#78 Amore Pizza

May 13th, 2016

Queens, NY

We all know that every good strip mall has a good pizza joint in it. Good, but not 101 Best Pizza Places-good (usually). Our favorite growing up was Nick’s Pizza and we’d always stop there for a quick slice on a lunch break at work or for a quick Friday night dinner date. Until we went to Amore Pizza in Queens, we didn’t know that there were any “strip mall pizzerias” on the list.

We went to Amore Pizza on a Friday evening. I was coming back from a conference out in Cold Spring Harbor, and Eric took the subway all the way out to Queens to meet me. I ended up getting there early (or actually, I think Eric’s subway was delayed) and I had serious doubts that I was in the right place. The pizzeria is located in a strip mall next to a Stop & Shop, near a McDonalds, a Carvel, and a couple of Chinese restaurants.

Once we walked in, though, we knew we had it right. These slices just looked too good. We both ended up ordered a couple of plain slices. These had a thinner crust than other NY slices, and were loaded with piping hot cheese and sauce. Oozing would be a good word.

These were good slices, especially if you are a fan of a cheesy, oily, drippy slice. There are no frills here, and we didn’t even think about getting anything but the cheese slice. We’d certainly come back if we were driving through and needed a bite to eat because it is right off the exit from the highway.

Would we sit on the subway for 1.5 hours to get out to Flushing from Manhattan for these, though? Probably not. I’m pretty sure that Eric was glad that I had my car and we could avoid a subway ride back into Manhattan. I did make him drive us home because the traffic was pretty bad by the time we were ready to leave, and Eric is a much more patient traffic-driver than I am.  But at least our stomachs were happy.

To visit:

Amore Pizza
3027 Stratton Street
Flushing, NY 11354

 

 

#98 L&B Spumoni Gardens

June 22, 2017

Brooklyn, NY

Last week we hit the last stop in NYC from the 2016 Daily Meal list, L&B Spumoni Gardens. We had been putting a visit here off because 1.) it was the last place on the list in New York and 2.) it is ALL the way out into Brooklyn and not the easiest or shortest subway ride.

The pizza here is different than other slices of pizza in NYC. Sure, they have regular “round” slices, and we tried a couple of those. But that isn’t why you come here. You come for the “square”. And maybe also for the ice cream.

For these squares, the sauce goes on top of the cheese. The crust is thick like a Sicilian should be, and has a nice crunch to the edges and the bottom. We got lucky and they were just taking a new tray of slices out of the oven when we walked up, so ours were piping hot and delicious.

 

The regular slices were also good. We wouldn’t rave about them, but if a Sicilian slice isn’t your thing, you won’t go wrong by ordering a regular cheese slice here. The “round” slices were a bit smaller than a slice from a generic NY slice shop and they were on the thinner side, but had a good sauce:cheese ratio.

You probably know by now that we love a good, saucy pizza slice, and that is exactly what L&B gave us. We would rank this one higher than #98, but we are glad that it made it on to the 2016 list because it is known as a NYC classic. You really should hike all the way out on the N to Bensonhurst to try it. Although, if you are heading all the way out in that direction, you may as well go one stop further to hit Totonno’s in Coney Island. But then you should stop back here for ice cream on your way home, because the creamsicle soft serve is awesome!

This is very close to being our favorite square slice, but we think that Miccuci’s Grocery in Portland, ME still is in the lead for that one.

PS: Does everyone else know what a “spumoni” is? We didn’t, so we googled it. They also serve spumoni here (in case you couldn’t tell by the name). We’ll have to check that out next time.

To visit:

L&B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th St
Brooklyn, NY 11223

#53 Gino’s of Long Beach

May 7th, 2016

Long Beach, NY

One rainy day last May, we took another drive for pizza. This time, we went out to Long Beach, which is just south of Long Island, for a stop at Gino’s of Long Beach. We had been putting this one off because even though it was rated decently high on the list, it is not easy to get to Long Beach from NYC, and it is almost a 2 hour drive from home in New Jersey.

