No city has a slice tradition like our own; in fact, no other city even comes close. Our neighborhood pizzerias are selfless institutions dedicated to feeding the public cheaply day in and day out, rarely even stopping for holidays. The results are always delicious, and sometimes innovative, because these sainted institutions are fighting for their lives with high-priced Neapolitan pizzas in fancy restaurants on one side, and dollar slice places where you must stand up to eat your lunch on the other.
The fact that many of our best pizzerias also offer comfortable accommodations at counters and tables is an added boon. So please join me now in honoring 10 of these places as we present the latest edition of Golden Slice Awards, Eater’s regular celebration of neighborhood pizzerias.
This Upper East Side mainstay has been pumping out the slices since 1997, offering a sauce slightly sweeter and chunkier than average. Our favorite is the grandma, a square slice in the upside down formation, meaning that the cheese is on the bottom and the sauce on top, so that the imperially thin crust doesn’t get soggy. That the crust is also on the thin side for a square slice, and a little bit oily, is an added bonus — as is the shredded basil sprinkled on top. 1701 First Ave., between 88th and 89th streets, Upper East Side
Proudly proclaiming itself the oldest pizzeria on Smith Street (there’s really not all that much competition), Caruso’s in Cobble Hill also functions as an Italian restaurant, with an expanded roster of pastas and dinner entrees. These are all fine, but the pizza is particularly good, including several round pies featuring fresh mozzarella. The pie called “fresh mozzarella” is the most engaging, and it can be made with the restaurant’s signature sesame crust, whereby the ridge around the pie is implanted with seeds. However that innovation originated, the slice is absolutely great. 150 Smith St., between Bergen and Wyckoff streets, Cobble Hill
What could be more perfect than a plain cheese slice, fabulously rendered? That’s the main output of Family Pizza on Flatbush Avenue. The crust is thin, but manages to be soft on the top and crisp on the bottom, a miraculous stratification in such a thin-crusted slice. The sauce is memorable by having no trace of sweetness; the cheese plain as plain can be. It’s as if the god of all pizza had asked that a slice be reduced to its simplest and most perfect formulation. 720 Flatbush Ave., between Parkside Avenue and Westbury Court, Flatbush
Proving that old-style neighborhood pizzerias are not a bygone phenomenon, Rosalia’s opened not long ago in Forest Hills. You can tell the proprietor is a Staten Islander the minute you bite into the soupy spinach and artichoke slice: wads of spinach, a strew of chopped artichoke leaves and choke, little hills of melting ricotta, and a greenish sauce. In Staten Island, the semi-liquid slice is king. 103-15 Queens Blvd., between 68th Road and 68th Drive, Forest Hills
Mama’s Too is one of the new crop of neighborhood pizzerias that have reconfigured their slices to be more modern and innovative than that of the classic neighborhood pizzeria. (The place is related to a more conventional pizzeria on nearby Amsterdam Avenue.) This is all to the good, you’ll realize as you survey the collection of square pies with rich crusts and atypical toppings. The pepperoni slice uses a small-bore sausage packed tightly on the slice, weeping paprika oil down on the crust. Other pies include caramelized onion and mushroom, and zucchini with Kalamata olives. 2750 Broadway, between 105th and 106th streets, Upper West Side
An old newspaper article pinned beside the door proclaims Antonio’s 50th anniversary, so by now it must be much older. The Park Slope stalwart is all over the map pizza-wise, even making an approximation of deep-dish Chicago pies, and regular pies with Alfredo and vodka sauces, as if pizza were pasta. Amid the welter of pizza forms is a perfect grandma — a paradoxically square and thin slice, with the crust like a piece of delicious cardboard. Splotches of mozz and torn basil leaves powerfully scent the pie. 318 Flatbush Ave., between Carlton Avenue and Park Place, Park Slope
Jeez, there must be dozens of pizzerias in the five boroughs named Tony’s. This one distinctively occupies a rather grand corner double storefront with plenty of windows, through which the snow looks rather dramatic as it falls softly on Crown Heights. The stacked ovens turn out all the usual pies, and there’s also a sideline in jerk chicken, a neighborhood favorite. Torn into pieces, that bird goes on a slice, with some barbecue sauce striped on for extra sweetness. Hey, it’s good! 850 Nostrand Ave., at Union Street, Crown Heights
The slogan of this Washington Heights pizzeria not far from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital is, “Keep this place in mind, a better pizza is hard to find.” Como is one of those tiny places where the main output is mainly cheese slices, with each pie being subdivided and scooped up the minute it comes from the oven. The crowd loves these plain pies, and you rarely see extra toppings, though if you consult the menu, pies with names like Hawaiian, meat eaters, and genuine Mediterranean (eggplant, black olives, and “authentic feta”) are available. Founded in 1963, near the start of the neighborhood pizza era. 4035 Broadway, between 169th and 170th streets, Washington Heights
This pizzeria not far from the Broadway theaters treats its output like a dramatic event. Dating from 1994, it flaunts a long glass counter with a ridiculous number of pie choices. Sometimes you just need lots of meat, and the meat lover’s pie features sausage, bacon, and pepperoni. Other sporadically available pies deploy Portuguese chorizo, Philly cheesesteak, lemony chicken Francese, and Tex-Mex jalapeños and seasoned ground beef. 840 Eighth Ave., between 50th and 51st streets, Hell’s Kitchen
For 49 years, Brother’s has occupied a prime spot in Fordham Manor, with the elevated 4 train towering overhead. The premises are very modest indeed. The plain slice is thin crusted and cheesy, and the sauce is practically unseasoned, which is just fine with me. Other pies beckon, more often available as whole pies rather than individual slices, including a lasagna pie, a salad pie, and a Hawaiian pie with ham and canned pineapple, a favorite in South America. 27 East Kingsbridge Rd., between Morris and Jerome avenues, Fordham Manor
Here are some previous editions of the awards: