Pete Wells, The New York Times’s restaurant critic since 2012, eats hundreds and hundreds of meals every year, searching for the best food the city has to offer.
These are his choices for 10 of the best pizza slices in New York.
Upper West Side, Manhattan
The regular “house slice” combines the darkly caramelized, bready crust and pure-tomato flavor of a Neapolitan pie with the grab-and-go portability of a streetcorner slice. The squares, meanwhile, merge the Sicilian, Detroit, and Roman pizza al taglio styles in one dark, crunchy whole, fringed with what is know as a “frico crust” — the edges of browned cheese where the dough meets the pan. The pepperoni square in particular is an unstoppable force. Mama’s Too makes experimental pizza for the people.
2750 Broadway (106th Street), Upper West Side; 212-510-7256; mamastoo.com.
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
When neoclassical slice-shop owners say they emulate the old-school joints that still obsess over quality, Joe’s is one of the places they’re talking about. The slices taste and look the way they did 30 years ago; there’s still a red border of pure tomato next to the outer crust, and the pies aren’t pulled from the oven until the cheese has a suntan.
7 Carmine Street (Avenue of the Americas), Greenwich Village; 212-366-1182; joespizzanyc.com.
L&B Spumoni Gardens
The long-cooked sauce is famous for two things: It goes on top of the cheese and it once sparked an interborough pizza dispute that involved alleged members of two mob families. L&B makes a regular slice, but almost everybody gets the squares: tallish, crunchy and browned underneath, with a thick, soft interior you can use for sponging up runaway sauce on your paper plate.
2725 86th Street (West 10th Street), Gravesend, Brooklyn; 718-449-1230; spumonigardens.com.
The regular slices are good enough, but Williamsburg Pizza vaults itself into the pizza ionosphere with its grandma squares. The ones sitting out at the counter may appear past their prime; forge on, because what emerges from the oven is freshly assembled (try the Apple Bacon slice, with walnuts and three cheeses) and as crisp as you can imagine, with an oily sizzle on the bottom and a lacy collar of browned grated cheese around the edge.
265 Union Avenue (South Third Street), Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-855-8729; williamsburgpizza.com.
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
The grandma pie at Loring Place is not sold by the slice. You have to get a whole pan, for $17, and you have to sit down in a real restaurant to eat it. But it’s worth bending the rules for because an entire pie is only about twice as big as a standard grandma slice and, more to the point, it maintains fidelity to the modest spirit of the original while gently nudging it higher.
21 West Eighth Street (Washington Square West), Greenwich Village; 212-388-1831; loringplacenyc.com.
Lower East Side, Manhattan
Scarr’s is decorated to look like a survivor from the Koch Administration, but there is serious modern pizza know-how at work. Wheat milled in the basement each day is mixed with upstate flour, then put through a leisurely fermentation to produce a crust that’s seductively light, even delicate.
22 Orchard Street (Canal Street), Lower East Side; 212-334-3481; scarrspizza.com.
New Park Pizza
Howard Beach, Queens
For 62 years, New Park has been a trusted pit stop on the road to Rockaway Beach. That’s not sand on the bottom of the crust, it’s salt, tossed into the brick oven to keep pies from sticking. Even if you don’t taste salt, you’ll notice the reliable crackle.
156-71 Cross Bay Boulevard (157th Avenue), Howard Beach, Queens; 718-641-3082; newparkpizza.com.
East Harlem, Manhattan
The slices doled out in Patsy’s takeout wing next to the sit-down restaurant are in a style of their own, one with its roots in the brick-oven pies of early immigrants from Naples. Sauce is applied as if with a paintbrush to the thin and somewhat floppy crust, and the pizza is lightly charred in one of the city’s last coal-heated ovens. The slices have some of the old-time flavor you get at John’s of Bleecker Street or Totonno, both rigidly antislice.
2287 First Avenue (118th Street), East Harlem; 212-534-9783; thepatsyspizza.com.
PQR New York (Pizza Quadrata Romana)
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Shot through with air bubbles but golden and crisp on both top and bottom, the Roman squares at PQR are the antithesis of thick, pillowy Sicilian slices. Toppings, like potato with rosemary and guaciale or fresh porcini and toasted mozzarella, show a thoroughly Italian sense of what tastes good.
1631 Second Avenue (85th Street), Upper East Side; 646-449-0889; pqr-nyc.com.
Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop
The peas-and-carrots color scheme and rec-room paneling suggest a tongue-in-cheek hipster irony. The pizza, though, is dead serious in its attempt to recreate the classic streetcorner slice before sauce got sweet and cheese got rubbery. The plain slice and white pie made with aged mozzarella (The Mooz) are models of the form but the pepperoni with spicy honey (The Hellboy) is a show-stealing innovation.
110 Franklin Street (Noble Street), Greenpoint, Brooklyn; no phone; pauliegee.com/slice-shop.
What Are Your Favorite Places to Grab a Slice of Pizza in New York City?
Send us your recommendations at email@example.com. An editor or reporter will be in touch with you — before publication — if your response is chosen for a new list.