mainly imported ingredients, Di Fara's pies come with an old-fashioned and simple sauce that’s probably the best in the city, made with San Marzano tomatoes and topped with a blend of Grana Padano, mozzarella, and parmesan, plus a touch of basil. The no-frills Midwood spot sees an almost constant line out the door, but if you care about pizza you’ll make the trek, and take the wait in stride.
Before Emmy Squared won hearts (both in real life and on Instagram) with its much-hyped Detroit-style square pizza, there was Prince Street Pizza, offering what is still one of the best square slices in the city. The Nolita pizza shop offers several kinds of Sicilian and Grandma slices, but the move is to order the Spicy Spring with fra diavolo, fresh mozzarella, and small, crispy pepperonis that curl up around the edges and fill with pools of grease -- and then order a vodka slice to go along with it.
If you’re eating at Lucali, you’re eating one of two things: pizza or a calzone. That's because the menu only offers those two options. Mark Iacono has perfected what he knows, offering doughy but thin crust with lots of char, topped with a fresh and tangy sauce, mozzarella, and other toppings of your choice (be sure to get the slightly spicy pepperoni). There’s a reason Beyoncé and Jay Z once skipped the Grammys to eat here.
The original Patsy’s opened on First Ave in 1933, and still offers the same big cheesy pies and slices without the pretense today. The menu lists plenty of speciality pies that are quite good, but your order here is simple: the original pie, which features a beautifully thin and soft crust, topped with a simple tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. While the prices aren’t as low as they were in 1933, a slice is still just $1.75, and a huge pie is only $12.
Williamsburg (& East Village)
In addition to two NYC locations, Mathieu Palombino’s Motorino also has outposts in Manila, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This rapid expansion is unsurprising, given the consistently great quality of Motorino's Neapolitan-style pies (which it was doing before the style’s surge in popularity in NYC). There are a number of inventive pies here -- even the plain margarita touts a perfectly tangy San Marzano sauce with huge dollops of fior di latte and pecorino -- but the star is the Brussels sprout pizza (fret not, the leafy vegetable is accompanied by smoked pancetta).
Coney Island’s beloved Totonno’s is another one of New York’s oldest pizzerias, and a veritable institution. The owner did his time at Lombardi’s before opening his own spot in 1924, and the business has since been through a lot (multiple fires, a five-month shutdown after Sandy). But Totonno’s stands strong today, still making one of the city’s best margherita pies with a thin, charred crust, a sweet but not too-sweet tomato sauce, and slices of melty, fresh mozzarella.
Bushwick darling Roberta’s nails the perfect balance of being at once too cool and inviting. You’ll wait forever to try the Brooklyn-Neapolitan-style pies adored by locals and the Clintons alike, and drinking in the backyard Tiki bar while waiting to eat only heightens the allure, but there’s nothing exclusive or pretentious about the place. Take a seat at a wooden picnic table (inside or outside) and enjoy the crown jewel: the Speckenwolf, made with house-made mozzarella, thin slices of salty speck, and mushrooms.
If you live in Staten Island, you eat your pizza at Joe & Pat's. This family run pizzeria has been open since 1960, and is a favorite among locals, largely because of its near-perfect thin-crust pie, loaded with a tangy sauce and large globs of cheese. The margarita is always a reliable choice (by the pie or slice), but the vodka pizza can’t be missed. It’s worth the trip, no matter what borough you live in.
West Village (& other locations)
When it comes to a regular, fast slice it’s hard to beat Joe’s. Still owned and operated by Joe Pozzuoli, who opened the original West Village location in 1975, Joe’s now has two other outposts -- both on busy streets (14th St in the East Village/Union Square and Bedford Ave in Williamsburg), much to the delight of those seeking a 2am slice. Though it’s certainly a tourist attraction, it’s hard to find a regular cheese slice that compares. If anything is true New York pizza, it’s Joe’s.
While the rest of Brooklyn moves rapidly in the direction of million dollar shoebox apartments and high-end restaurants in converted garages, Sam’s on Court St remains unchanged. An old-school joint filled with red leather booths and red checkered table cloths, Sam’s offers simple but delicious coal-fired pizza with a nice crispy crust; though the real star is Louis, son of owner Mario Migliaccio, who for years was the head waiter/main source of biting humor, and now serves as the man-in-charge.
Inside a cabin-like room with enough rustic wood finishings to fill a Pinterest board, you’ll find some of the city’s most inventive Neapolitan-style pies, like the Hometown Brisket with chunks of Hometown Bar-B-Que's beloved meat, and the sweet-and-savory Cherry Jones with mozzarella, gorgonzola, prosciutto, dried cherries, and honey. New Yorkers are so taken with the Greenpoint pizzeria that it's expanded to Baltimore, Miami, Columbus, and Chicago.
Mario Migliucci once said no to having a scene from The Godfather filmed in his “family friendly” pizzeria in the Bronx. Forty years later, after his death, his son allowed a scene from The Sopranos to be filmed in the restaurant, but only because it wasn’t violent. Mario’s doesn’t consider itself a pizza place -- it’s a classic-red-sauce Italian joint boasting the likes of veal Parm and manicotti. You won’t even find pizza listed on the menu, and if you don’t ask for a large size when ordering it, you’ll get a small, appetizer-size pie. But the pizza at Mario’s is worth the semi-secret ordering maneuver, with a chewy charred crust and the right amount of sauce and cheese (opt for the sausage pie and you won’t be disappointed).
