For most of us we were heading into unknown waters, it was the Bronx. Organizing this tour was much harder to schedule than last year’s. There are about 3 known excellent pizzas in the Bronx: Louie and Ernies, 089, and Mario’s. Then speculatively there is Full Moon, Circle Pizza, Pentola and others. It was tough wading through what was great… for the Bronx, and what stands out citywide. There were least four exploratory missions to the Bronx in order to find five places worth a spot on the tour. I finally found them. I thought I did.
Yankees JZ Pizza
1599 Westchester Avenue
Bronx, NY 10472
We met at Yankees JZ Pizza on Westchester and Strattford. This pizzeria is as 70s as you can get with its heavy painted walls, blackened corners at every crook, pop-out signage, and 4 arcade games in the back. Because the trains were expectedly screwed up, those who came without any trouble spent the interim playing Street Fighter vs Capcom and finding a bathroom.
It was a thick slice. A bit sloppy, lots of sauce. Chewy, salty and a little well-done. Each slice was appreciated by a group member especially after the stress of finding ourselves to the first location.
1888 Eastchester Rd
Bronx, NY 10461
Coals was a difficult place to put on the tour. I’ve read plenty about it, but frankly was hesitant to try it because I am put off by thoughts of grilled pizza. Doing it on the tour would be the only way I would force myself to eat a slice, so I bit the bullet and put it on. Well, it didn’t happen because we found out Coals is closed on weekends. What??? Yes. Outrageous. Now not only do I have an ignorance, but I also have a grievance against Coals. It will take an amazing coincidence for me to try them now.
Three Boys from Italy
704 Burke Avenue
Bronx, NY 10467
Moving on, we headed to 3 Boys From Italy on Burke. This was another big slice, directly in competition with Yankees JZ Pizza. Again, it was appreciated by the group for its sauce and cheese and overall warm feelings we got from eating it. The tour would have been better with grilled pizza separating the first two slices, but that wasn’t in the stars. Oh well. It was good anyway. The shop was busy (though not as busy as usual), giving us a just a hint of commotion that is one of the many flavors of the borough.
2370 Belmont Ave
Bronx, NY 10458
And with the clamoring of Three Boys, we went to the tranquility of Antonio’s. This was the only pizza of the tour which I hadn’t sampled. I always leave some element of surprise for me so I can share in the discovery. That mystery pie is usually a near guaranteed excellent slice though, leaning on my ordinarily reliable 6th sense of something outstanding. It didn’t work this time.
I had in mind a pie like Trattoria Romana in Staten Island: soft, slightly chewy, bright sauce with a hint of fruit and zest, topped with douses of delicate mozzarella cheese and maybe a touch like fresh basil or shaved reggiano. But it wasn’t! A minority liked the sauce, but most, if not all, thought it disappointing and not worthy of nearly anything. The cheese was dead and the room still, but it was the bready crust which ultimately ruined it.
And that’s what this tour is about – Discovering the truth and yourself. But for the pizza-searchers, you can reliably take Antonio’s off your to-do list. Around Arthur Ave, keep it to 089 and Mario’s.
2342 Arthur Ave
Bronx, NY 10458
Mario’s was last year’s winner and if we were picking one this year, it would probably triumph again. Like Totonno’s of Brooklyn, it’s nearly impossible to compete with it’s level of greatness. The crunchy, pliable crust takes all, with the salty sauce and transforming flavors coming at you as you bite through the cheese. This pie hits all the right cylinders.
Unfortunately it’s difficult to order. Even dropping our name as the same 5-Boro Pizza Tour from last year was met with deaf ears as we were elbowed into ordering more than just pizza. Apparently all the empty tables at 4pm couldn’t convince them we were worth their time. Regardless, it was excellent and among the ultimate elite in NYC.
Somehow this turned out to be one of my favorite tours of the year. The pizza was 3/4 very good to great. But we had fun rides in between and no one really had any idea what to expect. I initially said I wouldn’t do another 5-Boro Pizza Tour because the Bronx couldn’t provide 5 more. But some last minute friends pulled through and I saw some light. I’m even more excited to explore here because it remains the most difficult borough to find that magical pie. I have faith that it’s there though. I just have to look harder.
Near misses for the tour: Yolanda’s, Angie’s Cafe, Frank’s on Middletown
Special Thanks to Baron Ambrosia for his help with research.