While we usually don’t mind driving for pizza, we do try to make a day out of our longer drives. We didn’t really find anything else to do besides eat pizza down in Long Beach, since actually going to the beach was out of the question in the rain. So we drove there, ate some pizza, and drove home. We apparently had nothing better to do on our Saturday.

We got there for a late lunch, and decided to just order a variety of slices. We tried a mozzarella and tomato slice, a buffalo chicken slice, a regular Grandma slice and an eggplant Sicilian slice. As usual, we were split on our favorites here between the Grandma and the eggplant.

Some people are really against eggplant on pizza, but we love it. We definitely prefer when the eggplant isn’t breaded and fried on pizza, though, which is traditionally done at places like Modern. We prefer it sliced thin and fresh, like it was on this Sicilian slice.  The cheese on these slices was a little bland, but the crust was nice and crispy and the sauce was fresh, so we’d say the slices were solid.

Gino’s was ranked as high as #32 in 2014, but has dropped a bit to #53 in 2015, and is #82 now in 2016. We don’t doubt that these are likely the best slices in Long Beach (although we’ve also heard good things about West End Pizza), and we all know that pizza tastes the best after a few hours sitting by the ocean. We don’t think that they are as good as some of the slices we’ve had in the boroughs of New York, though.

To visit:

Gino’s of Long Beach
16 W Park Ave
Long Beach, NY 11561

Stockholm & Oslo

May 28th – June 8th, 2017

Stockholm, Sweden & Oslo, Norway

And we’re back! It was a whirlwind trip through Sweden and Norway, and (unsurprisingly) we managed to eat a bit of pizza. Some of it was very good, some of it was very bad. Can’t say that it was as good as the klippfisk, but it was much better than we had expected.

First stop: Stockholm. I happened to be wandering around the city one day during my conference lunch break, and came across the Artisan. It looked like the perfect place to stop in and grab a quick slice so that I could continue my tourist-ing. It was on a cute street overlooking the park in Vasastan, and so I grabbed a seat looking out of the front window.

The slices here have a Roman-style dough, almost as thick as a Sicilian, but more airy. They had a wide selection of square slices with different toppings. I went with a margherita slice and one with cauliflower. The ingredients are apparently imported from Italy. Overall, they were decent slices, but Eric would have needed about five of them to feel full. And they were a bit on the pricey side.

When Eric joined me in Stockholm a few days later, we decided to grab lunch at a pizzeria listed in our Where to Eat Pizza book, Giro. We chose this pizzeria mainly for its location, which is close to the center of town and not too far from where we were staying.

    

We went with a margherita here and a white pizza with broccoli rabe and salsiccia. We were really surprised with how good these pizzas were. The crust was true Neapolitan, and the pies had just the right amount of cheese and toppings. When we finished, Eric tried to impress the waiter with his Swedish by saying it was “delicious”, but Google Translate unfortunately had the wrong word for “delicious” listed and the waiter did not know what he was saying. Good try, though, Eric!

Also, Stockholm is beautiful, and the ice cream was even better than the pizza.

And so were the cardamom buns (or kardamummabullar if you wanted the Swedish name!)

After a couple of days in Stockholm, we took the train out to Oslo. On our last night in the city, we decided to try another pizza place. We found a good looking restaurant close to where we were staying, Lofthus Samvirkelag.  They have a few locations around the city. The original location is about 20 minutes outside of center city, so we ended up going to one of the more local ones because we were a bit tired of walking.

  

This restaurant also started as a bakery, which at night would morph into a pizzeria from Wednesday to Sunday. We were originally going to try the reindeer carpaccio pizza because Lofthus Samvirkelag is known for its Norwegian spin on traditional pizza, but some of the more traditional options sounded too good to pass up. We had their version of a margherita, with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, and the five cheese, which had a white sauce and local cheeses. The crust on these pies was a little thinner than the Neapolitan crusts in Stockholm and was also a bit crispier. The toppings were so fresh!

