An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (2024)

ByArthur Bovino,Features correspondent

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (1)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (2)Radharc Images/Alamy

From John's of Bleecker Street to Una Pizza Napoletana, here are insider Arthur Bovino's picks for the eight best pies and slices in New York City.

Whether it's a quick lunch, an after-school snack, a destination dining experience or a late-night soak-up, pizza powers New York City. No city has slice or pie culture quite like it, and no visit is complete without it. A bragging right and backbone of identity born of late 19th- and early 20th-Century Italian immigration, pizza and New York's ties run deep. But all pizza is not created equal. And $1 slices do not epiphanies make.

The city's "best pizza" is as important an opinion as it gets around here. Arguably the five boroughs' most famous slice, Joe's, is the baseline. Criteria for judging? A near-equal sauce-to-cheese ratio and a flavourful crust (no "gum line" – undercooked dough between the crust and toppings) with an undercarriage that never fully cracks when folded. Greatpizza can be an adventure and tell a story, but ultimately, the best pizza is one you're thinking about having again before the one you're eating that moment disappears.

After 14 years of tasting, writing about and ranking the city's slices and pies, here are my picks for New York City's best pizza spots.

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (3)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (4)Robert K Chin - Storefronts/Alamy

1. Best of the best: Una Pizza Napoletana

New York has many celebrated Neapolitan pizzerias, but Anthony Mangieri's East Village Una was a standard-bearer from 2004 to 2009, and his return from San Francisco in 2018 excited pizza obsessives. In between, NYC's pizza scene moved onto artisanal slices, sourdough and regional styles, and it took some time after Una Pizza Napoletana opened for Mangieri's Lower East Side venture to find its footing – but it certainly has.

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (5)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (6)

The SpeciaList

Arthur Bovino is a Queens-born New Yorker who reports about the city's pizza @nycbestpizza and thepizzacowboy.com.

This is Mangieri's show: naturally leavened, wood-fired dough mixed morning-of, carefully cooked, often by Mangieri. There are five classics (marinara, margherita, bianca,filetti,cosacca; a weekly special; and toppings like pepperoni, a Parmesan variety dubbed "the king of cheeses", Calabrian long hot peppers and Italian anchovies. Simplicity and craft led this place to be namedthe best pizzeria in the US in 2023.

So, plan your visit. There's no takeout, and it's only open Thursday to Saturday (17:00 until the dough runs out). Reservations (one pizza per person) open at 09:00 daily two weeks ahead, so a walk-in bar seat may be your best move.

Pro tip: On Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00, the pizzeria's front bar area turns intoCaffè Napoletanawith Southern Italian-style espresso, fresh citrus juice, Italian snack cakes and sourdough pizza bread sandwiches.

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (7)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (8)Spencer Grant/Alamy

2. Best old-school vibe: John's of Bleecker Street

This pies-only, coal-fired West Village institution has more pedigree than most American pizzerias.Lombardi's, located a mile away, has long claimed to be "America's first pizzeria", but Neapolitan pizzamakerFilippo Milone(the driving force behind Lombardi's) was also instrumental in the origins of John's, which was originally called Pizzeria Port'Alba (thus, its current sign).

While John's relocated to its current location in 1934, it's still one of the oldest pizzerias in the nation. And with its gruff servers, no-reservations policy and no-slices mantra, it exudes old-school charm.

Pizzas come medium (14in) or large (16in), thin and crunchy. There are 16 toppings and eight specialty pizzas (full pies only). "The Boom Pie" – with roasted tomatoes, ricotta, garlic and basil – is a staff favourite, but start with one of three "John's Classics" – tomato sauce, aged mozzarella and flourishes like Pecorino Romano, oregano, a black pepper crust and fresh basil.

Website: www.johnsofbleecker.com

Address: 278 Bleecker St, New York

Phone: 1-212-243-1680

Instagram:@johnsofbleeckerstreet

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (9)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (10)Arthur Bovino

3. Best traditional slice: Mama's TOO!

More than a century passed without any NYC pizzerias meriting many stars from New York Times restaurant critics. Frank Tuttolomondo's Upper West Side shoebox-sized pizza-by-the-slice joint bucked the trend in 2018 with a glowing review a year after branching out from his family's nearby pizza operation.

Square slices are this place's most prolific offering, and 11 versions combine the classic New York Sicilian pie style (less airy dough with a tighter crumb) with the lightness and variety of Roman al taglio slices. Garlic confit with whipped ricotta; poached pear with gorgonzola and hot honey; and cacio e pepe (mascarpone, aged mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper) are musts. So, too, is one of New York's best vodka sauce slices (pizza with a creamier, spicier alternative to tomato sauce).

But the House Slice is a revelation! An artisanal approach to a round pie, it has a Neapolitan canotto-like (dinghy-shaped) crust and a thin, rigid undercarriage. Low-moisture mozzarella is layered first with splotches of sauce, preventing a gummy crust and creating an around-the-tongue umami finish that leaves you in lip-smacking reverie. It's difficult to visit without eating about four slices. A new location in the West Village is in the works, so bring friends, share slices and visit on Wednesdays when Tuttolomondo serves a sandwich special on homemade bread.

Website: www.mamastoo.com

Address: 2750 Broadway, New York

Phone: 1-212-510-7256

Instagram: @mamas_too

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (11)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (12)Arthur Bovino

4. Best "elevated" pie: L'Industrie Pizzeria

In 2017, a Tuscan named Massimo Laveglia opened a 23sq-m shop in Williamsburg called L'Industrie that reimagined what a New York slice could be. L'Industrie uses a levain sourdough starter and a poolish leavener for its round pies (65-67% hydration), which is much more work than typically goes into a NYC slice, but the results show.

