#3 Roberta’s

February 10th, 2016

Brooklyn, NYC

If you ask anyone around NYC for their favorite pizza, Roberta’s always makes the list. That’s why we weren’t surprised to see it at #3 on the list by the Daily Meal. We had a gift card, so we were really excited to go and not have to spend more money on pizza, since it was our second pizza stop of the week. We were really pleased by how affordable this pizza is, considering the prices of other similar pizzerias in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

 

Roberta’s is very “Brooklyn”, in food and atmosphere. The restaurant is located in Bushwick, in the middle of a bunch of old warehouses. It is a decently long walk from the subway, and at first we were sure that we were heading in the wrong direction. Although it started out as a small restaurant with a small outdoor seating area, it has expanded drastically in recent years and now encompasses almost an entire block. It has a rooftop garden, an event space, an outdoor seating area complete with a tiki bar, and a bakery. It plays rock music and you sit at wooden tables or at the bar. There are no tablecloths and the seats are not comfortable. Also in true Brooklyn fashion, it tries to do everything in house (like growing their own ingredients for their menu items) and it has a total hipster vibe.

The pizza is great. Apparently, the other food on the menu is equally as good, and whatever is on special usually gets rave reviews. But we just ordered pizza because that is what we do, and we weren’t disappointed.

The crust is chewy and the cheese is fresh, but it is the flavor combinations that really put Roberta’s on the map. One of the most famous around NYC is the Bee Sting, which has soppressata and honey (spicy and sweet), which ranked near the top of the best pizza combinations in NYC. We didn’t get that one, though, and instead went with a traditional Margherita and one called the Li’l Stinker, which was topped with various cheeses, lots of garlic, onion, and pepperoncini peppers.

In case you don’t feel like waiting for a couple of hours for a seat here (especially if you come on a weekend night), you can get Roberta’s pizzas frozen from various stores around NYC. These frozen pies are baked in the wood-fired oven, and then blast-chilled. We can’t vouch for how good these are, or how similar they are to the fresh pies, but according to others, it tastes like you brought a pizza home from Roberta’s and heated it up in the oven the following day. So that’s pretty much what we’d expect.

We both ranked Roberta’s at #11 on our personal lists. We didn’t think it was quite good enough for top 10. Although, we have it currently marked as a place we’d like to go back to, preferably over the summer when we can sit outside and enjoy the Tiki bar with our pizza.

To visit:

Roberta’s
261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206

#58 Matchbox

February 6th, 2016

Washington, D.C.

We drove down to Washington, D.C. for a baby shower one Saturday last year, and figured we’d might as well knock off one of the D.C. pizza places from the list. Washington D.C. isn’t really known for any particular style of pizza, so we were interested to see what kinds of pizzas made the list here.

This first trip to D.C., we decided to go to Matchbox, for the primary reason that it was the closest to the location of the baby shower, and we didn’t have to drive any further around the city. We went to the Chinatown location, but they have two other locations around the city.

The Chinatown location is the original restaurant that was started back in 2002. It looks small from the outside because it is really a narrow brick townhouse (that looks like a tall, skinny matchbox) that has been refashioned into a restaurant. There was plenty of seating inside, though, and we were seated up on the second story balcony.

 

Matchbox may be known for their brick oven pizzas, but their menu is pretty extensive, with good-looking salads and sandwiches, and specialty cocktails. They also serve brunch, which looked like it would be AMAZING.

We ended up splitting a pizza, since they let you pick half-and-half from their menu, and we really wanted to try more than one combination. We ended up going with half of the Fire+Smoke (roasted red peppers, onion, garlic, smoked gouda, and chipotle pepper) and half of the special veggie white pesto pizza.

We both preferred the Fire+Smoke, although they weren’t kidding when they warned us about the spice!

Apparently, Matchbox is trying to break out into the national chain market, so there may be one popping up near you. They currently also have restaurants in Virginia, Texas, and Maryland.

It would certainly be worth going back here for some of that Brunch pizza.

To visit:

Matchbox
713 H St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#47 Providence Coal Fired Pizza

January 27th, 2016

Providence, RI

Last January, I was lucky enough to be invited to Providence for a visit to Brown for work. Of course, we jumped at this opportunity to knock off one of the pizza places from the list (and to have part of it expensed!), so we decided to hit Providence Coal Fired Pizza for dinner after my meetings.

I had driven up to Providence, and the plan was for Eric to come and meet me and then we’d drive back home together. Providence isn’t too far from NYC, after all. Only about a 3.5 hour ride on Amtrak (Eric is a good sport!).

