New York City Pizza Tour 2015 (Summer Fancy Food Show Tradition): Day 1

JFG Nation, I love pizza. Like, I LOVE pizza. Heck, my New Year’s Resolution this year was to EAT MORE PIZZA. Seriously. And may I say – your friendly neighborhood JFG has been doing very well on that promise.

In DC, we have lots of good pizza places (I’m not gonna be one of those pizza snobs – while I like some places more than others, let’s be honest, I’ll shove almost anything into this pie hole). I have a local favorite that I order from almost exclusively. But having lived in NYC before, I do have a biased notion of what pizza SHOULD taste/look/feel like. Now, there have been PLENTY of places that have confirmed that NYC is not the ONLY place to have good pizza (Vin909, I’m looking at you, you lovely beast) – but the fact remains: I love NYC pizza.

SO, whenever I visit New York for the Fancy Food Show, DESPITE eating nothing but cheese, meat, cookies, ice cream all day long, the JFGal and I have a hard rule which has grown into a tradition: All meals outside of the show will be PIZZA ONLY. We’re there, so we need to take advantage – that’s the gist.

So with that in mind, as the JFGal and I traveled to NYC the day before the Summer Fancy Food Show, we began researching pizza places on our phones. In the past (and this is NOT an exclusive list, just places we’ve eaten at in conjunction with the Fancy Food Show), we’ve noshed at Grimaldis, The Sicilian, Sal and Carmine’s, and the kingpin, Di Fara’s. This year, with the exception of trying for Di Fara’s again, we wanted to try all NEW places.

So as soon as we hit the Big Apple, it was off to our first stop: BLEEKER STREET PIZZA.

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All of these New York City pizzerias claim to be the best in New York. Bleeker Street was no exception, with tons of signs lauding their pies. There were lots of tourists outside taking pictures of the joint. I guess I was one of them.

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Bleeker Street slices could be ordered individually, and besides the normal cheese and pep options, they had plenty of others. They reheated their slices upon order.

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Bleeker Street was small and sort of cramped, but it was the perfect type of shop for me – most NYC people hopped in, grabbed a slice, at it quickly at the tiny tables, and got the hell out. If I lived nearby, I would do the same.

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I opted for a pep slices and a cheese slice, like I always do, to try the basics. Slight sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and it was off to the races.

The JFGal REALLY liked this place, as did I. The crust was perfect – probably due to the reheating. Crispy, crunchy, whatever you want to call it, the crust with its corn meal sprinkled underside was classic and just what I wanted.

Cheese? Pretty good – perfect melt, perfect pull, and a decent amount of saltiness to it without being over. The sauce was a little underseasoned/nondescript, but it worked with the rest of the pie. Overall, good pizza flavor – these slices were piping hot and super easy to eat. The type of slice where halfway through it I was like, “We’ve only been here two minutes. Maybe I should slow down.” BUT I DIDN’T.

Wanna see an awkward pizza pose?

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NAILED IT.

Anyways, Bleeker Street was a big thumbs up. I’d eat here again for SURE.

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We wandered over to John’s Pizzeria, or John’s of Bleeker Street, for some pizza….but found out it was more of a sit-down joint than a quick slice shop. That’s not gonna work; our stomachs were growling. Moving on.

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Instead, we walked a little bit further and headed to Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street. A bunch of reviews I read compared Bleeker Street and Joe’s repeatedly, so we had to find out what the deal was.

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Joe’s was also small and cramped slice shop. Like Bleeker Street, they also had a display of pies that could be ordered by the slice. Yeah, gimme a cheese slice and a pep slice please. They had Sicilian slices, which I enjoy, so I ordered one of those too!

RED FLAG: No reheating. WHAT? I know the pies look PRETTY fresh and were sort of hot, but NO reheat? Not even a little?

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When the JFGal and I took our first bites of Joe’s Pizza, we knew we didn’t like it as much as Bleeker Street. Now, you NYC pizza people, DON’T START ASSAILING ME IN THE COMMENTS. My opinions are only based on what I had that day – and what I had that day was subpar compared to Bleeker Street.

The pep slices was not hot, so the cheese didn’t have the right pull – it was melted but had already started to seize up, so it tore rather than stretched. Cheese flavor was good – but texture was off.

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The crust on these slices wasn’t crispy at all. It wasn’t cardboard, but it was only SLLLIIIIGHTLY crispy – these slices were more floppy than anything else. Sad. And the sauce was even less vivid than Bleeker Street, which I didn’t think was possible.

Now here’s the thing – I’m sort of killing Joe’s, but it wasn’t bad pizza at all. I believe these slices would’ve popped more had they been heated. But without it, the pepperoni wasn’t even well done – it felt and tasted half cooked. I’m not complaining TOO much, since I can kill a bag of raw pepperoni from the grocery store, no problem. But on what is supposed to be a great NYC slice? I wanted more.

