The Big Apple. Concrete Jungle. The city that never friggin’ sleeps. No seriously don’t sleep with your window open it’s too loud. New York City is home to a bunch of things that make it such a great and special city. But lemme tell you somethin’. The one thing it has mastered is being home to some of the best pizza in the world.
I know what you’re thinking though. “Why the hell should I trust this guy? Who even is he? Does he even know what good pizza is?” And to be honest, I’d be thinking the same thing too if I were you. So I oughta introduce myself and establish my credentials. My name is Nick Cassano, and I have considered myself a pizza connoisseur for quite some years now. I’ve tried countless slices, countless styles, from countless different places. I’ve even made a bunch of pies myself. Does that make me an expert? No. But what it does do is give me a pallet for the kind of things I like and look for in a slice of pizza. This is key here. Once you establish the pallet, you tend to have a certain trend you follow when you decipher whether or not a pizza is great. I say great because let’s be honest, even the shittiest of pizzas are still good. I like a pizza with a great mixture between tangy and sweet sauce. I lean towards a medium amount of cheese and a ton of crisp coming from the crust. Zero flop. I want that slice to be stiff as a board when I go to fold it.
Alright so now that I’ve given you my street cred, let’s get on with the list shall we?
3. Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street
There are million reasons why I chose Joe’s on Carmine St at number 3. First off, let me start by saying any Joe’s location will definitely satisfy your pizza needs in New York. But trust me when I tell you, the one on Carmine Street next to Washington Square Park is numero uno in my book. You walk in and the line looks ridiculously long, but those boys keep it moving. One of the main reasons Joe’s makes the top 3 for me is experience in its entirety. You walk in (anywhere from 10AM to 4AM) and immediately feel the nostalgia of an old school pizza joint. It’s like you walk in and immediately know you’re in good hands. The pictures of all the celebrities on the wall, the old school menu, and the “Hey kids, there’s no hope in dope!” sticker on the cash register. The vibe is immaculate. Bad vibes don’t exist at Joe’s on Carmine St.
So you paid the three bucks and this absolute beauty of a pizza slice is served hot to you on a paper plate. This slice will knock your socks off. Every. Single. Time. The consistency is unlike any other. Out of a hundred slices there won’t be one you don’t like. The sauce is sweet but fresh. The mozzarella has those little brown accents, and the crust- don’t even get me started. You can hear the crisp from Brooklyn after every bite.
Take a date or your significant other here if your in the neighborhood. Grab a couple slices and two cokes to go, and pop a squat in Washington square park. For ten bucks you have yourself an absolute ball. Like I said, bad vibes don’t exist at Joe’s on Carmine street.
2. John’s of Bleecker Street
Lemme tell you somethin’. If you go to John’s on a Saturday and have some pizza, on your commute to work Monday morning you’ll still be thinking about how friggin’ good it was. I ain’t been there in over a year and I’m still guilty of thinking about it every so often. This is the kind of pizza you tell your friends and family about, and talk about it like it was the first time you’ve ever had pizza.
The place has been serving pizzas for almost a hundred years, opening in 1929. No place is open for 91 years serving pizza and still to this day on a random Wednesday night has a line around the block with people waiting to get in if it ain’t to die for.
You walk in after waiting about thirty minutes outside and are immediately satisfied with the experience even before you are served a pizza. Do yourself a favor and engrave you and your family’s name on the booth they sat you in. I did it, everyone’s done it. Be apart of the tradition. What I like to do is I like to start off with the classic house salad to get the juices flowing. Its nothing out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact it looks like they couldn’t keep up with the volume of pies so they threw some greens and a plump tomato in a bowl with oil and vinegar to keep you entertained while you wait for the main event. But don’t even think about underestimating that salad. It hits all the right spots. Ask for some bread too and mop up the reminisce of the oil and vinegar that’s left in the bowl.
Finally the moment you’ve been waiting for. An absolute masterpiece of a pizza pie comes out and is served to you. Of course, there’s no way you can just reach out and grab a slice. Don’t be silly. You need to take your phone out and let the phone eat first. Proper protocols for a moment like this. Do a couple. One with the flash, one without, maybe one where you do a little boomerang action for the Instagram story. Make it count. Let everyone and their mother know about the adventure you’re on.
The pizza itself is so good it makes you never want to eat a different pizza again. It’s like you take a bite and you go “oh, so that’s what it’s supposed to taste like”. This pizza is just absurd. I probably had at least 8 slices the last time I went. The crust has those perfect brown spots from the coal fired oven. The sauce is so fresh and so sweet it’s like they have a garden in the kitchen or somethin’. There’s a perfect cheese to sauce ratio, and the crisp is like a symphony to the ears every time you take a bite. Like friggin’ Mozart hums a little tune every time you bite into the crust.