Eric was very hungry by the time his train got in around 7 pm, and I was hungry from waiting for him. We walked into Providence Coal Fired and grabbed a couple of seats at the bar. The place was pretty busy for a Wednesday night, but then we realized that most of the diners were heading to an evening show downtown. When they cleared out, we had the restaurant to ourselves.

 

We started off getting one of the salads to share – the Lentil and Hummus. I hate to say that it was almost better than the pizza. It was full of lentils and hummus (obviously), mixed lettuce, red onion, roasted portobellos, grape tomatoes, cucumber, goat cheese, and house baked flat bread, and was beautifully presented.

BUT this is a pizza blog, so I’ll get right to the pizza that we ordered. We tried the Rocket pizza, which was a Margherita topped with arugula and Pecorino cheese. It was great to have a different style of pizza here. As the name of the restaurant suggests, the pizzas are coal-fired in Rhode Island’s first and only coal-fired pizza oven. They actually import the coal from PA. The crust was crispy and slightly charred, just the way we like it. We felt pretty full after splitting this one pizza, since the salad was also pretty filling.

     

When we finished eating, we hopped in the car and drove a couple of hours to Connecticut to see the Grandparents, who kindly let us stay overnight so that we didn’t have to drive all the way back to NJ until the next morning.  Thanks Gram and Gramps!

To visit:

Providence Coal Fired Pizza
385 Westminster St
Providence, RI 02903

#37 Umberto’s

February 20th, 2016 and February 10th, 2017

New Hyde Park, NY

Our first trip to Umberto’s last February was on a Saturday evening, and we drove there with Marg and Scott. As usual, Eric got us off the wrong exit in Long Island, but luckily it wasn’t too long of a detour this time. It is a little tricky to get to from the city because the subways don’t quite get out far enough, so we were glad to have driven there.

On this first trip, we ordered two pies to split between the four of us. The first was the traditional Grandma pie, which Umberto’s is famous for. It has been featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”.  Honestly, I don’t remember what the second pie we got was, because this one was just too good. We’ve had a couple of grandma slices around NYC, but we are in agreement that this is the best that we’ve had. The sauce definitely makes these slices stand out.

 

You may be wondering what the difference is between a Sicilian pie and a Grandma pie. We certainly didn’t know the difference before we started our pizza quest. A Grandma pie is similar to a Sicilian pie only because they are both stretched to fit into a square (or rectangular) pan. The crust is the main difference between the two, with a Grandma pie crust being much thinner and crispier. This is because the crust barely proofs or rises. It is hard to find a traditional Grandma slice outside of NYC. While we would generally go for a Sicilian slice if we had a choice (more bread, of course!), we’d make an exception for Umberto’s Grandma slice.

   

After our dinner last year, Margaret decided that this is the best pizza she’s ever had. She can’t believe that we ranked it at #34 (Barb) and #29 (Eric). To be fair, though, she still hasn’t been to most of the places in our top 20. In any case, she has been talking about this pizza all year and so we decided to go back this past weekend for a group birthday celebration. This time, we (Marg, Scott, Claire, Eric, and I) took the LIRR out to New Hyde Park from Penn Station.

We went with the Grandma pie again (of course) and also got a Veggie pie and one with sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. These traditional pies were good, even with the crust being a little burnt on the sausage. We liked how the crust held up to all the toppings without sagging, although the veggie pie could have used some more sauce. Unusually for us, we had leftovers.

I think Marg will probably talk us into going out to Umberto’s again in the future, even though it is a hike to get there. Until then, maybe we will try our hand at making our own Grandma pie.

Marg, thank you for taking us out to Long Island for this pizza and reminding us how good it is. We will be happy to go again anytime, but we think you need to try some of the other pizzas on the list too 🙂

Claire, thanks for joining us and for providing us with some great photos. I didn’t post the one of the spinach in your teeth, but I’m happy to send it to you to include on a dating profile because it is a real winner.

To visit:

Umberto’s
633 Jericho Turnpike
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

#13 Modern Apizza

January 26th, 2016

New Haven, CT

I was heading up to Boston last year for a work trip, and decided to stop in New Haven on the way for a lunch at Modern with a friend from grad school. Unlike the other two famous New Haven pizzerias (Pepe’s and Sally’s), Modern isn’t located on Wooster Street. It has been in its original location on State Street since its opening in 1934.