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The Sicilian slice? NO. Big and doughy, and only emphasized the not-so-seasoned tomato sauce flavor. Not a fan. Again – the cheese actually tasted pretty good. But the crust didn’t have any slight crisp on the bottom and the sauce killed it for me.

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AWKWARD PIZZA POSE #2! I’m a natural, aren’t it? Someone call GQ.

(PS: Do you see what I mean with the pepperoni? You can TELL it’s not cooked because it hasn’t even curled at the edges. WTF, Joe’s).

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When we arrived at our friends’ apartment to crash for the evening, we were exhausted and full of pizza. The next three hours consisted of watching women’s soccer and drinking more than a few beers. Finally, it was around 900pm, and it our bellies were rumbling again. Which could only mean one thing: PIZZA TIME. AGAIN. YOU HEARD ME, BRING IT.

Our pizza drug mule that night? Pizza Plus, in Brooklyn. A local pizza place in Park Slope, Pizza Plus gets decent Yelp reviews and is one of those places that has other Italian things to eat (which you’ll see).

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I love a place that uses generic pizza art boxes. This better be fresh and hot.

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OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

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Pizza Plus wasn’t as good as Bleeker Street, but we liked it better than Joe’s. Honestly, it was pretty basic, but solid, pizza. Not mindblowing, but satisfied all the pizza cravings we had that night. The Pepperoni was nice and crispy, the cheese had already started to seize up but had good seasoning, and the crust was still nice and crispy, although sort of flavorless – it didn’t have that nice bread-y taste that both Bleeker Street and Joe’s had. Sauce wise, again, semi-nondescript. But overall, it hit the spot. Plus, I love the little white mini table in the center. I missed that.

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Because I am also a glutton, JFG Rob recommended I get one of their subs, which he claimed were good. And he was right – the meatball parm, seen above, was GIGANTIC. HUGE bread, split open, loaded with meatballs and sauce, and then covered with mozz cheese to seal it in when melted. OMG this was beautiful.

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I mean, the fresh mozz cheese formed a perfect PERFECT seal, and came oozingly hot still.

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It may be blasphemy, but this sub surpassed the pizza! The flavor of the meatballs was spot on – lots of good herbs and perfect texture – meaty, tender, and still juicy. The sauce was nicely tangy and full of tomato flavor, and the THICK LAYER OF CHEESE was an amazing blanket of chewiness on top. The bread was nice and crusty so that there was no sogginess. Meatball parm perfection that I hadn’t had in a while. Awesome stuff.

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THE JFGal is also a glutton, so she ordered a pepperoni roll. I had no idea what a pepperoni roll was. Apparently it’s THIS – a loaf of bread/crust/pastry that is loaded full of pepperoni, cheese, and onions, and then baked into the monstrosity you see above. JFG Rob warned us – it’s a lot of onions. He was right.

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The pepperoni roll was LOADED with onions. But it was also loaded with all that other goodness I mentioned, so we were in hog heaven. Nice onion garlicky bread-y outside, cheesy salty meaty insides. The JFGal LOVED this.

I enjoyed it too – one drawback was that unlike a calzone, there was no sauce inside of this. And it didn’t come with any dipping marinara sauce. So while the whole thing tasted good, the moistness came from butter/oil rather than any other sauce. After I ate a section, the whole thing became slightly one-note, and I turned back to my juicy meatball sub. Still, pepperoni roll? Thumbs up. Just give me a vat of marinara beside it next time.

Not bad for the first day of my NYC pizza tradition for 2015. In the span of eight hours, I’d eaten at three pizza joints. I call that a good day.

Have you eaten at any of these places? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below. Or, if you’re a pizza fan in general, I’d love to know about YOUR local pizza joint because if I’m ever in the area, I wanna know where to get a good slice.

Part Two (i.e., Day 2) forthcoming!

Thoughts? Please comment below or hit me up on Twitter @junkfoodguy or LIKE my Facebook Page and message me there. I also have Google+!! Let’s hang out.

Sincerely,

Junk Food Guy

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Discuss - 16 Comments

  1. Alek says:

    JFG,

    As a new Yorker. I never heard of those places until now. I agree that a good pizza should have stretchy cheese, good sauce, and crispy crust. Did you eat at Lombardi’s pizza? It is claimed to be the 1st pizzeria in the USA. I went there and just wanted a slice they only sell it by the whole pies. So I left. I just want a damn slice not the whole thing. Unless there was a group of people with me then fine but 1 person. No.

  2. MP says:

    Sometimes I enjoy melted cheese & dough/roll without any tomato sauce. I’d recommend Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Gino’s East, Rosati’s, Home Run Inn & Nancy’s – either the thin crust or the deep dish (bring a fork & knife). Yes *I* am a pizza snob – I despise all national chains & most frozen pizzas – and while those NY pizzas might have tasted alright – they look like school cafeteria food to me.