We knew that the quality of pizza wasn’t going to be so good after we left Oslo and started driving around the small towns in the fjords. Luckily, we had no shortage of other amazing Norwegian food to sample along our drives and we ate plenty of meatballs, fresh fish, and burgers from locally-raised beef.  We LOVED that everything in Norway is locally-sourced and you can actually see where all of your food is coming from. (Need proof? Here is some salted fish just laying out to dry on the rocks below that we ended up eating for dinner one evening).

After a few days of driving, hiking this mountain and then this mountain, and eating mostly jelly sandwiches and granola bars, we started to get some serious pizza cravings. Unfortunately, food options along the windy mountain roads of the fjords are slim. We ended up stopping in a small town along the road, Stryn, because we saw they had pizza that surprisingly had received decent Yelp reviews (Napoli Pizza).

After sitting down to our food, we realized why we had been sticking to locally-raised burgers and freshly caught fish. We both commented that we felt bad for the people who live in this small town and probably think that this is what pizza tastes like everywhere. Although we shouldn’t be too harsh, because we ate it all and it certainly satisfied our pizza craving. If they had put more sauce on it, it probably would have been a decent pizza. Even so, we decided to make this our last pizza in Norway.

I won’t bore you with all the other details about our trip because we did do other things besides eating, but I will leave you with this picture of the CUTEST Norwegian fishing village, to try to convince you to go there. And if you do, please stick to ordering pizza only in the main cities (and just order the klippfisk everywhere else).

Eric can also teach you the word for “delicious” in both Swedish (Utsökt!) and Norwegian (Nydelig!).

#69 Double Mountain Brewery & #64 Ken’s Artisan Pizza

April 26th, 2016

Hood River & Portland, Oregon

We stayed overnight in Portland, and woke up early the next morning to drive out to Hood River, which took us a little over an hour. We were excited to get in a day (or, half day) of hiking! We ended up hiking the Angel’s Rest-Devil’s Rest Loop, which was on the way out to Hood River. After our morning of hiking, we were looking forward to some pizza and beer at Double Mountain Brewery.

We walked in to the tap room and it was pretty empty, so we grabbed a nice seat right by the open window. The weather was amazing. We quickly ordered our beer (for Eric) and cider (for Barb).

I’m not sure how this brewery got known for its pizza, but they had a great selection of pies on their menu. We had a hard time decided which to go for, and ultimately chose the special of the day, which was a white pie with asparagus, roasted red peppers, and plenty of cheese. It was a really good choice, especially with a side of the chips and salsa.

 

The pizzas here are also “New Haven-style”, in that they are cooked around 700 degrees to a nice char. The style is also similar to Apizza Scholls, and I think the main reason that both of these places don’t get full “New Haven” marks is because they aren’t quite as charred and aren’t quite as thin. At least as compared to Pepe’s, Sally’s, Modern, and BAR. I guess that they are more similar to other “New Haven” pizzas, like those at Zuppardi’s.

  

We really enjoyed these beers and pies, and the hiking! We had one more stop on the list that we saved for our last dinner before we drove back up to Seattle. This was Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and we met up with our friend Travis a bit on the early side for dinner, on our way out of town. This ended up being perfect timing, though. Apparently Ken’s Artisan can have quite a line, even on a weeknight.

Ken’s Artisan pizza started out as a Monday pizza night at Ken’s Artisan Bakery, which became so popular that Ken started his own pizzeria. You can’t get a reservation, but they do have take-out a couple of nights a week. The pizzas here are Neapolitan-like, but a little less doughy and a little more charred. Definitely artisan, with the wide variety of specialized toppings.

The pizzas here are wood-fired, and we ordered a Margherita and one with Soppressata. Both were really good, with a sweeter sauce and not too much cheese. The crust held up nicely to the toppings.

We recognized Ken from his book, and if you are interested in trying to make his pizza at home, the recipe is here. We will have to give it a go and will let you know how it turns out (although we doubt that it will be as good as the original!).

