Pizza is trendier than ever. If it weren’t such a genius combination of flavors and textures, it probably would’ve seen its fifteen minutes long ago. But tangy tomato sauce, gooey cheese and warm, crusty dough is a foolproof formula for satisfying a universal craving for comfort food. And in New York, pizza just keeps getting better. New pizza joints open every week — some with charcoal ovens or brick, some with thin crust or thick crust pies, and some with traditional or offbeat toppings. Now that the weather’s warmed up, it’s the perfect season for a pizza crawl. We visited some of our favorite haunts and several few new ones and here’s a few of our favorites.
Keste Pizza & Vino
Address: 271 Bleecker St., near Jones St
One of my first stops was a re-visit to this Bleecker Street pizza shop that some claim is the best in the city. A sliver of a shop that’s always jam-packed, Keste serves Neapolitan-style pies baked in a brick oven. My first visit to Keste was three years ago and it was just as revelatory this time round. (Consistency is key.) With terrific sauce, fresh mozzarella and a yeasty crust, the “Margherita” pie is a delightfully chewy pie with a good ratio of bite to ooze. If you’re partial to toppings, try the “Padrino,” topped with caciocavallo, soppressata and olives. Like most places on this list, one pie per person is more than enough.
Address: 581 Hudson St., at Bank St
Praised by Robert Sietsema in the Village Voice for it’s lack of attitude and authentic atmosphere, Lievito has quickly become a West Village destination for slice aficionados. Large windows overlooking Hudson Street making this a great people-watching spot and the style of thin crust here is entirely unique. Every pie emerges from the brick oven, expertly charred but still pliant topped with everything from ricotta and eggplant (aka the Norma) to more luxury versions, topped with burrata, truffles and prosciutto de parma. (That’s our guy.) Keep an eye out for the trio of charming owners with their heavy Italian accents and plenty of cheek-kissing.
Address: 235 Mulberry St., between Prince & Spring Sts
Ever since this rustic pizza shop opened, Nolita has become a much more attractive neighborhood. Before Rubirosa, the chef cut his teeth at Esca and Osteria del Circo, so he’s got serious skills far beyond the pizza oven. (Try his hand-rolled manicotti or roasted octopus and you’ll get the jist.) Still, the wafer thin pies are the prize here and the classic margherita, interestingly topped with Wisconsin mozzarella, is my go-to pie. But lately, I’ve become just as taken with the Vodka pie, a supremely crunchy crust, loaded with a luscious cream sauce, fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. The combination is creamy, gooey and ridiculously satisfying. A recent late-night visit led me to the discovery that the vodka pie is made even better by the addition of broccoli rabe. (Just a thought.)
Address: 19 Old Fulton St., btwn. Front & Water Sts; 656 Sixth Ave., near 20th St.
Phone: (718)858-4300; (212)359-5523
I seriously considered moving to Dumbo, just so I could live across the street from this Brooklyn pizza institution. Famous for its long lines and brusque service (people wait hours for a rickety seat at one of the red and white clothed tables), Grimaldi’s turns out coal oven-baked pies are super straightforward and excellent on all fronts, especially when it comes to the tangy sauce. This is New York-style pizza at its best, but don’t come here looking for a slice, you’ll be directed back over the bridge to the new Limelight Market location for your single serving. (Shareable pies feed 2-3 people and mix-and-match toppings are additional. )
Address: 187 Bedford Ave., btwn. N 7th and 8th Sts.
Located on a block of Williamsburg, Fornino is a surprisingly great date option with a solid wine list, dim lighting and terrific, four-slice pizzas. Grab a table in the front dining room where you can either people-watch, or even better, spy your pie being pulled from the large, wood-burning hearth. One of our favorites is the “D.O.C.”, paved wtih creamy buffalo mozzarella (the best cheese of all the pies we tried!) and the pie “a la Norma” with eggplant and ricotta.
Address: 144 Orchard St., btwn. Rivington & Stanton Sts.
This Staten Island import is one of the newest pizza joints, just opening in the past few weeks. Consider yourself warned: The pies here are significantly smaller than we’re used to (think personal pie size), but the topping combinations are refreshingly unusual and successful. Instead of the traditional margherita pie, Goodfellas offers an Old World variety with mozzarella and San Marzano tomato sauce along with a vodka-style pie, and another topped with chicken parmigiana. We also sampled the “Smokin’ Goodfella,” topped with plenty of smoked mozzarella, crumbled sausage and peppers on a very creamy tomato sauce. Their pies have a thicker, chewier crust, which works for them to handle the weight of all those toppings. Five bites per slice, two slices per person and the pie was gone. With a couple dozen tables and a liquor license pending, Goodfellas is on its way to becoming a full-fledged restaurant.
RG Writer: Lauren Bloomberg