  3. Sarah says:

    I don’t think I have been affected by one of your reviews more than this one. Kansas can not “do” pizza. Is there anything worse than a pizza without the cornmeal crust?? I also like blue cheese with my pizza. In Buffalo most shops make their own…not here in farm country. Kraft from a bottle, gaaahhhhgrooos! I am also missing that Buffalo style pizza with the “cupping” pepperoni….you know the smaller kind that forms a bowl of grease and the edges of the pepperoni are nice and black…..ohhhh….I need to visit home now!

  4. C. says:

    This was a painful blog post to read. Awk!

    1) ‘Phones’. Oh god.

    2) You went to Bleeker Street, to a place tourists take photographs of, ‘Bleeker Street Pizza’ (frankly, I never heard this place mentioned in any top ten list, sounds like a scam to me) ….but nevermind, the real issue is that right then and there–when you were feet away–BIG FAIL (#3) coming up:

    3) Fail #3: you SKIPPED John’s Pizza??? Dude that IS the only pizza of note on Bleeker. That’s the reason Bleeker Street exists. JOHN’S!!!!
    Major goof. You’re right, John’s doesn’t sell slices; only whole pies. That’s the deal and it helps keep out the non-serious pizza crowd.

    4) You never knew what a pepperoni roll was until this trip? Utterly perplexing. How can this possibly be? Pepperoni rolls are in every pizzeria. Its one of the most common and most-readily associated concepts for any pizza-selling joint. Dare I ask if you know what a chicken parm roll is? What about a sausage roll?

    On the side of the good:
    1) You recognize that you CAN get great pizza outside of New York. Bravo. Not many people are capable of arriving at this obvious deduction.

    2) You’ve been to di Fara’s. Impressive. I’m very impressed actually. Good job.

    Medium points awarded:
    1) The size of New York pizza slices is not the most crucial quality. What is VITAL–and what is under-mentioned in your post is the all-importance of THIN CRUST. Thin crust! Thin crust! Thin crust! This is the Zorro-like signature of great New York pizza!. Otherwise, what distinguishes us from the rubes and hicks in Chicago?

    2) You’ve been to Brooklyn in the vicinity of di fara’s but you never mention Brooklyn’s best sandwich: ROAST BEEF & MUTZ. Oversight? Uninformed?

    Final score: nevermind. Gut reaction: nice try JFG. Need better guidelines next time!

    • MP says:

      “Otherwise, what distinguishes us from the rubes and hicks in Chicago?”
      Our pizza actually tastes good. The sauce is like a rich spaghetti sauce, unlike that sweet ketchup stuff you put on a floppy umbrella. Our cheese is thick & stringy, unlike that Tombstone-fake-cheese-looking greasy triangle void of any seasonings.
      So yeah, there’s a bit of a difference.

    • junkfoodguy says:

      @MP: UH OH PIZZA WAR BREWING

    • junkfoodguy says:

      @C: Didn’t feel like waiting at John’s. Next time!

  5. Gregory Seid says:

    Your friends at Park Slope must be new to the area. Smiling Pizza on 7th Ave & 9th St. I grew up on this, and while it’s not exactly artistic, it is the definition of simple, perfect NY pizza. I agree that Bleeker, while decent, is more tourist than quality. In Manhattan, you’d probably find the generic places uptown to be quite similar. Good, but not special. Brick-oven is worth a try at Lombardi’s, not far from there.

    There are two ways to get pizza in NY: modern, inventive, semi-artistic; and your classic simple greasy cheese pie. I don’t know the modern places that well, although I’m sure there are good ones around, but the ones above are highly recommended for classic NY pizza.

  6. Kaitlyn says:

    you’ve never heard of a pepperoni roll?! woww.. well, that thing isn’t what we call a pepperoni roll in good ol’ wv anyway 😉 i’ll let wiki explain our version..

    “The classic pepperoni roll consists of a fairly soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. During baking, the fats in the pepperoni (which are hard at room temperature) melt, resulting in a spicy oil suffusing into the bread.[2] Pepperoni rolls are typically eaten as a snack or as the main dish of a lunch either unheated or slightly warmed.”

    ..and our pepperoni rolls are illegal in some states. kind of funny.

    anyway, i’m not a huge pizza critic – i don’t even like cheese on my pizza (i am lactose intolerant, if that helps) but that just means i need to have a good sauce on my pizza to like it. oh, another thing, we also have a local pizza chain here that purposefully puts their pepperoni slices on raw after the pizza has cooked – how about that? i love it.

  7. MadSammyboy says:

    A man after my own heart: eating pizza exclusively when visiting a town that’s known for it is a pro move, and one I, as a fellow pizza junkie, practice with great zeal.

  8. Gabe says:

    As soon as I moved to DC I tried all of these top notch spots, foodie renowned spots. Joe’s on Carmine made me cry in disappointment (yes, I’m that kind of foodie – if it doesn’t deliver I actually get bummed). When I got to Bleeker Street Pizza i finally felt like the NYC pizza hype made sense – the bomb, now I don’t bother with anywhere else!

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