Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Best Pizza in NYC

So after kicking off the first two Best Of series: Best Dumplings and Best Noodle Soups, I got hooked on the idea of taste testing through the city to find the best examples of the simplest foods. So, here's one for everyone's favorite: Pizza.

Co. (Company) (A) There was so much hype that came along with the opening of this new pizzeria in Chelsea that I was initially turned off. Reports of long lines put me off even more. But curiosity got the better of me and I woke up early on a Sunday morning to arrive right at opening time. A blood orange mimosa and bottle of pinot blanc later, we had downed 4 pies (they are smaller in size than most pizzerias in NYC): a red sauce based sausage and mushrooms spicy pizza, a green olives and anchovies number, a 3 cheese spinach and garlic pie (picture above) and my favorite, bechamel, parmesan, mozzarella, caramelized onions and lardon. The crust lives up to the Sullivan Street Bakery legacy (Jim Lahey is the baker there) and the service was nice and friendly. One of the best in the city for sure!

Franny's (B+) A cozy little pizzeria in Park Slope, Franny’s was actually not on my radar screen until a friend who lives in Brooklyn pointed out my oversight. There is a great wine list (try the lambrusco: dry and refreshing) and a variety of non-pizza starters (like the excellent Marinated Cabbage with Walnuts and Pecorino Rossellino) and pasta selections (like a simple but flavorful bucatini with tomato and parmesan). The star was the pizza: excellent crunchy + chewy crust with wood oven burns to show off, interesting toppings. The clam pie (picture above) with parsley and chillies was garlicky with just the right amount of grease. If only they would put a little more clams and slice the pie for us (all pies come unsliced, not sure why). Worth an excursion to Brooklyn.

Artichoke Basille's Pizza and Brewery (A-). The name gives a false impression of a large pizza parlor. In actuality this is a tiny storefront on 14th Street near 1st Avenue with no seating to speak of but an inviting aroma that makes your mouth water. The menu is small, only 4 types to choose from: the namesake Artichoke pizza, a basic Margherita slice, a thick crusted Sicilian slide and a crab pizza which frankly I would stay away from. The artichoke pizza is amazing, a salty cheesy slice that has a special artichoke/spinach paste. The Sicilian was also excellent, with the perfectly crunchy thick greasy crust and a tangy and simple tomato basil sauce. An excellent take out option for lunch at a friend's apartment!

Farinella Italian Bakery (B+). This new pizza joint in Tribeca specializes in Roman style square pizza, very thin and crispy. The pizzas are made in long rectangles and cut into slides priced at $3-$4 a slice. The big kahuna there is not the chef from a triple decker specialized pizza oven imported from Italy which apparently control the temp. I ordered a slice of zucchini and mushroom white pizza and an eggplant tomato sauce pizza. The white pizza slice was great, very thinly sliced mushrooms and zucchini and a clean simple fresh cheesy flavor. The tomato sauce on the eggplant pizza was clearly home made, much more flavorful than your regular pizza sauce. The pony-tailed chef-owner was very friendly, greeting each customer with a smile and Italian lessons. Hopefully they will start delivering soon.

Lombardi's (C) One of the most famous pizzeria’s in NYC, frequented by tourists and NYers alike, Lombardi’s is an institution, one of the old guards in the pizza wars. The Soho location has expanded and the wait is less harrowing. But the pizza seems to have lost its luster. The sampling was a large pie (18”) with pepperoni, mushrooms, ricotta and fresh garlic. Should be pretty straight forward, right? The crust was soggy, the tomato sauce was flavorless and the whole pie was pretty watery. With opening of new haute pizzerias all over town, Lombardi’s needs to get back in shape if it wants to stay in the game!

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