You’ll be feeling so good after this pizza you might call your Mom and tell her you love her just for the hell of it. Just a “Hey Ma, I love ya- talk later” then hang up. There’s a bunch of little ice cream or dessert places in the area too within walking distance, if you brought a date or somethin’. Its about a five minute walk from Washington Square Park. So if you’re trying to impress your date here’s what you do: Order the spread at John’s, spark up a great conversation. Pick up the tab, talk about how great the pizza was on the walk to the dessert place. Order some dessert (maybe go halfsies on the tab there), and make your way to the park. Pop a squat and enjoy the conversation some more as you eat your dessert together. Not only are you enjoying the food, but you’re burning more calories the more you walk. Little two-for one action. Work smarter not harder folks.
1. Lucali in Brooklyn
Alright unless you live in Brooklyn, or close to it- this is something you gotta plan an entire day for. Lucali takes the number one spot in my book with no questions asked for these three reasons in order: 3) The vibe 2) The food 1) The experience in its entirety.
Lucali is located in Carrol Gardens Brooklyn, about a 30 minute walk from the Brooklyn bridge, or a 10 minute Uber. If it were me, and you have to take the train into Manhattan in order to get to Brooklyn, here’s what I would do. Get off at Grand Central and then take the 6 train on the subway to the beginning of the Brooklyn bridge. Walk over that sucker and soak in what it means to be in the greatest city in the world. Its almost a disservice to not sing the song “Theme from New York New York” as you begin your trek over the bridge. You don’t have to belt it like Frankie boy, but maybe hum it at the very least.
Now that your in Brooklyn there’s a couple things you can do. Depending on what time it is, you can hang out for a little bit under the Brooklyn bridge in a place called DUMBO (fancy acronym for the area underneath the Brooklyn bridge) or you can make your way over to Carrol Gardens and change the way you view pizza forever.
Lucali is open every day except Tuesday from 5:45pm to 11pm. This is why I say you gotta plan your whole day around going to this place. They start taking reservations at 5:15 for that night only. If you want to eat at a decent time or even eat at all, your ass needs to be at the restaurant at 4 o’clock. Doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday or weekend. I got there at 3:50 on a random Wednesday when I went and I wasn’t even the first one in line. By 4:15, the line was around the block. This is one of the reasons why the experience beats the food. The conversation on the line with people you’ve never met before is something that should be valued deeply. Cause we’re all doin’ the same thing. Waitin’ on line an hour early just to put our name down at a pizza joint and sharing conversation like we’ve all known each other for years. On a random Wednesday. People from all over. One woman and her son came all the way from friggin’ California. And I thought I was crazy gettin’ there an hour and a half early.
You’ll probably be so deep in conversation that the wait will seem like five minutes before you go and put your name down. The lady will take down your name, tell you what time to come back, and that its BYOB. That poor lady probably says that same sentence 300 times a night. But she’s a saint. Writes down the schedule on a notepad. Whatta beaut.
Depending on where you’re at in the line, there’s probably an hour or more window before you gotta be back at the restaurant. Most people go down the street to this little bar and hang out until its time to get seated. I gotta be honest I forgot the name of it, but ask the locals when your there, they’ll know. The anticipation is crazy. All for bread, sauce, and cheese. Now you and you’re newly built friend group you met on the line make their way down to the bar and shoot the shit until its time to go back and eat. The vibes cannot get any better. Well actually they can. Now its time to sit down.
They only serve pizza and calzones. That’s it. And believe me, that’s all they need to serve. You would think being the best pizza spot in New York they would give a pish posh conceded kinda vibe. Nope, not even close. They treat you like family. They really do. You know for a fact that you’re in good hands when you come to Lucali, and the staff will remind you of that. Start off with the calzone with a little garlic in there, maybe roasted peppers if you’re feeling crazy. By far the greatest calzone you’ll ever eat. I could write another five paragraphs about the calzone itself, but I’m here to talk about the pizza.
After an hour and a half waiting on line to put your name down, time at the bar, and have the best calzone you’ve ever eaten, the pizza finally hits the table. Something so regular for the people that work there, but for those who’ve never been its a life changing experience. The pizza itself is light, but the perfect amount of crisp. The sauce is so sweet but smooth at the same time. The three types of cheeses from the mozzarella, the buffalo mozzarella, and the reggiano is a better combo than Jordan & Pippen. You look over to your new friends you met on the line to see their reaction, and its all the same. Everyone is in awe. You’re all experiencing the same thing. You give each other the “oh yeah this is amazing” look. It makes everything complete. You’re only supposed to be there for about an hour and then you have to keep it moving, due to the volume of customers. Soak up every second of that hour baby. If you bring a date, you’ll most likely end up leaving a happily married couple.
I’d wait on line every single day for that pizza. No questions asked. Finish up the night walking through the little Italy of Brooklyn. Go there with someone you love, and the vibes will be euphoric.
So there you have it. My top 3 pizza places in New York. Now stop reading this and go experience these vibes yourself. Love ya.