Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 22, 2009

Manhattan Pizza Tour Wrap-Up

We exited the subway to a huge mexican festival. It was hard not to indulge in the glorious meats, but I held out for coal fired leavening to come. Oh, East Harlem; It was my first time walking the streets there and I think I love it.

We made our pilgrimage to Patsy’s. This is necessary for anyone of the religion of pizza as I am. Along with Di Fara’s, Coney Island Nathans and Flushing’s Golden Mall, Patsy’s puts in a valid bid for one of the five pillars of eating in NYC.

The coal oven. The caked-on flour crust. The sauce cheese mesh. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Forget the franchisees, here’s the original and the only.

Check out this coastline. Lots of sand on the beach. Heavy splash of sauce. Lots of dunes. Unique formations all along the coast. Ohh, it’s graceful.

Pizza Fresca was closed so we went to Keste. Apparently PF caters to the business lunch. That’s fine, I prefer the replacement. Keste has had extreme hype after outlandishly being named number one in Pizza by New York magazine. It was a gutsy move, suffering some blowback by pizza lovers all over town. But when it’s good, it’s good. And Keste is very good.

Reghina Margherita Pizza - *from exploratory tour

Reghina Margherita Pizza - *from exploratory tour

The crust is super bouncy due to that 00 flour and the charring blasts my taste buds into outer space. The owner, while looking like a German war hero, is actually a sweet guy and is proud of his work and his kitchen.

People are all: “ohhh ohh, it’s too wet and soft and limp...” To ingest it, you’ll have to accept it. Different pies for different guys. Got some leftover tomato slop? Soak it up with that big, salty coastline of a crust. Don’t even be afraid to use a fork and knife, this isn’t a NY slice. It’s a new set of rules.

I am glad we went here. It’s perfect for our tour. Some loved it and some hated it. This is about finding love in this city full of pizza. And some front pages turn people off and some turn them on. Usually I’m of the former group, but I am IN for Keste. Not an Ultimate Top-Tier pizza, but up there with the greats of NY. Good to have you here, Keste. Who’s number one? ehh, here’s another question: Who give’s a fuck?

John’s is Rock and Roll Pizza. It’s punk rock pizza. And with a coal oven in direct lineage of Lombardi’s, it’s got the chops and back it up tenfold. No, not fancy, but one of the most satisfying pizzas in existence. I am so happy eating here every time.

Along with Katz’s, this is a tourist trap that lives up to the hype. Two coal ovens, the original surprisingly more machine looking sits in the kitchen staring at you as you enter the restaurant. Say Hi when you pass.

The cheese matches the sauce matches the dough. As one of the oldest Pizzerias in NYC, John’s has it’s pizza on straight. I don’t even think the pies love me back, but whatever, I’m an admirer and I will never stop loving it. It made a good impression all around.

Arturo’s was our next.

And everything John’s is, Arturo’s kicks it up and settles in. Nowhere near the popularity of J Bleek and not as appealing to pop culture either. It’s a little darker here. Cool, strange paintings on the wall of subjects mainly food and NYC. The cheese is a bit thicker. The crust was more of a pan crust. And though decades younger, the rooms seem older than Johns; More likely to host something from the paranormal. I think it’s a house – complete with a freaking bathtub in the restroom. I have NEVER seen that before. Ridiculous.

Yes, it was another great success. The slices are a bit heavy, so getting stuffed on pizza here might punish you. But the pasta dishes smelled wonderful, so as a pizza restaurant, this would be second to few. Arturo’s is great, I respect it and love it.

L’asso means Ace in Italian. Unfortunately the name does not give the same response to an English-only speaker when it is in it’s native form.

It was our last stop. I encourage everyone to come here and develop their own opinions. It opened at an unfortunate time in pizza history and is now neither fresh nor classic, so it hasn’t don the words of Village Voice, or even serious eats (yet) and barely holds mentions in other serious food critic publications. That’s too bad because this blows away every other Manhattan pizzeria.

Sure the wait staff is of the hipster genus, but who’s to fault them on appearance? When the sweat of the tomatoes and cheese hits you, it is second to none. The crust is tops as well. The owner is a stickler for perfection and L’Asso reaches it as close as any pizzeria can. These pies are in the Ultimate top-tier of pizzas in NYC.

Oh, they do the DOC. And in comparison, all the others are stale relics. Here it remains fresh with the cranky old man’s insignia donning the pie. Now, the pictures explain much more than I care to in a blog post, but what you can’t smell from these scratch ‘n sniff Dell screens is how deep the flavors are and how smooth the sauce becomes – which seems difficult with the commanded (and sometimes bitter) San Marzano tomatoes.

Our experience in Manhattan was the most consistent, extremely high level pizza of the 5-boro Pizza Tour and I was surprised that we didn’t have lines for any of the places. Maybe the tourism is spread thin and maybe Sunday afternoon is a perfect time for pizza adventures?

For me, it was a switch in method as discovering pizza here is basically impossible. So instead of searching for a pizzeria in the middle of nowhere, I was looking for a needle in the haystack of pizza makers and searching for truth from all the non-native and Manhattan-for-the-day proclaimers of Best Pizza On Earth. What I learned is: It’s important to have people you can trust and lots of time to explore.

When people get wrapped up in Di Fara’s (deservingly so, taste-wise), Lombardi’s and Grimaldi’s(not as much), you have to know that there is much more out there. In Manhattan and Brooklyn, I could easily do 10 more pizzas of top-tier quality with varying styles and emotions. Queens and SI I could do 5 more pizzerias. There is a lot more to be explored. So I need you all to explore and tell me what you’ve fallen in love with. It is amazing what is still yet to be uncovered by food fanatics here. Read reviews, talk to people on the street and in neighborhood forums, don’t be afraid and travel touching the ground.

And show me what you’ve found!

Manhattan Pizza Tour Pictures
Roberto from Keste teaches a pie at serious eats


  1. wow… mention of Sal’s (and Carmine)….
    (uws) not even (original) Patsy’s compares……..

  2. When in Rockland County I suggest you visit Pies On Pizza in Pearl River NY. A hidden gem.

  3. Sal and Carmine’s was on my list of places to go, but it just didn’t work out that way. I definitely wanted to hit up Patsy’s, but I wanted it to be more of a walking tour than a subway or car tour.
    Of course this list isn’t every best pizza in nyc, but I had to make some choices to make it a complete tour with varying styles and popularities. These choices were great though and I’m very happy with how the tour went. Keep throwing me these suggestions! I’m getting hungry.

  4. This is an overall superb piece, the whole pizza tour.

    Coming from Queens, I especially appreciate your having included Amore, which is a personal favorite of mine. Place has all the charm of eating at the unemployment office -which is part of the gritty appeal.

    But I’m especially impressed by your off-the-beaten path choices in the Bronx, which is a sadly neglected borough in the blogosphere. I love Louie and Ernie’s, obviously, as well as Zero Otto Nove, but am chomping at the bit to get to at least one of those unassuming, old-school neighborhood joints you featured.

    Superb photos, as well. Your camera loves the pie, almost as if there’s a special setting for tomato sauce.

    Kudos, Orlick.

  5. […] Manhattan Pizza Tour Wrap-UpBronx Pizza Tour Wrap-UpStaten Island Pizza Tour Wrap-UpBrooklyn Tour Wrap-UpQueens Tour Wrap-Up […]

Leave a Reply to Polecat Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *