#89 Deniro’s

February 16th, 2018

Depew, NY

Apparently, Buffalo, NY has a big pizza scene. We were not aware of this until we read the 2017 list. We also didn’t know that there was such a thing as “Buffalo-style” pizza. Since there were 3 pizza places on the new list that were located around Buffalo, we decided that a road trip there this year was necessary. Talking with Arthur Bovino (who pretty much created the list, in case you didn’t know) over lunch the other day also convinced us. We really had to see what the fuss was about. 

We decided to take our mini-road trip over this past long weekend. We started out from NJ early on Friday and made it out to Buffalo around 1 pm. Our first stop: Deniro’s.

We were very excited to get out of the car after our 5 hour drive, but a little bummed that the pizza place didn’t have any seating. They had a little “seat” along the window, so we sat/stood to eat our half-pepperoni-half-plain pizza. We went with a medium size, since we were getting more pizza in a few hours for dinner. It ended up being plenty of pizza for us, and we actually couldn’t finish it. If you know us at all, this is HIGHLY unusual. We almost always finish our pizza.

 

So what, exactly, IS Buffalo-style pizza? It has been compared to Detroit-style, but we didn’t think it reminded us of that at all. It’s also been compared to Sicilian, which we don’t think is quite true either. Yes, the pizza has a thicker crust and a hefty amount of cheese, but that’s about where the similarities end. The pepperonis are thick and the sauce is somewhat sweet, and the pizzas are round.

Eric said that the pizza at Deniro’s reminded him a little bit of Pizza Hut. This isn’t necessarily a negative comment (as someone pointed out on instagram), because he associates Pizza Hut with his childhood. (Although, we should also add a disclaimer here that he hasn’t had Pizza Hut in about 10 years). Deniro’s is definitely comfort food – heavy, cheesy, and doughy. I disagreed with his comparison, though. The crust is similar and they are both cheesy, but this cheese was more flavorful and the sauce was better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We felt pretty full after this, so we went for a walk around Niagara Falls. We had to make room for our second Buffalo-style pizza on the list that we had planned for dinner. It was a decent start to our road trip.

To visit:

Deniro’s
2251 George Urban Blvd
Depew, NY 14043

#87 Gruppo Thin Crust

February 14th, 2018

Manhattan, NYC

We’re all for Valentine’s Day celebrations, but we don’t like to deal with the whole finding reservations/fancy dinner thing. Usually, we end up at home with take out, watching something on TV. This year, we decided to go out for dinner but we wanted to keep it simple. We ended up stopping by a new addition to the 2017 Best Pizza list, Gruppo.  It was the only pizza place in NYC on the new list that we hadn’t yet been to.

We wanted to avoid any Valentine’s Day rush, so we went for an early dinner.  We ended up ordering two personal sized pizzas, the Shroomtown, which is what the Daily Meal recommended, and the Giordino. We both felt we needed some veggies after all of the chocolate that we had been eating all day. We also tried the Bruschetta appetizer.

The app was really good. It was served on a crispier flatbread, just like the pizza crust, but topped with pesto and a huge piles of fresh tomatoes. We recommend it and we didn’t really miss the thick bread that’s usually served with Bruschetta. We were glad to still have plenty of room for pizza.

 

The pizzas were good, too. The crust is so thin here, almost like a cracker. We really like a thin crust sometimes because we don’t leave feeling so full. The mushrooms were flavored so well on the Shroomtown, we both loved them. And the crust, while thin, really holds up to the toppings. At the same time, we both agreed that a thin crust makes a pizza harder to stand out in the crowd of NYC pizza. When confronted with the massive amount of pizza in NYC, it would be hard to justify going to one of these thin crust places.

Also, we were wondering why Gruppo made the list instead of the other restaurants in the chain: Tappo or Spunto (both of which we’ve been to), or Posto or Vezzo. They all taste identical to us. Actually, Tappo and Spunto both have a cuter atmosphere, in our opinion. I’m not sure why the owners couldn’t just pick one name and go with it – instead they have five different websites! We actually didn’t realize they were all the same until we saw the logo for Gruppo in the window. And then saw the menu, which is identical (as far as we can tell). We actually had the Shroomtown at Tappo late last year.

In any case, if you’re in the mood for thin crust pizza, these places are great. It’s nice to switch it up sometimes. We’d maybe go back, but probably to Spunto or Tappo, which are both closer to our offices (and to the subway).

To visit:

Gruppo Thin Crust
98 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009

Sorbillo

January 18th, 2018

Manhattan, NYC

One of the biggest pizzeria openings of this past year was the opening of Gino Sorbillo Pizzeria in NoHo in late November. Gino Sorbillo came to NYC straight from Naples, where his family has owned and operated the original Sorbillo in Napoli via Dei Tribunali since 1935. We knew that New York certainly has its share of good Neapolitan-style pizzerias, and also boasts a fair number of pizzerias that are run by pizzaiolis who worked in Naples, but we were excited because this is the first opening of a restaurant we could go to with a TRUE Napolitan Pizzaioli at the helm.

We finally had a chance to go to Sorbillo this afternoon for lunch. We also had the pleasure of being joined for lunch by Arthur Bovino, one of our “pizza heros” as the creator of the Daily Meal lists. So not only did we get to enjoy great pizza, but we got to pick his brain about pizza around the country and the fine details of how the list was created. We were especially excited to meet him so that we could ask him about his recommendations for pizza (among other food) in Buffalo, since we are currently planning a quick road trip up there in the next few weeks. He is the expert on restaurants in that area, and even has a book coming out in May, which will sadly be after our trip. In any case, it sounds like we will be eating a lot that weekend.

Now, let’s chat about this pizza. We tried three pizzas here. First, the traditional Margherita con bufala, because it is a classic and we always seem to order one margherita. We also tried the Calzone Napoletano, which was recommended to us by our server, and the Vecchia Roma. The calzone seems to have a growing following, so we needed to check it out.

Overall, we thought the pizzas were great.They definitely had a bit of soup in the middle, and were a bit heavier on the cheese than some other Neapolitan pizzas that we’ve had. They are also slightly bigger in diameter, which didn’t stop us from finishing all three pizzas (well, the two pizzas and the calzone, if we are being technical). And honestly, it was mostly me and Eric doing the eating. The only non-traditional thing about them was that they cut the pizzas for you. The calzone was good too, although we were a bit underwhelmed since we had heard the hype about it. We are always fans of ricotta stuffed dough, and we did like the char that was on the crust.

At the end of the day, though, we couldn’t say that we liked it any better than Kesté, or some of the other Neapolitan-style pies we’ve had around the city. It does have a good location, though, being close to Eric’s office, so we’d probably go again. It also wasn’t too busy for lunch and is pretty spacious inside, which was great.

We will have to come back again anyways to try some of the rest of the extensive menu. We probably didn’t give the pizza all of the attention that it deserved, as we were caught up in telling Arthur our (super exciting) stories from our pizza travels (we hope he didn’t get too bored) and getting some feedback on our future pizza adventure plans.  It’s pretty clear that we will have to get over to Italy at some point…and Alaska…

To visit:

Sorbillo Pizzeria
334 Bowery
New York, NY 10012

#33 2Amys

July 23rd, 2016

Washington, D.C.

After our lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso, we headed around town for a bit of sightseeing and LOTS of walking. So much to do in D.C.! We were hungry again by the time dinner rolled around (SO MUCH walking), which was good because our second pizza stop of the day was at 2Amys, which was opened back in 2001 as the first D.O.C. pizzeria in Washington, D.C.

We may have mentioned D.O.C. certification in our previous posts, but in case you missed it, D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status is the highest standard for Neapolitan pizza making. Pizzerias that have obtained D.O.C. designation have met strict requirements established in Italy. These include, but are notlimited to, the following:

  • Pizza must be cooked in a wood-burning dome oven that operates at about 800ºF.
  • Specific ingredients need to be imported – San Marzano tomatoes, all natural Fior de Latte or Bufala mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, high quality olive oil. No shortcuts here.
  • The dough needs to be made by hand or on low speed with a mixer. No mechanical shaping of the dough!
  • The border (crust) can’t be higher than 1.5 cm. The diameter can’t exceed 28 cm and the total weight needs to be under 200 grams.
  • Pizzas shouldn’t bake for more than 90 seconds.

Pizzerias that want D.O.C. status need to be approved by a special association, which was established to protect this style of pizza and its traditions. It is basically a lot of extra work for the “star of approval”. 2Amys has gone through all of this and has had its D.O.C. status upon opening, one of about 100 approved pizzerias in the US currently.

So, the big question is obviously: does this make for better pizza? It certainly means that Neapolitan pizzas are more standardized, so you know that you are getting a consistent taste. In our experience, this doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes you like to know what you are getting into when you visit a pizzeria, but other times you are looking for a sourdough crust, or a Neapolitan style pie that has a bit more stability. Sometimes we just don’t want a soupy center.

