Photo © Robyn Lee.
Old-School Coal-Oven: Totonno’s
For an old-school coal-oven pie, I would say Totonno’s in Coney Island. In fact, I have some Totonno’s pizza in my freezer at home that’s almost four years old. I had some slices left over from the day I went out there and two of us didn’t finish our entire pie. About three and a half years ago they had a fire and I contemplated putting those slices up on eBay for charity—along with me showing somebody how to revive the slices and make pizza in their kitchen. But they’ve since rebuilt.
New Haven Coal-Oven: Pepe’s
New Haven coal-oven pizza is almost its own category. The two classic places, Pepe’s and Sally’s, everyone has a favorite. But when I go to New Haven, I time it so I can go to both. Because the white clam pizza at Pepe’s is one of the most glorious things—on my list of all the best foods in the world, it’s definitely in the top 10.
New Haven Coal-Oven: Sally’s
Sally’s red sauce mozzarella pizza, the flavor is so great. Pepe’s crust is ridiculous, but Sally’s tends to throw on a little bit more char. So I’ll do Pepe’s for lunch, then walk around beautiful New Haven, and get to Sally’s early enough to get in line for the first—I don’t know if you’d say seating, because it’s not a place that has seatings—but they only have so many booths.
Old-School Slice: Di Fara’s
In Brooklyn, Dominic De Marco has been making pizzas there for 40 some-odd years. He makes every pie and he loves what he does, and you taste that in the pizza. They’re very rich, they’re heavy-handed—so not always less is more—but they’re special. Every time the price goes up, the New York Times prints it like some sort of economic indicator. Everyone says, “Oh my god, $5 for a slice of pizza?” But how much do you spend for a crappy warm beer at a baseball game? Or for your tiny studio apartment? And yet you’re going to begrudge paying that little for this piece of edible art?
New New York-Style: Paulie Gee’s
Then there’s the new New York-style pizzerias, taking the Italian sensibility and making it their own. Paulie Gee’s is a relatively new place in Greenpoint. I believe he’s making his doughs in the Neapolitan tradition, but the combinations are his own, using ingredients from Italy, Brooklyn, everywhere—and they’re amazing.
They really capture that whole less-is-more approach, using better ingredients in the proper balance.