Here is the ultimate guide to finding the best pizza in New York City. Period.
In the 21st century, pizzerias in NYC can be divided into two main categories: those that sell slices and those that don’t. Of the latter, you have well-established institutions like John’s of Bleecker Street and relative newcomers who tend to come straight from Southern Italy and have changed the NYC pizza game drastically over the past two decades. And while Brooklyn and Manhattan still lead the way, the post-2000 pizza revolution has touched all five boroughs.
Keste owner Roberto Caporuscio and the duo who brought L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele to New York are pizza purists who grew up eating Neapolitan-style pizza and have helped make pizza in New York as much a mid-range dining experience as something you eat on-the-go like John Travolta on 86th Street in Saturday Night Fever.
Here’s where you can find the best pizza in NYC.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: 50 St
Don Antonio’s head pizzaiola Giorgia Caporuscio, grew up in Southern Italy and started making Neapolitan pies at the age of 19. By 22, she was the youngest to win the Caputo Cup. To find out why she won, you have to try the Montanara. The dough is flash fried, then topped with sauce, basil, and smoked buffalo mozzarella, which you can smell as soon as the pizza arrives at your table. Don Antonio has more than two dozen other pies, most of which can be prepared gluten-free in their separate oven.
Joe & Pat's
WHERE: Nearest SIR station: Grasmere
Staten Island may be the most isolated and sparsely populated of the five boroughs, but you can still get some of the best NYC pizza there. Joe & Pat’s is not the oldest NYC pizza spot in the forgotten borough, but it’s at least tied for most iconic. The 12, 14, and 16-inch pies border on Roman style, with the sauce and cheese commingling atop the crust almost to the outer edges. There’s also a Joe & Pat’s location in the former Lanza’s space on 1st Avenue in the East Village.
John's of Bleecker Street
WHERE: Nearest subway station: W 4 St - Washington Sq
John’s of Bleecker Street opened back in 1929. You can get one of their eight specialty brick-oven pies or stick to the “John’s Original,” which you’ll see on most tables. The sauce and Polly-O mozzarella cheese rest side by side on their super-thin crust, which comes well done unless you request otherwise.
Don’t be intimidated by the line. While John’s doesn’t take reservations, you’ll rarely wait more than 20 minutes for a table. If you want to add your initials to 94 years’ worth of carvings, ask to be seated along the wall.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: High St
Founder Patsy Grimaldi is now in his ninth decade. He still works in the dining room, and Juliana’s is the only place to try his original pizza recipe. Everything about this Fulton Ferry landmark is a throwback to old New York. As tempting as it may be to grab one of the indoor seats facing the 800-degree coal-fired oven, nothing beats sitting outside during the warmer months and watching cars and pedestrians pass by on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Fulton Street
“We’re heading down to the Financial District for pizza” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, but Keste can hold its own compared to any pizzeria on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. In terms of variety, there’s no comparison either. Even if you ate a different pie every day for a month, a handful would still be left to try. The Margherita and Montanara are the best sellers. Still, you should also deviate from the red sauce pies and try the decadent truffle Montanara, which is topped with truffle cream and fresh mozzarella. They make the latter in-house every morning.
L & B Spumoni Gardens
WHERE: Nearest subway station: 86th St (N)
The Sicilian pie at L & B Spumoni Gardens is proof that the best pizza in NYC isn’t always thin crust. The cheese is baked into the crust, and the sauce is on top. Just look around, and you’ll see the twelve-slice, inch-thick half pies on nearly every table. You can forget the silly rules on how to eat a New York slice when you’re here and eat yours with a fork and knife. The sauce has enough flavor to justify scooping excess drippage off the tray back onto the slice you’re working on.
They don’t sell slices in the main dining room, but there is a small pizza parlor next to the small parking lot. If the parlor is full, there is always outside seating available. Lines can be expected on weekends, but you can skip them by joining A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour.
L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele
WHERE: Nearest subway station: 14 St (1/2/3)
The same pizza that millions watched Julia Roberts devour in Eat, Pray, Love is now in the West Village. L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele head pizzaiolo and partner Michele Rubini says that “everything’s the same except for the water.” Even the pizza boxes come from Italy. Margherita and marinara are the only pies available in Naples. Those are the ones you should try first. The crispy, chewy, 16-inch pies may look huge out of the oven, but the crust is thin and pliable to the point where most should have no issue finishing one on an empty stomach. If you’re a first-time visitor looking to earn credibility, ask your server not to cut the pizza. That’s the way it’s done in Napoli.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Spring St (6)
In 1905, Gennaro Lombardi opened what the Pizza Hall of Fame acknowledges as the first pizzeria in the United States. The website is firstpizza.com. Like many other classic NYC pizzerias, the walls are lined with photos of celebrities who’ve dined there over the years.