We’re off the next couple of weeks to a trip around Norway and Sweden! We will certainly be eating pizza there, and will pop back in with a couple of posts when we return to the US.

To visit:

Double Mountain Brewery
8 4th St
Hood River, OR 97031

Ken’s Artisan Pizza
304 SE 28th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214

#27 Apizza Scholls

April 25th, 2016

Portland, OR

While we were staying in Seattle, we took a quick side trip up to Portland. Our friend Dave kindly leant us his car, and we drove up to see our friends Arron and Amanda, who had recently moved to a house there from New Haven. We got there around mid-afternoon and we were easily able to convince our friends to go for dinner at Apizza Scholls.

 

With all four of us having spent time in New Haven, we are pretty harsh pizza critics. We decided to order one of the New York Red pizzas, and another one with sausage and peppers. The New York Red was probably our favorite, although the sausage pie was also solid.

Apizza Scholls is said to be the best pizza in Portland, although they do have some limitations on how many toppings you can get on a single pie (3 ingredients, no more than 2 meats). We didn’t have a problem with this. To us, simpler is often better.

 

The style of this pizza is very similar to what you would find in New York or New Jersey.We’ve seen a few reviews referring to this pizza as “New Haven-style”. Well, sorry everyone, but this is not New Haven style pizza.

The story is that the owner, who was traditionally a bread maker, couldn’t find any pizza that he liked in Portland, so he started Apizza Scholls (originally named Scholls Public House) in 2004. The style of pizza was modeled after the NY greats: Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, and Patsy’s. All of these NY pizzerias serve coal-fired pizzas, but Apizza Scholls actually bakes their pies in an electric oven. Hey, whatever works! We honestly couldn’t tell the difference.

The sauce on the New York Red was really good, and the crust was amazing. Probably better than the crust at Grimaldi’s or Patsy’s (but maybe not quite as good as Totonno’s). Somehow, they managed to get that awesome char on the crust with an electric oven.

We thought that this was a great first stop in Portland, and we would 100% come back here again. After looking at these photos again, I think we need to plan another trip back to Portland ASAP.

 

To visit:

Apizza Scholls
4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, Oregon 97215

#46 Serious Pie

April 23, 2016

Seattle, Washington

Right after our LA trip, we booked another trip out west to Seattle and Portland to visit some friends.  We had a long weekend in Seattle and we spent most of the weekend exploring the market and the waterfront and eating plenty of donuts. We didn’t go visit the Space Needle or the original Starbucks, but we did see fish being thrown and ate plenty of seafood on the docks. There was only one pizza place on the list in Seattle, Serious Pie, so we went with our friends for dinner after one of our days exploring.

We were a group of four, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we usually need to order about one pizza per person. However, we had spent most of the day eating, so we only ordered three different pies here. It was a good choice.

We ended up trying a regular Margherita, with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, and fresh basil, a sausage pie with roasted peppers and provolone, and a potato pizza seasoned with rosemary and topped with pecorino romano cheese.

Side note: Serious Pie also has biscuits at one of their locations! We did not try them, but I get the feeling that they are almost as famous for the biscuits as they are for the pizza. They look pretty awesome.

 

Overall, we liked these pizzas a lot. They are apple-wood fired in a stone oven, which means that the crust is nicely charred. The crust was also very airy and light, which was good considering all of the donuts we had eaten earlier in the day. The cheeses and meats were fresh and there were some really interesting flavor combinations on the menu. We really liked the ratio of sauce:cheese on the Margherita. The potato pizza didn’t quite live up to the one at BAR, but we think that a potato pizza is a bit on the heavy side with such a thick crust.

One of the Serious Pie locations has recently closed (as of May 1st) to make room for a Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room. It is not an exaggeration to say that Seattle has plenty of coffee snobs. For a while, the pizzeria was operating as a part of the Tasting Room, but no longer. Luckily there are a couple of other locations in Seattle that you can visit.

And the next time we go to Seattle, we should try some of these. If we don’t fill up on donuts, of course.

