Every so often, Eater NY commemorates the humble neighborhood pizzeria, the culinary backbone of our city. Day in and day out, in every neighborhood, these tenacious establishments turn out slices, pies, heros, and pastas to feed the multitudes at prices everyone can afford. That the food is often predictable isn’t a defect, yet these places are also prone to innovation. So when you examine your slice choices in the glass case, they may include taco slices, grandma slices, ziti slices, and thick Sicilians so good you can’t bear to put them down between bites.
Here, then, is the fifth round of the Golden Slice Awards, conferred in alphabetical order.
This mainstay with a self-congratulatory name sits just east of the South Bronx shopping district called the Hub. Open since 1958, it was founded at the dawn of the neighborhood pizzeria era, when the stacked pizza oven was first popularized, and the old-fashioned interior, with an order window on the street, shows it. The slices are thicker, with lusher toppings than usual, and the accommodating pizzaioli will ladle extra sauce on a slice at your request. Our favorite slice is the white spinach, which boasts clouds of soft ricotta and plenty of garlic. 412 E 149th Street, Bronx, 718-585-6444
Proving that neighborhood pizzerias are still viable, even as more expensive and pretentious pizzerias have become common, Champion is a mini-chain with a newish branch in Williamsburg. Sold by the slice, most of the pizzas are square, the crusts relatively thin, and done to a dark brown. Toppings are innovative, too, including one slice that features alternate bands of green pesto and red tomato sauce, like a Morris Lewis painting in the Museum of Modern Art. 187 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 929-295-0191
Gianni’s is a classic 1980 Jackson Heights pizzeria, heavy on the Sicilian influences, with an ambitious menu, but a premises that says “pizzeria” rather than “fancy restaurant.” There’s a nice little backyard, and the thing you shouldn’t miss — even if you have to traipse over from Roosevelt Avenue to get it — is the Sicilian slice. The bottom side of the crust is brown and crisp, the crumb light as air, the sauce on the sweet side, and the cheese tumbles over the side like a waterfall. 81-13 Northern Boulevard, Queens, 718-478-4783
Proving how a pizzeria can anchor an entire neighborhood — in this case Carroll Gardens — Giardini is a daytime haven for hungry school kids, card-playing seniors, and shoppers dashing in for a fortifying bite. In the evenings, dating couples and families fill the space, which boasts an outdoor garden. The pizza is made with great thought and care; the grandma slice here is in the upside-down Sicilian format, with a wealth of cheese beneath the tomato sauce, and a crust so good you’d eat it by itself. 363 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718-596-5320
Proving again that even today neighborhood pizzerias are opening up, Highline appeared not too long ago on the edge of Hudson Yards, peddling a menu of predictable slices with a few new twists. The pale crust is distinguished, and one of the best uses is in a pie topped with cubed chicken cutlet and fresh ripe tomato, for a final taste of summer. This place floods with construction workers from nearby high-rises in the post-noon period. 503 W 28th Street, 212-564-3330
Not too long ago during an Eater NY pizza delivery contest, we discovered that all Little Italy franchises were not the same. In fact, some were superb while others were awful, with doughy crusts and lifeless tomato sauces. The City Hall branch is one of the great ones, and you can tell the minute you step inside and see the elated diners. Our favorite slice is the carbonara, which features two kinds of cheese along with shards of prosciutto, making it one of the city’s few pies to utilize that cold-cut cooked. Open 24 hours. 11 Park Place, 212- 227-7077
P & M Classic
This two-decade old pizzeria bills itself as “A Taste of Italy in Harlem” — and it is indeed, with an extended menu of chicken, veal, seafood, and eggplant, with full dinners under $20. But most folks dash in for a slice, and the overwhelming favorite is the pepperoni, the sliced sausage vying with the profuse tomato sauce for pungency. Sicilian slices and calzones are also worth ordering. 1747 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-926-3155
Placing it among the most ancient and venerable of early neighborhood pizzerias, which saw their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Pizza Wagon was founded in 1966. It possesses one of the most convivial dining rooms in Bay Ridge, and doesn’t bother with a vast range of pie choices. Thus, most slices are served still warm from the oven, and our favorite is the Sicilian (only $2.50!): with a crisp and light crust, plenty of sweet tomato sauce, and a thick mantle of cheese. Open late. 8610 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-836-5725
Established in 1976, San Remo offers a deep dining room favored by Ditmas Park families, and all the usual modern pies, including lasagna pizza, the everything pie, deep dish veggie (Chicago style), Buffalo chicken pizza, and vodka pie. The best, though, is the grandma, a variation on the regular Sicilian with a thinner crust, a more herbal sauce, and black pepper. Need we say it’s scrumptious? 1408 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, 718-282-4915
Clad in green marble, why is this pizzeria directly across the street from Grand Central so elegant? The interior gleams and the patrons are often well-dressed businesspeople. Yet they’re ordering slices like more typical pizza parlor patrons, though these slices often seem denser and fresher than usual. Our favorite is the lasagna slice, which emulates a serving of lasagna with its rich sauce, ground beef, and ricotta cheese that plays second fiddle to lots of mozzarella. Open 24 hours. 70 Vanderbilt Avenue, 212-922-1200
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