Posted by: Jeffsayyes | May 7, 2010

The Queens Leg of the 5-Boro Pizza Tour 2010 Wrap-up

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We met at Margherita and dined on the street with the people of Jamaica. It was great meeting everyone I’ve talked tomato with before, picking up tips and getting to know all the cheesophiles who are passionate about Queens and pizza. Compared to last year, we were scheduled to double our number to two pies worth of eaters. We were all excited, but trains and road delays held us up, so when the first 8 showed, we got a pie.

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With hunger induced anticipation, each crew member took a slice. Pensive about this new wonder, I could see lightbulbs and fireworks going off in the street where we stood. This slightly tough, strong and sweet sauced, cheeseful slice led the first 8 to believe that Queens had diamonds still to be revealed.

Between pies, I split a Sicilian pie and learned it is not something to be eaten again. The regular slice is too ridiculous to pass up. It is an extreme pie. And for this tour, it was possibly too good for the first stop. Everyone left Jamaica all smiles, anticipating what was next.

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Up Hillside Ave was Gaby’s Pizzeria. Gaby’s didn’t show well.

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Gaby’s is a full slice. Sloppy, saucy, cheesy, heavy and droopy (7 dwarfs?). I knew coming in it wasn’t for everyone, but what I didn’t know was that it nearly wasn’t for anyone on our tour. After that, I could tell people were starting to question my judgement. I still stand by this as a pick, but next time I would specify well-done when ordering. Maybe I’m crazy, but I am craving this slice again. I still say it deserves to be on the tour. I hope it haunts you in your dreams. I hope it haunts you in your dreams.

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Already, the tour members were thrown for a loop, after showing them an outstanding slice in the middle of Jamaica, then the disappointing one at Gaby’s which even resulted in one patron giving it the ultimate insult whereby the slice was turned upside down and dumped on it’s own plate. Ahhh, this is the type of passion that is needed for a pizza tour!

Returning to John’s Pizzeria of Elmhurst from last year became a celebration. Four of us were on the inaugural tour last year and were part of declaring it King of Queens for the Daily News article which is still on display in the window.

We packed the small pizzeria, filling every orange seat in the dining room. It was bustling of talk, storytelling and appreciation of old school pizza. The two ladies who have run John’s from the beginning were happy to have us; it seemed like we made their day. But it is a fact that they made ours. Mama even gave us a free pie (I wish she would have given us a Sicilian! Those slices are just as good, if not better).

Elmhurst has no business keeping one of the best slices in the city, but it does. And almost everyone on our tour recognized it.

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After a hectic and casual 3 slice spaces, we finally settled into restaurant dining for our last two. Bella Via and Sacs were on the docket, displaying the next generation of pizzas (which are actually from the old generation), although they are both around 20 years old (which is much older than the current trend of artisan pies). Get it?

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Sac’s in Astoria was first. I usually put a place on the tour I haven’t been to. Last year it was Nick’s, and for this year I’d heard enough about Sac’s from reliable sources that they were top-tier and the hype machine is running full speed so it seemed like a logical choice. Even if it was a bad slice, it would satisfy our speculation about their pie.

To me, the cheese and sauce stood out the most. But more than a few people commented on the pleasing feel of the dough. The whole package was ultimately satisfying and turned on some enough to name it their pick of Queens.

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But while Sac’s had a fuller feel to their bites, emphasizing their cheese and sauce, Bella Via took advantage of their coal oven, infusing maximum smoke to their pies and fresh sauce. It was much appreciated.

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Mistake or not, there were the bare spots on the pie. It was as if crust was on the bottom and the top. Some spots had mozzarella, some had tomato sauce, and some spots had nothing-just dry crust. This was very interesting to me, I can’t recall any other pies where it was so apparent. When taken notice, people looked askew, but I heard no complaints of it once it was folded and applied to the taste buds.

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As for favorites, all but Gaby’s were tour members’ standouts. Some liked Sac’s the most, and about the same liked Bella Via tops. Proving last year wasn’t a fluke, John’s of Elmhurst had about 5 people naming it as their favorite while Margherita blew nearly everyone’s taste buds. It was the pick of around 7 people.

I was happy to introduce some of these places to pizza tour members and am glad to show them off here. It’s my idea of fun to help people find outstanding pizza where they least expect it and organize a way for everyone to try pies that aren’t easily accessible like Gaby’s in Hollis. I was even surprised and a bit disappointed that one person said they had been to THREE of the five places on the tour. My heart nearly sunk! But this isn’t about finding the most obscure places – that’s not much of a payoff. This tour is about sifting through the hype and bullshit and finding the pizza that turns you to jelly. Continue to follow where we go and hopefully you’ll find something to make you swoon. 5-Boro Pizza Tour.