 

We got this plain pie, and another one with eggplant. This is your traditional New Haven-style pizza, with the thin, charred crust. Unlike the two greats (Pepe’s and Sally’s), Modern doesn’t use a coal-fired oven, but uses an oil-fueled one. So the pizzas aren’t really the same.

There are a lot of Modern fans in New Haven, but I was never one of them. In fact, I only took Eric there at the very end of my five years in New Haven. He wasn’t super thrilled either. To us, it was a little too oily, a little too chewy, and the sauce just wasn’t as good as Pepe’s or Sally’s. You’ll find plenty of people who disagree with us though.

All this is not to say that a stop a Modern isn’t worth it if you are going to New Haven. The lines are much shorter than Pepe’s and Sally’s, parking is better on State Street than Wooster Street, and it is never too crowded for lunch, even with a bigger group. After all of the pizzas we ate this year, New Haven pizza is still our favorite style, so we’ve still ranked it pretty high, and no New Haven pizza tour would be complete without a stop here. We just think there are better options.

As a side note: Modern, like Pepe’s, is also known for their clam pies. The difference here being that Modern gets pre-shucked clams, and Pepe’s does the shucking themselves. It’s the little things, really.

If you are interested in the New Haven Pizza Debate, here is a good article that lists a bunch of them.

To visit:

Modern Apizza
874 State Street
New Haven, CT 06511

#91 Monza and #97 EVO

February 3rd and 4th, 2017

Charleston, SC

To celebrate my 30th birthday, we took a weekend trip down to Charleston with two of our good friends (one who also had a birthday this week!). We had never been to Charleston before, and we loved it! We had a really cute AirBnB with uneven floors and an outdoor porch, although we would have enjoyed that more if it had been just a few degrees warmer.

We did have an ulterior motive for choosing Charleston as our weekend getaway. There are two new additions to the 2016 list based in Charleston. We hit the first one, Monza, on Friday afternoon.

    

We tried two pies here. The first was the Ciccio, which was a white four cheese pie with garlic, and it was incredible. The second one was the Von Trips, with fresh tomato sauce, sausage, and greens. In case you didn’t know, both of these pies are named after race car drivers from the 50’s. Monza is apparently named after the legendary Italian racetrack. We didn’t notice the racing theme of the restaurant until the very end of our lunch.

Even if we aren’t the biggest racing fans, we are absolutely fans of these pizzas. Unusually, we were split as to which was our favorite. I liked the white pizza, which surprised me because I’m generally a sauce person. Eric loved the sausage.

Both pies are true Neapolitan-style pizzas, baked in the wood fired 1000 degree oven using imported Italian flour. The pizzas are a big larger than some of the other Neapolitans that we’ve had along the way, and the crust was a little less chewy. They weren’t loaded with sauce, either.

Overall, we’d rate this one pretty high, and probably higher than a few of the Neapolitan pizzas that we had last year.

We had our second pizza for lunch on Saturday, and we were lucky to have our friends’ car because EVO is a little bit outside of downtown Charleston. EVO stands for “Extra Virgin Oven” (not to be confused with EVOO). Like Pizza Moto, this restaurant had its start in a pizza truck, and opened its doors in North Charleston in 2007.

All of these pizzas featured seasonal ingredients that were locally sourced, which we loved. We got to try four different pizzas here. Eric had the Calabrese and Squash, which was loaded with garlic pesto, spicy calabrese, roasted butternut squash, arugula, corn, feta, mozzarella, and parmigiano-reggiano. Even with this huge list of toppings, the pizza tasted perfectly balanced and you could taste every one of the flavors. We had to try the recommended Pork Trifecta, and the special of the day that had spring onions and roasted garlic. To round it out, we also had one of the Fresh Veg, with spinach, artichokes, red peppers, roasted garlic, sweet onion, olives, and cheese. And LUCKILY, one of our friends likes olives! We always need to have their company when we go pizza tasting.

These pies weren’t quite as good as Monza’s, and they reminded us a little of Metro Pizza in Vegas, or Pizzeria Locale in Denver. Which kind of makes sense because they are all ranked at pretty similar numbers. They definitely get points for toppings, though. I also wish we had gotten to try one of their salads, but our stomachs are only so big.

EVO also has beer on tap from several local breweries. We were too full of pizza to get beers with lunch, so instead we stopped at Coast Brewing Co. and Revelry for some local beers before dinner a bit later.

