It just came to me that I never told you all about my pizza tour in New York City...What was I thinking?!!
As you might remember, I went to New York City to celebrate my birthday and tour of all the famous (and not so famous) pizza joints. The whole experience was very eye opening and fun for me and Amy. So here's how it all went down...
Amy went took the train to NY early to visit with her sister and niece and go to her niece's graduation where she met Aida Turturro and nearly shit herself. On my way up on Thursday, I researched all of the great pizza places in New York and I had an entire game plan by the time the 2 hour train ride was done. One bad thing though, I found out from SliceNy.com that Di Fara's, the primary pizza place I wanted to visit, was closed due to a health code violation. Mother F-er!
Ok...minor setback, but there are plenty of awesome places left to visit. I got off the train and took a cab to the Lower East Side hotel to meet Amy and a friend of hers at a little wine bar at the corner of Ludlow and Rivington with really overpriced wine by the glass (they also didn't know how to keep their red wines at the right temperature). We chatted for a while, but the entire time I was thinking about pizza, Googling on my phone to see where the closest pizza joint was. Gah! Me. Freak.
We went back to the hotel and Amy passed out on the bed. I sat there a while watching TV, but at 1 AM, I was still thinking about where the closest pizza place was. With Amy asleep, I headed out. I just started walking around, with no idea where I was going and about a block or two away, I came across a place called Rocket Joe's. It was open, I was hungry, and the pizza looked pretty decent. Good enough. I ordered a plain and a pepperoni slice, the pepperoni slice rocked my world. Ok, so looking back, it wasn't nearly the best slice of pizza I had the whole weekend, but at the time, dear God, it was just what I needed! Greasy, drippy (especially the pepperoni slice), and...a sesame seed coated crust??! Ok, so it made up for the lack of flavor in the crust, but seriously, this totally hit the spot.
Like Amy, I pass out after devouring the 2 slices of pizza. I should've ordered 4.
Morning comes way too soon. We skip the continental breakfast at the hotel and head for Lombardi's in Little Italy (all three square blocks of what's left of it) at about 10:30 AM where we order a whole margherita, but only finish a couple slices of it to save room for later. Looking back, Lombardi's pizza wasn't the most memorable. While it it was better than what I'd eaten the night before, with nice salty sauce, fresh mozzarella, the crust was fairly dense. But, there were better things to come...
Our next stop, was a little place called Una Pizza Napoletana, except, shit, they're only open for dinner. Dammit! Ok, so much for my beautifully laid out plan...I just walked fourteen blocks for nothing. Luckily, a little place called Vinny Vincenz was right around the corner, but overall, fairly disappointing. The crust was just bland and way too thin and weak. Moving on.
We walked off out two lunches with a little shopping (bleh). I wanted more pizza so we made out way out to Brooklyn, taking the F train to the first stop on the other side of the river, and made our way to the infamous Grimaldi's. Ahhhh YES!! This was what I was waiting for -- a perfect crust of crunchy, chewy goodness and fresh rich sauce. They didn't overdo it with heaping layers of toppings either. We ate the whole pie. On future trips, we'll definitely be going to Grimaldi's!
Tired from the endless walking, we stopped and had a drink at a local wine bar around the corner from Grimaldi's and after a couple smooth glasses of red and some stinky cheese, we decided to head back over the Brooklyn bridge to the Lower East Side to grab something light to eat. We ate dinner that night at a little Italian wine bar close to the hotel called Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar. I'd definitely recommend it if you're in that area.
Sore from all the walking, I could've stayed in bed all day. We spent most of that day in Greenwich Village where our first stop was Otto's to meet Amy's family for some of Mario Batali's flat iron grilled pizza. The toppings were all great, but I wasn't crazy about the rest of the pizza. On top of that, each topping on the pizza was kept separate from each other, which traditional or not, is really kind of stupid. I mean isn't the point of having multiple toppings to be able to taste them together?
From Otto's we walked over to John's of Bleeker Street. And this is when everything started getting really good, at least for me. It was an off time, probably the middle of the afternoon, so maybe my experience was a little different than most (I've read about crazy crowds at this place, but we just walked right in and sat down), but the pizza at John's was my favorite of the entire trip. It's made in a coal oven, that dates back to the 1920s. The crust was f-ing amazing! I tasted the yeast, salt, smoky char, and perfect thickness. Wow! We ordered a pepperoni and all the little slices of pepperoni had these charred edges that made them crispy and chewy at the same time. This pizza we finished.
After John's, it started to pour. The rain came down like a blanket, but we didn't let that stop up. We ran around the corner to Bleeker Street Pizza, a little dive that has maybe five or six tables, and ordered a couple slices. The sauce was the best thing about this pizza, in particular, the Nonna Maria slice which uses a chunky fresh tomato sauce that is full of garlic.
The rain stopped, and just in time for us to walk for a while and work off all those slices of pizza. Back to the hotel we went, to relax until our dinner at WD-50. (And while you might be hoping that I'll write about my experience there, I'm sorry, but this was one of those occasions where I refused to take mental note of every bite I took, because I just wanted to enjoy the meal.)
Sunday was our last day in the city, but we had one last pizza place to try, Patsy's in East Harlem. Acclaimed by many to be the best pizza in New York City, I wasn't going to miss it for the world, no matter how far out of the way it was for us. We took the 6 train to the Upper East Side to 116th St and walked a few blocks over to 118th and 1st where the Original Patsy's was (notice I said Original, because I've been to the other Patsy's across the city, and they're no where close to the same). It took us about 40 minutes in all to get there, and we arrived just after they opened for lunch at 12, but it was well worth the trip. This is NY style pizza people. While it wasn't my favorite, it was definitely Amy's. For me, I thought the crust was a little thin and floppy, but other than that, it had a perfect combination of sauce and cheese.
And with that, the tour was over. We stopped back at the hotel to pick up our bags and headed to the train station to come home. What an amazing trip it was -- I can't wait to go back for more!
Before I finish, I'll say this. None of the places we ate at had the perfect pizza, at least according to my taste. While one had an amazing crust, the cheese might have been a little less fresh, or the sauce a little bland. But taste is a sense that everyone's brain interprets differently. What I define as a perfect pizza, someone else might think is sloppy mess. So while I may have dismissed a place in my writing here, I encourage you all to try all the places I've talked about here, because in all honestly, they were all very good.
John's Pizzeria (Bleeker Street)