That being said, 2Amys does serve great pizza. It was probably our favorite pizzeria in the D.C. area. We enjoyed a few beers, and two of their pizzas. The first was a traditional marinara pizza, which had thinly sliced garlic on top of the sauce and is one of the three D.O.C. pizzas on the menu. We had one of the prosciutto pizzas as well, which was also very good with a nice, perfectly charred crust. Finally, we tried one of the “stuffed pizzas”, stuffed with ricotta and fresh mozzarella. That one was filling, but delicious. If you want good (certified) Neapolitan pizza, you’ll love it here.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have room to try any of the other delicious-looking appetizers, or the homemade ice cream. For another day.

To visit:

2Amys
3715 Macomb Street NW
Washington DC 20016

#85 Emmy Squared

July 21st, 2017

Brooklyn, NYC

If you follow our instagram at all, you know that we are frequent visitors at Emily, in Brooklyn. Well, recently, the owners of Emily decided to test out Detroit-style pizza in NYC.  They opened Emmy Squared. “Squared”, we assume, because of both the style of pizza and because it is the second installment of the Emily brand.

We first went to Emmy Squared with a friend, getting there soon after it opened. It didn’t have much of a dinner crowd when we went on a weeknight, but I imagine that the crowds have picked up since then. The focus is obviously on the Detroit-style pizza, although they do also serve sandwiches and the famous Emmy Burger.

**Side note: we’ve just recently tried the Emmy burger. Yes, it is worth $26, and yes, it is massive. It really is hard for us to tell you   to get a burger at a restaurant as famous for its pizza as Emily is, but you really should get the burger. Get one for the table and split it, if you want. The fries are good as well, but you won’t have room for them.

So, you may be wondering: how does Emmy Squared’s Detroit-style compare to other Detroit-style pizzas that we’ve had. Well, you may notice one thing right off the bat – the size. The pizzas at Emmy Squared are SMALL (and there is only one size). They are cut in 6 slices. If you go with a group of 3 people, and all get a burger, than one pizza is enough for you. But don’t go with 3 people and order only 2 pizzas and think that you will have enough food (telling you this from experience).

The pizza here is also EXPENSIVE. Think of it as artisan Detroit-style. You wouldn’t find these topping combinations in Detroit, but you also wouldn’t find pizzas costing half as much. Via313 comes close to Emmy Squared, but isn’t quite as creative.

We’ve tried one of the white pizzas (the Marn Blanc), a meatball special, and most recently, the Colony at Emmy Squared. They all taste delicious. The crust is spot-on to what a Detroit-style pie should be. We just wish the slices were a bit bigger.

If you didn’t hear – Emmy Squared should be opening a second installment in Manhattan, in the East Village. Emily also has a new location in the West Village, which means that we can go there more often! West Village Emily also serves the Detroit-style pies, but I’m not sure if this will continue with the opening of the new Emmy Squared? We will have to wait and see!

To visit:

Emmy Squared
364 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

#50 Pizzeria Paradiso

July 23rd, 2016

Washington, D.C.

Last summer we had friends who were living in D.C. who kindly offered to let us stay in their spare room for a weekend so that we could eat pizza. And also, so that we could hang out with them. But, mainly to eat pizza. We drove down to Washington, D.C. on a Saturday morning. As usual, Eric missed our exit getting into town. Let’s just say that we were both very hungry (hangry?) by the time we got to our first pizza stop, Pizzeria Paradiso.

You may not think of D.C. as a pizza town. We didn’t. Neither, apparently, did the owners of Pizzeria Paradiso, who opened this restaurant in 1991 because there was a lack of Neapolitan pizzerias in the city. The restaurant has expanded over the years and now has three locations around the D.C. area. They’ve also added in birrerias (“beer halls” in English) to keep up with the microbrewing scene that is growing around the D.C.area. These beer halls can be found at the Dupont and Georgetown locations. We’d recommend going for happy hour, because they have a lot of great options. And everyone knows that pizza and beer go great together.

 

It was hard to choose pizzas here to share. We ended up ordering one of the Siciliana pizzas, which was just a veggie pie, and then one of the specials which came with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and thinly sliced red onion. They also had a large selection of salads and paninis here. Pizzas also come in two sizes, so you can pick small or large depending on if you feel like sharing and also how many other pizzas you are going to be trying that day (we obviously went with smalls – this was not our only pizza stop for the day).

