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8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams, 2016

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Pizza blogger turned pizza maker Adam Kuban looks back at his top pies and slices of the year

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[The Prince Street slice by Adam Kuban]

Each year I like to take stock of all the pizza I’ve eaten in the previous 12 months and drop a quick list of the "8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams." Why should you care? As the web’s original, not-so-famous pizza blogger (a laughable title, to be sure) I’ve chronicled the ups and downs and in and outs of New York’s pizza scene since 2003, first on a site called Slice, then on Serious Eats, and now across the nebula of social platforms. In my spare time, I’m the proprietor of Margot’s Pizza, an occasional pop-up pizza thing at Emily in Clinton Hill.

Each year’s list is compiled from the roster of pizza I ate during the year — if your favorite place isn’t on here, that’s because I either didn’t eat there, or I did, and it didn’t necessarily jump out at me. Does that mean I didn’t include some really great and/or deserving places? Sure. I’m sure you’ll razz me in the comments, and I welcome your suggestions as places to try or re-examine in 2017.

Prince Street Pizza

Prince Street Pizza in Soho made my list last year, and has appeared on previous 8PTHMD lists since its 2012 debut. The Spicy Spring, an airy and crisp crust topped with spicy, garlic-spiked sauce and an absurd number of curled, grease-bearing pepperoni, is a deeply satisfying piece of pizza and among the best of the New York–Sicilian pies in the city. I’ve converted a number of people this year into PSP fans — which is nuts, because how can any New Yorker not know about Prince Street at this point?

27 Prince Street, Manhattan NY 10012

Lillian Pizza

Lillian Pizza is the definition of a "neighborhood spot" here in Forest Hills, Queens, where I live. It’s tucked away in a quiet part of an already quiet neighborhood, not really near any train. It anchors one corner of an incongruous island strip of commercial buildings in an otherwise residential area. I love its super-local feel and its laid-back (though not necessarily slow) vibe. It feels timeless and comforting. My daughter Margot and I went on one of our first "Pizza Adventures" to Lillian in 2015, and we’ve returned throughout this year. We always get Margot’s favorite combo :  pepperoccoli (pepperoni and broccoli), though the plain slices are great on their own. Trivia: Lillian is Ray Romano’s favorite pizzeria in NYC. He grew up nearby and still visits the neighborhood regularly, as his mom lives there.

96-01 69th Avenue, Forest Hills NY 11375

Harry’s Italian Pizza Bar

I’ve slept on Harry’s Italian until this year, preferring to hit up its predecessor/sister pizzeria, Adrienne’s Pizza Bar, instead. But then I remembered that there’s one on the concourse level of Rockefeller Center, near where I work. I still prefer Adrienne’s, but Harry’s hits the spot when I’m craving a really good slice in Midtown—particularly the pepperoni or sausage slice. The coolest part, for me anyway, is that I know a secret subterranean way to get nearly all the way from my office to Harry’s. I feel like I’m in on a little New York secret while making my lunch run.

Various locations, see harrysitalian.com

Emmy Squared

The Hatchback at @emmysquaredpizza - Hatch chiles, crema, chorizo. #dailypizza

A photo posted by Adam Kuban (@akuban) on

Emmy Squared. How could I not include this place? NYC’s first Detroit-inspired pie, coming to you straight outta Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For those who haven’t encountered it, Detroit-style pizza is almost like a Sicilian–pan pizza hybrid whose distinguishing characteristic is a perimeter of baked-fried cheese that forms a frico-like crust as it comes into contact with the pan. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with the owners and run my pop-up, Margot’s Pizza, out of their original spot, Emily, in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.) I’ve pictured their Hatchback pie here, primarily because it’s the best photo I have of one of their pizzas. It’s a fine choice, but my favorite so far is their Deluxe (sauce, mozzarella, sausage, peppers, mushrooms). The crust is consistently excellent — light and airy, yet supremely crisp and sturdy enough to stand up to the toppings. If you go, don’t miss the appetizers and sandwiches, either — in my opinion, they could open a standalone restaurant on the nonpizza stuff and do gangbusters.

364 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11211

Mack’s Pizza

Jersey Shore #pizza lunch at Mack's Pizza on the Wildwood Boardwalk.

A photo posted by Adam Kuban (@akuban) on

Sadly, I didn’t get out of town that much this year. Wildwood, New Jersey, was one of the few exceptions, and I start craving a slice of Mack’s Pizza the second we pack the car for our annual summer trip to the Jersey Shore. It’s superthin, crisp, loaded with sauce, and has a great combo of cheese that includes just a bit of cheddar, which I was initially resistant to but now love — as long as it’s not overdone. Also? Mack’s has THE BEST t-shirts. Make sure to get one if you go!

4200 Boardwalk, Wildwood NJ 08260

Bruno

Bruno Pizza is an ambitious East Village pizzeria that opened in 2015, milling its own flour, serving pies with fermented tomatoes and the like, and drawing a ton of attention—both good and bad—for its visually arresting pizzas and appetizers. I finally got to try it this summer and enjoyed the summer squash pie. Of course, the company didn’t hurt—it was an impromptu meet-up of pizzeria owners from Cleveland and St. Louis, who were in town visiting—and I finally got to meet Bruno partner Demian Repucci, whose thoughtful approach is found in every detail of the restaurant.

204 East 13th Street, New York NY 10003

Pugsley Pizza

What a trip! I’ve been reading about this place for years, but had never been. Located in a former horse stable just off the Fordham University campus in the Bronx, it’s a popular student hang-out. It sounds trite to say, but the owners, Salvatore & Laura Natale, truly make the pizza with love—in fact, the pizzeria’s motto is, "Love is it!" And they seem to practice that sentiment with all customers, old and new. Heck, Sal let Margot come behind the counter to ring one of the many bells he has hanging from the ceiling, and even ended up giving her a t-shirt. The pizzas are large, solid, and satisfying, just the kind of pie you’d want to spend a long, laid-back lunch eating with friends.

590 East 191st Street, The Bronx NY 10458

Farinella Bakery

And so it was at Farinella Bakery that the master became the student. Margot had visited the Midtown East Farinella with her mother a few weeks ago and reported, "it was quite good — have you been, Papa?" I hadn’t been to this location, and it had been years since I’d even eaten at their original (now-closed) Tribeca shop, so Margot declared that she wanted to lead the next Pizza Adventure and take me to Farinella, which specializes in a type of Roman-style pizza known as pizza a taglio ("pizza by the cut"). Pies are long, thin, crisp, and loaded with a variety of traditional Italian toppings Even if the pizza hadn’t been good, it would have been a memorable trip just to see my daughter do the pizza-know-it-all thing, and it reminded me I should eat more of this genre..

Various locations, see farinellabakery.com

Homemade Prince Street clone

We end this list back where we started, sort of. This homemade Sicilian-style pizza comes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for "Sicilian Pizza with Pepperoni and Spicy Tomato Sauce," and is his attempt to clone the Spicy Spring slice. (I didn’t use Kenji’s sauce recipe, though, since I have my own I like and usually have on hand.) I had given up on making Sicilian-style pizza at home, but since I had a mess of cup-and-curl pepperoni in the fridge, I figured I’d give this Prince Street Pizza homage a shot. I’m so glad I did. It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve made at home. The trick, in my experience, is to cook this pan pizza on a Baking Steel or pizza stone; it helps accelerate the cooking, ensuring that your crust is crisp and sufficiently browned. I think I’m going to be playing around with this recipe for some time to come.

This post is adapted from an article that originally ran on Medium.

Bruno Pizza

204 East 13th Street, New York, NY

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