We loved Charleston (for more than just the pizza) and with its up-and-coming foodie scene, we aren’t surprised that it finally made it on to the list.

To visit:

Monza
451 King Street
Charleston, SC 29403

EVO
1075 East Montague
North Charleston, SC 29405

#72 Brooklyn’s Pizza

January 22, 2016

Hackensack, NJ

Just a quick post today, featuring one of our local(ish) NJ pizzerias that made the list, Brooklyn’s Pizza.  Are you wondering why it is called “Brooklyn’s” pizza, when it is way outside of Brooklyn, in NJ? We were definitely curious, so we did a little digging. As it turns out, the owner of Brooklyn’s pizza (John Grimaldi) is the nephew of  Pat Grimaldi, who opened Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, and who is
also the nephew of Patsy Lancieri, of NYC’s famous Patsy’s in Harlem. In case you that just confused you even more, here is a helpful graphic. Basically, the whole family runs the pizza show in NYC.

Anyways, now that you’ve had a bit of pizza history, we can talk about the pie. We just got one large pie here, which was a regular cheese and tomato. We weren’t in the mood for anything fancy. Also baked in a coal oven (just like Grimaldi’s), the crust was nice and crispy, and the homemade mozzarella melted perfectly.

Brooklyn’s Pizza also has several locations around NJ – but the one in Hackensack is the original. The other two are in Edgewater and in Ridgewood. The restaurant is very family-friendly. We had no issues getting a table, and the service was quick.

 

We liked this pie almost as much as Grimaldi’s. At the very least, it is nice to have a good, classic, NY-style pizza option that doesn’t involve any of the following:

a.) driving across Manhattan (or any part of NYC)
b.) trying to get to Brooklyn by subway, and then having Eric get us lost with his *awesome* sense of direction
c.) walking across the Brooklyn bridge and getting caught in the rain (this has actually happened multiple times)

To visit:
Brooklyn’s Pizza
161 Hackensack Avenue
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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Side note: Last night we celebrated a big birthday! Of course, pizza was involved. We went back to Co., and this time we went for the Popeye again and a Meatball. They were just as good as we remembered, possibly even better because we also got wine!

#49 Harry’s Pizzeria

January 16th, 2016

Miami, FL

We made it down to West Palm Beach without any major issues. In between seeing alligators, going to see a cool LEGO exhibit at the nature reserve, and visiting a brewery, we managed to trek down to Miami, just for this pizza at Harry’s. This probably wouldn’t have been Jordon and Renee’s first choice of restaurants, but we are glad that they humored us and drove us all the way to Miami so we didn’t have to drive any more.

   

Since there were four of us, we tried a variety of pies. We tried the Short Rib, which had caramelized onions, arugula, and gruyère. It scored major points for flavor. We also tried the pesto pie with homemade ricotta and fresh tomato. The crust on the pesto was a little heavier than the short rib, but maybe because it had to carry more toppings? We probably wouldn’t have ranked Harry’s quite so high, if not for the fantastic flavor on the short rib. Who would have thought that we’d like short ribs on our pizza? We have to credit the Daily Meal for suggesting that we try this one.

Harry’s location is a little off the path in Miami, in the Design District, and we didn’t really want to walk around the neighborhood at all. Harry’s has also opened one other location near Miami, and has two more in the works (Cleveland!). If you check out their instagram  you’ll see that they have new specials almost every night. They make us want to drive back down to Florida!

We were glad to grab a table outside to get as much nice Florida weather as we could. We had to take advantage of wearing short sleeves in January!

Our long weekend down to Florida ended too soon. We left late Sunday night after dinner and drove non-stop back to NJ. To stay awake, we counted Cracker Barrels off the highway, stopped in Denny’s for 2 am milkshakes, took turns driving and powernapping, and may have had a red bull or two (something neither of us had tasted since college!). It was a long drive, but we did it. We think it was worth it.

To visit:

Harry’s Pizzeria
3918 N. Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33127

#45 Varasano’s and #26 Antico

 January 14 and 15th, 2016

Atlanta, GA

We went on our first pizza road trip last January, when we drove down to visit Eric’s brother in West Palm Beach, FL. We went a couple of hours out of our way to make a stop in Atlanta, which had two pizza places on the list.

We left our house at 5:30 in the morning to begin our drive. Luckily, the drive was uneventful. We didn’t hit much traffic, except for a little bit around Washington, D.C. We listened toa lot of podcasts. As the day went on, we had to keep the stops to a minimum because we were really trying to get to Atlanta in time for dinner at Varasano’s.