To visit:

Serious Pie
316 Virginia St
Seattle, WA 98101

#50 Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza

May 12th, 2017

Elizabeth, NJ

We were excited to see another New Jersey pizza place break on to the 2016 101 Best Pizzas list, in part because it meant that we wouldn’t have to drive across the country to try it! Santillo’s is located in Elizabeth, NJ, not far from Newark airport, and it took us about half an hour to drive there last Friday after work from our house. I made Eric drive, because I always manage to get myself lost driving around Newark airport.

Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizza has probably the most unique menu we’ve seen. Instead of specialty pizzas and toppings, they list the style of pizza by date, giving you a pizza timeline. There is the 1948 style tomato pie, with no mozzarella and just grated cheese. You have the 1964 classic style, which gets a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of parmesean that was popular back then. The 1990’s style has a thin, soft crust.

You can also specify how well done you like your crust, from “6 minutes – soft” to “10 minutes – brown/black”. You can order any pie as a round pie or Sicilian. And you can add whatever toppings you’d like, at $4 a pop.

We went with a 1960’s style pizza, which has “less cheese, more sauce”. The crust was thin and crispy, and the sauce was so good. We got half with spinach, because Eric doesn’t like to keep anything plain. We almost went with the lasagna pie because it looks so good in pictures, but we were more intrigued by the different years and styles.

   

They make their pizzas to go, so there isn’t any seating inside. We were worried that the pizza wouldn’t be as hot if we took it all the way home, so we found a parking lot on the back of the building and sat and ate our pizza there.

The pizzas reminded us a bit of the pies at Star Tavern, and it is hard to say which pies we liked better. Next time we come, we’ll have to remember to bring our own beach chairs so we don’t have to sit on the ground. This will become a regular in our pizza rotation, I think, although I’m not sure that we will ever have the restraint to wait until we get home to eat it.

 

To visit:

Santillo’s Brick Oven Pizzeria
639 S Broad Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07202

 

#71 Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino

May 7, 2017

Delray Beach, FL

This past weekend, Eric found himself down in Florida for a bachelor party, not too far away from Delray Beach. Of course, he had to stop at this new addition to the 2016 list, Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino, and he brought his brother and friend. He sent me the pictures, which made me immediately jealous that I was not there. I quizzed him about his trip and the pizza.

First of all, what pizzas did you order?

At first neither Jordon or Scott wanted pizza so I was upset I couldn’t try a bunch, but then I convinced them. I got a Regina Margherita (basic Neapolitan), Jordon got the Pizza con Pistacchio e Salsiccia, and Scott got the Keste’. Overall, I think a pretty good mix, but if you were there we could’ve gotten some veggies.

 

Did one stand out as the best? 

We all agreed the Pistacchio e Salsiccia was the best.  I think it was actually better than the one at Keste in Manhattan. The sausage was the crumbly kind and the pesto was delicious.

 

(Barbara says: This is saying something, because we are big fans of Keste in Manhattan).

Which pizza would I have ordered?

I think you would have gotten either a Margherita, or the Roberto (burrata).

(Barbara says: This is probably correct. Eric knows that I like my burrata.)

How do these pizzas compare to the other Neapolitan pies that we’ve eaten?

These were definitely cheesier. Since the center crust was thin (as it should be for Neapolitans), it made it tough to lift up without it drooping or having toppings fall.  But the crust was perfect (not as doughy as the one in San Fran or Sotto). The sauce was very good.  The place itself was also very Italian with a nice colorful wood oven in the back.

   

How was the bachelor party?

Tiring. It was hard to get everyone to agree on what to do, and everyone was being cheap so we didn’t go to Sunfest (which was the whole reason we went to West Palm last weekend). But it was nice seeing everyone.

Did you miss me eating pizza with you?

Yes. I couldn’t compare it to anything. And you are more well-versed in everything pizza so it could’ve been a better conversation over dinner.  I felt very snooty when talking to Jordon and Scott, I hope we don’t come across that way to everyone!