The pizzas here are wood-fired. As with many Neapolitan-style pizzas, the crust here is the focus. It was crispy around the edges, but not too well done.This isn’t the place to come if you want a good char on your crust. It was also a little droopy in the center with the weight of the toppings, but that’s just Neapolitan-style for you. We wouldn’t say it was the best Neapolitan in D.C., but it certainly gets props for being the first!

To visit:

Pizzeria Paradiso
2003 P Street NW
Washington DC

 

#23 Prince Street Pizza

December 16th, 2017

Manhattan, NYC

One of our favorite slice joints around Manhattan is Prince Street Pizza. We stumbled upon Prince Street pizza back when we started working our way around NYC, even though it wasn’t on the original 2015 Daily Meal list that we started working from. We kept coming across the name on other “Best of” lists, so we knew that we had to make it a stop, especially because it was within walking distance of our offices. AND THEN it made it on the 2016 list, and again on the 2017 list. It was about time.

If you are walking around SoHo/Nolita and looking for a slice of pizza, this is one of the best. (Williamsburg Pizza would be another good bet.)  It has an old-school charm, even though it is a relatively new establishment. It’s location, though, is pizza history: it is half of the original location of Ray’s Pizza (of traditional NY pizza fame). These days, you may find a “Ray’s Original” on a number of NY street corners, but the “original” Ray’s no longer exists, having given in to a rent/lease dispute back in 2011.

 

Prince Street Pizza is known mainly for their square slices. THE slice to order is the spicy square pepperoni slice with a fresh Fra diavolo sauce. You just have to do it. And not just because those little tiny cups of pepperoni are so darn instagrammable. It just tastes amazing (and this is coming from someone who is not the biggest fan of pepperoni).  The plain cheese slices and margherita slices are also good. You could get one of those too. We would never just stop at one slice!

The crust on the square slices here isn’t thick and heavy like some Sicilian slices. It is pretty light and airy, making it easy to eat more than one slice.

You won’t get a seat to eat in Prince Street, especially if you come for slices during the lunch or dinner rush. You should be prepared to take your slices to go. There is a small counter inside, but it is pretty tight to sit if you aren’t by yourself.  This isn’t a place to linger – get in, order, and move on.

Eric has recently recruited a bunch of people from his office to take trips over to Prince Street for lunch. It makes me really sad that my office has moved out of SoHo and I can’t regularly join them.

I mean, just look at those ronis! Right?

To visit:

Prince Street Pizza
27 Prince St
New York, NY 10012

#48 Juliana’s Pizza

December 6th, 2017

Brooklyn, NY

When our grand plans to hit Totonno’s were busted yesterday, we decided to make another trip to Juliana’s instead.  I’ve mentioned Juliana’s before because we’ve been there several times now, but 2017 is the first year that it officially made it on to the 101 Best Pizza Places list since we’ve started traveling cross-country for pizza. We thought that we should go back to document it officially as part of our pizza journey.

As I previously mentioned, Juliana’s is located in Brooklyn right next door to the classic pizzeria Grimaldi’s. It’s Grimaldi’s fancier, more expensive, and somewhat less popular little sister pizzeria. It ranked in 2017 at #48, which is pretty high for a new appearance (although it DID make the previous list in 2014, but then it disappeared for two years). It ranks lower than Grimaldi’s, though, which usually falls around the top 25. Strangely, Juliana’s also came up as the top pizza place in the US according to TripAdvisor? We’d like someone to explain that to us.

The comparisons of this pizza with Grimaldi’s are valid, because Juliana’s was also opened by Patsy Grimaldi in 2012 after he had sold the rights to the original Grimaldi’s name. Juliana’s is named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mother, and is actually located in the original location of Grimaldi’s, using the original brick oven. So obviously, there is a sort of rivalry that has arisen between the two restaurants.

We usually go for the same order at Juliana’s – the Margherita. We alternate between a large and a small. Honestly, they are about the same size and almost the exact same price, so we usually go for the large. This time we went for the small, but only because we also ordered the meatballs for an appetizer, and we have way too many Christmas cookies sitting on the counter at home.

We end up at Juliana’s when we are either a) too tired or cold to wait in line for Grimaldi’s (although sometimes the line at Juliana’s can be just as long), or b) wanting a more romantic dinner.

Juliana’s is the nicer of the two restaurants, but is also smaller. The waiters are (generally) more friendly, and the options on the menu are trendier and less traditional. It is a great date-night restaurant. Grimaldi’s is more classic NY with it’s old school booths, crowded atmosphere, and the old Brooklyn man who makes you wait at the door until your seat is ready. The pizza is essentially the same, though. Both are good. Grimaldi’s is cheaper. This head-to-head review gives Juliana’s the edge, but honestly, we think that it depends on the day. We’ve been to both places multiple times now, and it is really hit or miss for both of them.