We parked at the restaurant right at 9 pm, just about an hour before closing. We were two of the only people in the restaurant. After over 13 hours in the car, we were starving. We ordered the Nana (on the right – the traditional margherita) and the Chica Bella, which had arugula, ricotta, and a pinch of lemon juice. Both were very good, and you can see that the crust on these was chewy and slightly charred. You could really taste the sourdough. We could have used a glass of wine or two, but we still had to find our way to our hotel.

   

After a good night’s sleep, we got up and headed over for lunch at Antico. We were almost the first ones in line here (are you surprised?). We ordered one of the House Special pies. It was a white pie with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and roasted mushrooms topped with a drizzle of truffle oil. While the pizzas here all looked fantastic, it’s a very no-frills type of restaurant. You can’t get any half-toppings, only full pies, and you sit at family-style picnic tables in a back room. We heard later that the back room didn’t even used to have seating, and everyone would have to squeeze into the front. It is definitely not a big restaurant.

We certainly aren’t complaining about this, though. We liked the picnic-style seating because we had a great view of the pizza oven and the dough room. The pizza was amazing, and ends up pretty high on our personal lists (#22 on Barb’s and #39 on Eric’s). We also liked that it was served on a baking sheet, just like the New Haven pies that we are used to.

We were pleasantly surprised by how good Atlanta’s pizzas are. We’d go back to Antico anytime. It almost makes us want to drive down to Florida again, just so we could stop there. Although it would probably be easier to convince Eric to fly there after all the road tripping that we’ve done this year.

The 2016 list does have one new Georgia pizza place listed in Duluth. So who knows, maybe we will just have to go back!

To visit:

Varasano’s
2171 Peachtree Road
Atlanta, GA 30309

Antico Pizza
1093 Hemphill Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30318

#82 Star Tavern

March 18th, 2016 (and January 7, 2017)

West Orange, NJ

We were so excited to see one pizza place on the list that is next to our hometown! Star Tavern is located in West Orange, NJ, which is only 5 miles from our house (we could run there!) Our neighbors all rave about it. After going there a couple of times now, we can see why.

Our first trip to Star Tavern was last March, on a Friday night. It was packed with families. We figured out eventually that you had to go to the back of the restaurant to join the line to be seated. This is NOT clear when you walk in. We didn’t have too long of a wait for a seat though, and ordered the Red Spinach and the White Spinach pizzas to split between the two of us, because we couldn’t decide between them.

    

Our second trip back to Star Tavern was last weekend, in the snow. We almost didn’t go because the snow was coming down pretty hard, but we had such a pizza craving and had been looking forward to it all day. I started out driving, but Eric made me get out of the car halfway up the street so that he could drive in the snow. Apparently, I am a nervous snow driver in my Prius. It would have taken me over half an hour to go the five miles, so it was probably a good life choice to have Eric drive us there in half the time.

Obviously, the Red Spinach pizza is our favorite here so far because we ordered it twice. The second time we also ordered one of the Veggie pizzas. Although we tend to go for the veggie pizzas, it does look like they have a lot of great meat combinations, too. They also serve a good selection of regular entrées and starters. We also saw that they have a dessert Apple Pie pizza on the menu! We are always too full for dessert pizza, but maybe one day we will order it for take-out.

These pizzas are super thin crust. Almost like a bar pie, but without the cheesy crisp around the edge. The veggie pie almost reminded us of Pepe’s veggie special pie in New Haven, but normal pizza-shaped and without the char on the crust. These also had a little more cheese than a New Haven pie and so were maybe a little greasier.

 

We had no problem finishing two pies between the two of us either time we went (but to note: these are not very large pies). The spinach isn’t fresh spinach, which usually would put us off, but it didn’t seem to bother us on these. The veggie pie was very good and full of veggies, even though we got it without olives.

 

In our opinion, olives should be optional on all pizzas. We’d be interested to see how many people ACTUALLY like the olives on veggie pizzas. We usually feel bad asking for the pizzas with no olives because we hate being those picky people, so we end up picking them off instead. We need to find someone to come with us who will eat all of our olives.

Star Tavern is ranked higher on the 2016 list – at #51. We’d agree with that since it definitely deserves to be higher than #82. We can see ourselves going here many times over the next few years, especially because they do take-out as well. And if anyone wants to come visit us in NJ, we will be happy to take you here for dinner!

 

To visit:

Star Tavern
400 High Street
West Orange, NJ 07050