Patsy Grimaldi’s Juliana’s -- a rival of the adjacent Grimaldi's, which he no longer owns -- offers pies that seem nearly identical to its rival, but offer something entirely different. Juliana’s pizza is light and airy, with fresh and rich flavors from its sauce and cheese. It also helps that the line isn’t nearly as long.
The square-slice gold standard, L&B’s Sicilian is certainly something to check off your NYC dining bucket list. It’s a wonderfully plump, doughy square with plenty of fresh mozzarella and a tart tomato sauce on top of that (accompanied by a sprinkle of pecorino), striking the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavor. It’s best enjoyed outside at one of L&B’s red picnic tables.
This friendly neighborhood spot seems to achieve the impossible: a crust that’s not too thick and not too thin, with just the perfect amount of char. There’s a bevy of options to choose from, but if you come Friday-Sunday, always get the burrata (it’s only offered then), any other night, go with the Laura: mozzarella, mascarpone, rosemary, and bacon-like speck.
Port Richmond & Greenwich Village
Denino’s is a true Staten Island staple -- it’s been around since the 1930s, and the street it’s located on is even named after it’s founder. But Manhattanites no longer need to trek out to the outer-borough to get it, as there's now a second location in Greenwich Village. The go-to order here is the Garbage Pie, a meat-heavy number topped with sausage, meatballs, pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. If you’re a Denino’s regular, you know to order it well-done.
Zero Otto Nove has several outposts (including Manhattan and Armonk) but the original Arthur Ave location will always reign supreme. Roberto Paciullo’s Salerno-style pies are extremely unique -- somewhat similar to Neapolitan, but crispier and less fluffy. Opt for the sweet and savory La Riccardo with butternut squash puree, smoked mozzarella, and spicy pancetta.
Jokes about the name's poor SEO aside, this Williamsburg pizza shop from Roberta's alum Frank Pinello truly is one of the city's best, with a few different pie options and heroes in a largely standing room-only storefront (it guarantees no long waits for a table!). The no-frills shop has one of the best white pies in the city, topped with caramelized onions, Parmesan, and sesame seeds.
Sullivan St. Bakery’s Jim Lahey first experimented with pizza at the bakery, offering interesting focaccia-like mini-pizzas that are still a popular order -- but it’s at the pizza-devoted Co., opened in 2009, where his true pizza prowess shines. The crust at Co. is super thin and crunchy, with lots of good char, and menu is filled with elevated options like the Shiitake, the Meatball, and the Popeye with three cheeses, spinach, black pepper, and garlic.
Clinton Hill & West Village
Emily and Matt Hyland know a thing or two about a good burger, but that shouldn't distract you from the fact that Emily is first and foremost a pizza place. While you should absolutely go ahead and order the burger, it should serve as a side to your pizza (that's a normal thing to do, right?). Creative and colorful pies like the Lady Girl (ricotta, havarti, mushrooms, pickled chili) and the North Maple (havarti, mozzarella, Benton’s bacon, pecans, maple syrup) set Emily apart from the modern-day pizza shop competition.
There’s no shortage of Neapolitan pies in New York, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook this Union Square spot from Kestè and Pizzarte alums that’s doing some of the city’s most underrated pizza. Using strictly Neapolitan ingredients (that includes the flour and yeast), Ribalta crafts pies that are lighter than usual (thanks to said flour and yeast), meaning you won’t feel completely weighed down from the Zucchine pie with zucchini purée, burrata, and speck or the DOC, topped simply with fresh mozzarella and basil.
It’s still nearly impossible to look at any social media platform without seeing a picture of the Detroit-style square pies from this Emily spinoff. Yes, it’s photogenic pizza -- with crispy, cheesy edges -- and it checks all the Detroit-style boxes it should, but it’s Chef Matt Hyland’s creative menu that makes dining here so exciting. You’ll find everything from the Roni Supreme (pepperoni & Calabrian chili) to The Emmy (banana peppers, onions, ranch) to the Hula Hog (Fleishers bacon, pineapple, pickled chilis), all of which arrive in a steel pan.
Maspeth may seem like a trek if you’re coming from basically anywhere that isn’t already Queens, but the trip is well worth it for a Sicilian from Rosa’s, famously made with the sauce on top of the cheese. The squares here are perfectly thick with well-charred edges and topped with the right ratio of sauce to cheese.
This Charlie Bird follow-up doesn’t make the city’s best clam pie, but it’s certainly a competition-stirring one. PJ’s offers a number of wood-fired pizzas (which you can watch being prepped in the open kitchen), but the Littleneck Clam, loaded with rich and salty cream; a touch of lemon, parsley, and garlic; and perfectly briny chopped clams is the one to order.
Brother’s has been around for over 50 years and is still the essential neighborhood pizza joint -- all you’ll find here are regular slices and Sicilians, made by a friendly staff that’s more or less been around since the place opened. The pies are cheap and enormous, made with a thin and crispy crust, and topped with a slightly sweet tomato sauce and plenty of cheese.