To visit:

Juliana’s Pizza
19 Old Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

 

 

 

 

 

#14 Totonno’s

July 3rd, 2016

Coney Island, NY

Last year, we were on our way back from Connecticut and we were craving some pizza. We decided to stop at Totonno’s, in Coney Island, since it was on our way home (and honestly, it is such a pain toget to Coney Island from Manhattan via the subway). Looking back on it, it was probably a mistake to try and drive to Coney Island on 4th of July weekend. We spent about an hour trying to find a parking space! We were already committed, though, so we had to follow through. Eric ended up dropping me off at the front of Totonno’s (where there was a bit of a line) and he eventually did find a space about a mile away.

Luckily, the line moved quickly and I was able to snag a table before Eric made it back from parking the car. I was getting a little anxious saving his seat given the long line forming out front, but I ordered a large cheese pie for us and he showed up right as it was served.

Totonno’s is another one of the NYC classics. It was opened almost 90 years ago (1924) near Coney Island. The pizzas are still made in the same way that they were then. The founder of Totonno’s came from Naples, and started making pizzas for Lombardi’s on Spring Street when it became the first licensed pizzeria in America. Totonno’s is still family-operated, which makes it the oldest continually-run, family-owned pizzeria in the US (at least, according to their website – I did not fact check this).

The pizzeria has seen plenty of hardships in the past 90 years. It’s had two fires that closed it down, the most recent in 2009, and then Hurricane Sandy, which closed the restaurant for 5 months.

The pizza here is coal-fired using one of the original ovens (see more info about coal fired ovens in NYC in our previous post here). This gives it a crispy, thinner crust that is made from fresh dough every day. The sauce tastes good and the homemade mozzarella is also a plus. This is one of those restaurants where a good cheese pie is all you need, and you really shouldn’t bother ordering anything else. Also, they don’t serve slices, so you’ll have to come hungry.

We actually were going to try and go back to Totonno’s tonight after work, until we realized that it is only open from Thurs-Sunday. We’ll have to pick another night to take the hour long subway ride out to Coney Island. Hopefully still in the middle of winter, when hopefully no one will be there to make us wait in line.

 

To visit:

Totonno’s
1524 Neptune Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224

#32 Al Forno

July 2nd, 2016

Providence, RI

Not much tastes better than pizza after sitting in holiday traffic for hours. We had one more stop for pizza in Providence, so we drove out to Rhode Island to Al Forno. We actually drove out to Newport (mainly for this), but stopped in Providence on the way for lunch.

The restaurant has been open since 1980, and is situated in an old stable near the waterfront. While they serve plenty of Italian food, the pizza is what everyone talks about. Primarily because Al Forno serves a completely unique style of pizza. I mean, just look at it! Does that look like any pizza that you’ve had before?

Al Forno is considered the birthplace of grilled pizza. The owners wanted to take advantage of their wood-fired grill, so they used it to cook the pizza dough as hot and as fast as possible. The result is an unusually shaped dough with visible charred grill lines, which they top with a variety of toppings.

We love making pizza on the grill, but we had never seen a restaurant grill pizza before! We tried two pizzas here, the “spicy” Margarita and the Tuscan Kale Pesto. Overall, the flavors were great and we loved the grilled crust. Our one complaint was that the pizzas were a bit on the oily side. The amount of cheese and tomato on top was perfect and not too heavy, but the oil really ruined the light taste. We looked into the crust itself a bit more (so that we could perfect our pizza grilling technique at home) and found that the dough here is hardly proofed, which helps it to keep its structure over the grill. The dough is also soaked in olive oil before being put on the grill to keep it crispy.

You should note that the pizzas are actually considered appetizers here, although we (and many others) obviously order them as main dishes. We also ordered the bruschetta to start. You should note that bruschetta here is not served with tomatoes. It is really just thick, Italian bread covered with a generous portion of olive oil and garlic. More like garlic bread to us? The waitress assured us that this is the “most traditional” form of bruschetta. Turns out, she’s right, but we prefer the non-traditional kind with tomatoes.

Overall, we liked these pizzas a lot, but mainly for their individuality. It was really nice to sit outside and enjoy them, but they didn’t make it to the top of our lists.

We did take away some handy tips to use for grilling our own pizzas, though! Which we can put to use now since Eric finally bought himself a grill.

To visit:

Al Forno
577 South Water Street
Providence, RI 02903