Margherita Pizza (opened 1966), 163-04 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, 718-657-5780
Gaby’s (opened 1964) 204-23 Hillside Avenue, Queens Village, 718-740-9716
John’s Pizzeria (opened 1965) 85-02 Grand Avenue, Elmhurst, 718-457-7561
Sac’s Place (opened 1989) 25-41 Broadway, Astoria
Bella Via (opened 1993) 47-46 Vernon Boulevard, Astoria, 718-361-7510

*last photo – credit Jimmy Jim Kim

Links:
Last year’s Queens Pizza Tour
World’s Fare wrap-up of the 2010 Queens Pizza Tour
Liberty Ave Exploratory Tour (includes Margherita)
Astoria Pizza Exploratory Tour (includes Bella Via)


Responses

  1. Gabby’s wasn’t as bad as everyone else said, but it most certainly under any circumstances is NOT “the best pizza in new york”, further proving that Rachael Ray doesn’t know pizza from a yum-o hole in the ground.

  2. Maybe I’ve no right to respond, as I wasn’t there doing the tasting and sampling, but from your description (Sloppy, saucy, cheesy, heavy and droopy) and the accompanying photos, that sounds like my kinda pizza. The cheesier, the droopier, the heavier, the better. I’d have loved to have been there for this tour, but I guess reading about it and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the photos and imagining how amazing all these slices taste will have to be enough for me, till I get myself over to my beloved Queens once again. First things first, though – I must return to my own favourites – that being Peppino’s in Woodside, VI Pizza in Bayside and Napoli’s in Great Neck. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jeff.

  3. I think Gaby’s just paled in comparison to the other places. I thought it was a good slice of pizza, but I liked the others better. To me, the crust is the most important part of the pizza and I found Gaby’s a little too heavy and bready.
    I’m also a fan of the first two places that greek girl mentioned. Will have to try Napoli’s to see if I am in complete agreement.

  4. Hi Debbie. Definitely worth your while to check out Napoli’s. Though I’ve not been there in many years now (Napoli’s or New York, come to that), it was a brilliant place to go for lunch (I used to work right across the road from there, at 55 Northern Blvd).

    It’s just past Douglaston, just past Little Neck, coming into Great Neck, on 25A, on the left hand side of the road. There was a Staples office supplies place and a Blockbuster Video a couple of shops down, if memory serves….but then, both those places are probably long gone since I was last there.

    Not only did they do great slices of regular pizza, but they did a mean spinach and broccoli pie as well (long before Pizzeria Uno had their ‘spinoccoli’ pie – which was excellent, especially for a franchise type of place). But Sal and his cousins are craftspeople in the art of pizza…beautiful crust, not too thick, not too thin…perfectly oiled but not dripping with the stuff. The cheese was abundant and smooth and creamy, but not greasy or super-oily or heavy (which should appeal to you if you found Gaby’s a bit too heavy or sloppy). The sauce was just perfect, too – not too salty, definitely not sweet (I never ‘got’ sweet sauce, to be honest).

    Overall, it measures up really well alongside VI Pizza and Peppino’s (my favourite of favourites – how I miss that place).

    Oh! And Napoli’s did brilliant heroes and calzones, too….nearly as perfect as Peppino’s…but then, I think I’m just biased when it comes to Peppino’s…and Woodside in general.

    Forgive me for rambling…I’d love to read some time in the near future how you went to Napoli’s and (hopefully) approved, if you do venture just east of Queens.

  5. Oops! Sorry! My mistake – Napoli’s is on the RIGHT side of the road, not the left, if you’re coming from Queens onto Northern Blvd/25A going east.

    I’m pretty sure it’s still there because just last week I went onto Google Streets and not only saw Peppino’s in Woodside, and most of Bell Blvd (with VI Pizza still there, thankfully), but also Napoli’s as I took a Google walk through Bayside, Douglaston (where the Seville Diner still is – loved that place for breakfast at the weekends), through Little Neck (couldn’t find Patrick’s Pub or the Claddagh Shop…is that gone, then?) right on down Northern Blvd./25A and there was the wonderful Napoli’s.

    Jaysus…I’m rambling on again, amn’t I? Anyway, it’s on the right side of the street, not the left.

  6. VIPizza is great. I think they are the last pizzeria to be doing crushed ice still.

    And Joe, don’t talk that way about my Rachael!

  7. greekgirl…yes, Patrick’s and the Claddagh shop are gone. Replaced by a shopping center only partially filled.
    I can’t picture exactly where Napoli’s is, but I will find it now that I know where to look.

  8. I was looking forward to seeing your Queens post! John’s does make a mean slice, its the only one on your tour that I’ve tried. You should make a pizza map with all of the pizzerias you’ve been to! I’d love to see them all in one place so I can slowly eat my way through them all. I have a thing for maps 😉

  9. Hi, that pie from Sac’s looks great!

    Is that a regular pie?


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