There's a thin, pliable base that stands up to judiciously applied toppings like cremini mushrooms, bacon and caramelised onions, and a crisp, light crusty edge that's taller and airier than average. The crust is spotted with tiny blisters that flake away as you bite and minimalist saucing (Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes). Everything's finished with basil, a pleasantly funky Parmigiano Reggiano and EVOO [extra virgin olive oil] in balance. There's a house square slice that changes daily, three white slices and six reds (plus a whole tomato pie), but the burrata is the signature. Despite popular belief, burrata won't turn lousy pizza good, but fresh burrata on an already-great pizza is the stuff of dreams.

L'Industrie expanded next door in 2021 but there are still near-constant crowds. Expect to wait and check Instagram for a daily sandwich that goes head to head with Mama's TOO!

Website: www.lindustriebk.com/

Address: 254 S 2nd St, Brooklyn

Phone: 1-718-599-0002

Instagram: @lindustriebk

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (13)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (14)Arthur Bovino

5. Best under-the-radar pizzeria: Margherita Pizza

Some slice aficionados maintain that old-school Queens spots (Amore, Gloria, Pizza Garden, VIPizza and Brother's, for example) are saucier and cheesier than others. These places won't win any awards, but what they lack in nuance they deliver in flavour. Of these vintage spots, Margherita Pizza is the best of the bunch: fresh, saucy, cheesy and oil-drippingly indulgent.

Sure, there are newer, more celebrated artisanal pizzerias as well as older, more famous ones, but what kind of "best-of" list would this be without including a place you may never have heard of, but may soon become your go-to favourite? Margherita Pizza's green awning and blinking globe lights are just a 10-block walk from Jamaica Station. This narrow, brightly lit, under-appreciated slice joint opened by Sicilian-born Stefano DiBenedetto and childhood friend Frank Gioeliand in 1966 features a long counter bereft of stools, and slices that come hot and quick with "cheese pulls" (stretch chains of melted cheese that appear when slices are pulled from pies) every time.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MargheritaPizzaNY

Address: 16304 Jamaica Ave, Queens

Phone: 1-718-657-5780

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6. Best coal-fired pizza: Patsy's (Harlem location)

Something about trekking to Patsy's shoebox of a takeout shop in East Harlem and eating a lightly sauced, cheese-scattered equilateral-triangle slice makes for the perfect New York City pizza moment.

Patsy's opened in 1933, supposedly after founder Pasquale "Patsy" Lancieri left Lombardi's, one of the city's first pizzerias, and this sit-down location with a window facing 1st Avenue is the original. The place still coal-fires its pies and sells pizza by the slice, something otherwise unheard of (most coal spots only sell full pies), and it's delicious.

The super-thin slice is shorter than you'll typically find, lightly sauced with a scattering of creamy mozzarella and a crust with a dry char. And while you could eat it while sitting down, devouring a slice while standing on the pavement is almost an edible explanation of what happened to pizza after it migrated from Naples to New York in the early 1900s. All that for just $2.50.

Website: www.patsyspizzeria.us

Address: 2291 1st Ave, New York

Phone number: 1-212-534-9783

Instagram: @patsyspizza/

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (17)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (18)Arthur Bovino

7. Best square slice: L&B Spumoni Gardens

Founded in 1939 by Ludovico Barbati, an immigrant from the hillside town of Torella Dei Lombardi (an hour east of Naples), L&B began with Barbati learning how to make pizza in a garage, then peddling it via horse and wagon (thus, the logo) before settling into its current spot in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

The pilgrimage to southern Brooklyn is worth it for the square slice and the spumoni ice cream. Its huge signature Sicilian pies get a thin mozzarella coating, a juicy sauce layer and a Parmesan dusting. Some pizza purists complain that L&B's dough has too large of a gum line, but there's undeniable appeal to the brioche-like moisture in the undercarriage and the sweet-salt-acid punch you taste as you bite into it.

The square pizzas are so large you may have to decide: centre (crustless) or edge? Try both. And if you leave (even in winter) without some of that rich cremolata (sweetened ice milk), you've missed the point.

Website: www.spumonigardens.com/

Address: 2725 86th St, Brooklyn

Phone: 1-718-449-1230

Instagram: @lbspumonigardens

An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (19)An expert's guide to the best pizza in NYC (20)Arthur Bovino

8. Best sausage pizza: Louie & Ernie's Pizza

There are other notable Bronx pizzerias, but Louie & Ernie's, located in the residential Schuylerville neighbourhood, has well-deserved reputation for boasting New York City's best sausage pie – and to be honest, it's not even much of a contest.

Louie & Ernie's opened in East Harlem in 1947 and relocated to its current location in 1959. Cosimo and Johnny Tiso bought it from Ernie Ottuso in 1987, and they've been doing the pizza justice ever since.

The shop is a narrow sliver of a spot – the kind of place with a sports game on TV and regulars greeted by name. Pizza-makers sling pies up front, crumbling fennel-laden sausage made four blocks away at S&D's deli using an 80-plus-year-old recipe. Unlike many sausage-topped slices where the meat is sliced in dry, unwieldy medallions, the juices from the torn-off, crumbled raw sausage cook out on the pizza, mixing with the sauce and cheese to create something truly spectacular.

Louie & Ernie's is a 15-minute walk from the nearest subway (the 6), so it's trek to get here, but well worth it.

Website: www.louieanderniespizza.com/

Address: 1300 Crosby Ave, Bronx, New York

Phone: 1-718-829-6230

Instagram: @Louieandernies

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