While you should try the Margherita, visiting Lombardi’s is also ideal for enjoying a clam pie without heading to Yonkers or New Haven. Theirs uses three dozen chopped clams and is topped with a halved lemon meant for squirting over the thin-crust coal-fired pie. There are enough clams that a few are bound to fall off each time you lift a slice to your mouth.
Lombardi’s also has a white pizza and Buddy’s “Cake Boss” Special in honor of Carlo’s Bakery owner, Buddy Valastro.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Delancey St-Essex St
Owned by Neapolitan-born baker and pizzaiolo Michele Iuliano, Luzzo’s stands out most thanks to the firmer-than-average crust. Iuliano likes to joke about good pizza being an aphrodisiac and came up with the slogan, “Eat Pizza, Make Love.” The dough alone puts Luzzo’s comfortably in any top NYC pizza list, but the other ingredients are also carefully selected. The bufala is their top seller. And all cheese pies are made with imported buffalo mozzarella.
If you’re bored with round pies, Luzzo’s also has square pies, pizza cones, and even a frusta or stuffed pizza. There’s also a Brooklyn location off the BQE on Atlantic Avenue and a sister NYC pizza spot, Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Marcy Av
Motorino started in 2007 on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge. They’ve since branched out to the East Village and Upper West Side. Belgian-born founder Mathieu Palombino wants his locations to have a neighborhood feel. The 18 pies range from traditional marinara and the best-selling margherita to the brussel sprout and Don Dom. The latter is a tribute to the late Brooklyn pizza icon and Di Fara co-founder Dom Demarco. On this pie, they use a mix of buffalo mozzarella, parmigiana, and the lesser-known primosale. You can buy their dough to go.
New Park Pizza
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Howard Beach-JFK Airport
In Howard Beach, the stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard to the west of the Shellbank Basin is lined with old-school Italian restaurants like Bruno’s, Lenny’s Clam Bar, and Matteo’s. But New Park Pizza predates all of them and is one of Queens’s most iconic pizza spots. It’s the opposite of L & B Spumoni Gardens because the Sicilian slices are an afterthought compared to the round ones that keep people coming back from locals to people stopping on the way to and from nearby JFK Airport. Those in the know will ask for their pizza to be well-done, which means a charred, crispy bottom. The saltier-than-average sauce also stands out.
Pep's on Grand
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Grand St
Little Italy’s newest Neapolitan-style pizzeria is right next to NYC’s oldest Italian bakery. Pep’s on Grand feels modern and casual, surrounded by multi-generational old-school Italian restaurants with large menus, where pizza is more of an afterthought. At Pep’s, pizza is the main focus. The eight 12″ pies are thin in the middle and puffy on the outside, with the outer crust marked by char bubbles from the 750-degree oven imported from Naples. Look to the left of the oven, and you’ll see the Misfits skull that owner and fan Giussepie Delli Carpini had painted on.
If a Margherita is the standard by which you judge a pizzeria, both the regular and Regina pass the test. The sauce has the perfect amount of salt, while olive oil permeates the top layer of the pies, dotting the outer edges of each perfectly melted cut of mozzarella. The quattro formaggi is a curious mix, where the small scamorza chunks are burnt into the other three kinds of cheese, resulting in a runny pie with the same chewy bottom crust as the other pies.
Song' E Napule
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Houston St
With two small locations on one block of Houston Street and enough soccer memorabilia to open a Diego Maradona museum, Song’ E Napule feels more European than 99% of the NYC pizza spots. Special pies rotate in and out, making this more than a bucket list NYC pizza spot. Song’ E Napule is the type of place you bring your Italian friends or relatives if they start complaining about how they prefer the food back home.
The large menu that includes 20 different pies can seem intimidating at first. Don’t feel obligated to start with a red sauce pie. Instead, look at the different ingredients (especially the cheeses) and find the right combination. The white pies are just as good as the traditional tomato-based pizzas, so don’t hesitate to start there.
WHERE: Nearest subway station: Coney Island-Stillwell Av
Totonno’s is the Lombardi’s of Brooklyn. They’ve been serving pies in Coney Island for 99 years and have one of the few remaining coal-fired brick ovens in NYC. There are no fancy menus here, nor are there Williamsburg-friendly toppings. Instead, you order a small or large pie and can pick from eight optional (and unnecessary) toppings.
The slightly burnt cheese looks as if it’s fighting for space atop the pies with Totonno’s somewhat sweet sauce. Both tend to protrude close to the outer edges of the pies to the chewy crust that was the favorite of Goodfellas’ main character, Henry Hill and still attracts pizza enthusiasts from all five boroughs.
Zero Otto Nove
WHERE: Nearest Metro North station: Fordham
Zero Otto Nove (“Zero-Eight-Nine” in Italian) looks and feels the most European of all the restaurants on Arthur Avenue. It is named after the telephone code in Salerno. The Neapolitan-style oven is visible in the main dining room, and temperatures reach 800 degrees. While there are other pizza options along Arthur Avenue, Zero Otto Nove is the closest you’ll feel to Southern Italy without crossing the Atlantic.