(Barbara says: We probably do. Sorry everyone.)

 

If we go back to Florida, would we make a stop here?

Probably not. I’d rather go to Atlanta for those pizzas and then just get other food in Florida.

Eric also found it funny that his brother pointed out that there was a book called “Where to Eat Pizza” and jokingly asked if we had it. And he could actually say “yes” because we do have it! Jordon, you obviously didn’t read my blog post last week.

Thanks, Eric, for checking this one out. Next time, I’m going to make you write the blog post.

To visit:

Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino
522 E Atlantic Ave
Delray Beach, FL 33483

 

#100 800 Degrees & #40 Gjelina

April 17th, 2016

Los Angeles, CA

After all of the biking on LA Day 1, we (Eric) were very excited to be able to walk to the next location on the 101 List. 800 Degrees  has a location right in downtown Santa Monica, about a 10 minute walk from where we were staying.

  

800 Degrees is as close as you can get to fast-food pizza. You pick a crust, a sauce (red, pesto, or no sauce), then customize with your choice of vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Or, you can pick one of the chef’s classic pizza combinations. They have a decent variety of appetizers and sides that you can try. Also, if you follow their instagram, they post a daily “Pizza of the Day”, which is half off the price of a normal pizza (so, about $4). We weren’t fans of whatever the PoTD was when we went, so we decided to try a regular Margherita (are you surprised?), and then ordered a second pie with a pesto base.

The pies were done so quickly, which was probably the best thing about this place. If you are in a rush, and want a fast, but decently good, Neapolitan pizza, this is a great place to stop. Does it compare to the other Neapolitan pies that we’ve eaten around LA (and the rest of the US)? No. Not at all. But it wasn’t bad, either.

   

We’ve been to other fast-casual pizzerias and this one is probably our favorite of the bunch, but it could never take the place of a real Neapolitan pie. The cheese was a little undercooked, and the crust was just nothing special, and apparently can be hit or miss.  It does have some things going for it, though, compared to other fast casual joints like MOD  Pizza and Blaze, including more toppings (43 vs 23 and 24) and a more Neapolitan-style crust. The toppings are all fresh, and there are some unique ones, like truffle cheese.

We aren’t surprised by the trend that fast casual pizzas are gaining in popularity. In 2015, 3 of the top 5 fastest growing brands in the top 500 chain restaurants were pizzerias (although, 800 Degrees wasn’t one of them). Our friend in LA swears by Blaze, but we didn’t have the chance to try that out this time around.                                             

Our final pizza stop in LA was at Gjelina, and we had made a dinner reservation beforehand. Since Eric had an early evening flight, we had to get in right as Gjelina opened for dinner in order to have enough time to eat and drive him to the airport. We were cutting it a bit close.

Since there were three of us, we were able to try a couple of different pies. We got a Pomodoro with burrata, and this shaved asparagus pie with leek, shallot, garlic, fontina, and an egg on top. It was awesome. It just felt like spring. I think we may have also had a salad (I seem to remember getting something with kale), but these pizzas must have overshadowed anything else that we tried, because I can’t remember eating anything else.

It was great to end our LA weekend with these pizzas, which gave Mozza a run for our favorite pies of the trip. A couple of tips if you decide to make the trip to Gjelina:

1) Make a reservation. Weeks in advance, if you are making a special trip. Unless you happen to enjoy queuing for a few hours.

2) Give yourself a lot of time to find parking around Abbot Kinney. You’ll be driving in circles.

3) Eat outside if you can, because the inside is pretty loud.

4) Bring a lot of money, because you will want to try ALL of the appetizers and pizzas. This is Los Angeles, so nothing is inexpensive.

5) As full as you are after eating here, you should make a stop for the amazing ice cream at Salt & Straw. Don’t worry – you will have time to digest your pizza because there will certainly be a line there too.

  

Oh, and they have a cookbook. And maybe a New York restaurant coming soon? Adding this to our list right now…

To visit:

800 Degrees
120 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(or other locations)

Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291