New Yorkers talk fast, walk fast, and they eat their pizza by the slice. Old-school, iconic joints like John’s on Bleecker Street, Totonno’s down in Coney Island, and other notable pizzerias have strict no-slice policies, but New York pizza arguably entered the mainstream in the form of an oversized wedge of cheesy goodness lurching off the edge of a thin paper plate. While everyone has a favorite—and it’s hard to argue taste—all too often there are stellar slices that remain overlooked and unappreciated. Perhaps it’s because we’re creatures of habit, never veering from the familiar. Or maybe we’re just too overwhelmed by an embarrassment of riches.
My friends: the time has come to unmask some hidden gems. Here are five totally underrated slices in New York City that have been waiting for you all along.
Grandma Bess from Two Boots
Address and phone: 42 Avenue A, New York (212-254-1919)
Good for: A light, but substantial snack to get you through a two-hour movie.
Two Boots’ cornmeal-dusted crust is a hot button topic: fans are obsessed, and detractors call it sacrilege. Well, I’ve got great news for all you haters: there’s a pizza at Two Boots that might sway you after all. It’s called the Grandma Bess, a pan-baked square slice, named after owner Phil Hartman’s grandmother. It’s bright, fruity and appropriately snappy, and it doesn’t have the trademark cornmeal underside of a typical Two Boots slice. As a “grandma pizza,” this pie is far less proofed than a Sicilian pizza, so the slice is a bit thinner. There are no hard and fast rules for how to top this cultivar, but Grandma Bess follows the general code of simplicity: Mozzarella, crushed organic plum tomatoes, basil, pecorino. That’s it.
White Slice from Best Pizza
Address and phone: 33 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn (718-599-2210)
Good for: Impressing your out-of-town parents—especially if they like gangsta rap.
This hip little joint just two blocks off the main drag of Bedford Ave in Williamsburg has some of the best slices in the neighborhood. Their regular slice is exemplary, but I dream about the white slice. I know, a sauceless pizza forces some ontological questions about the very definition of the dish, but this slice makes up for any sorrow caused by the tomato’s absence. It’s topped with house-made mozzarella, lemon-tinted ricotta, caramelized onions (and I mean SUPER caramelized), shaved pecorino cheese, parsley, and sesame seeds coating the circumferential crust. I recommend amping it up with a fast drizzle of pepper-infused olive oil you’ll find in the condiment corner. The space itself is great, having been a bakery as far back as the early 1920s. The old coal-burning oven has since been decommissioned, but the structure remains intact, extending deep into the lot’s yard space. Best Pizza uses a wood-fired oven that was built by previous owners inside the cavity of the coal oven.
Fresh Mozzarella from Luigi’s
Address and phone: 686 5th Ave, Brooklyn (718-499-3857)
Good for: A no-nonsense nosh to accompany your Saturday afternoon Looney Tunes marathon.
Lists of best slice joints always mention the standard spots in Manhattan like Joe’s Pizza in the Village and Patsy’s in Harlem, but Luigi’s in Park Slope belongs right next to them in the Pizza Pantheon. They’ve been family-run since 1973, and not much seems to have changed. One menu addition that does deserve some major attention is the Fresh Mozzarella slice. It often gets overlooked because the phrase “Give me a slice” leads directly to a different beast—the basic cheese pizza. But the Fresh Mozzarella slice is a different world. It has all the makings of the usual Pizza Margherita, but instead of leaves of basil floating, this slice comes topped with a drizzle of pesto. It’s like a flavor river, and all I want to do is float down it in an inner tube. (Photo: Yelp/CM)
Margherita Slice from L’asso
Address and phone: 192 Mott St, New York (212-219-2353)
Good for: An afternoon snack to pair with your happy hour drink.
You’re in Soho/Nolita looking for a mid-day snack, but realize that Lombardi’s doesn’t sell slices. Easy fix—walk right across the street to the adorable wood-fired L’asso. They’re known for elongated table pies, but I strongly believe their slices to be even better. That’s right, you can get slices right at the bar! I know what you’re thinking: a wood-fired pizzeria that offers slices? ARE THEY MAD? Their oven has two openings, so it’s not as intensely hot as the usual Neapolitan 90 second bake joint. This allows for a steady reheat that won’t burn your base. This is a cozy slice, easily foldable, and boasts a crust with a salty, almost buttery, finish. The cheese-to-sauce ratio is tight, so no unexpected movement is happening up top. It’s just a solid slice hiding in plain site. Go discover it for yourself.
Upside Down Slice from NY Pizza Suprema
Address and phone: 413 8th Ave, New York (212-594-8939)
Good for: A quick slice before and/or after a game at MSG.
Owner Joe Riggio may be the kindest man in the world, but it really tussles his feathers when I tell him I think the upside down slice trumps his cheese pizza. It’s a Sicilian pizza, so the dough is proofed in a pan before being baked in order to achieve height and an open crumb. The trick with this pie is that it’s topped with cheese before the sauce, hence the name “Upside Down.” It’s a method that was popularized at L&B Spumoni Gardens, but is used more often than you’d think (John’s on Bleecker, Arturo’s on Houston, Grimaldi’s). But the comparison between the versions at Suprema and L&B end right there. Suprema’s sauce is a thick, laden with sweet onion and finished with imported Pecorino Romano. It may be a bit sweet for some, but it’s on my list of potential last meals.