#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

#28 Lucali

June 23rd, 2016

Brooklyn, NYC

After getting back from our pizza weekend, we had to take a short (one week) hiatus from eating pizza. When we were sufficiently recovered, we visited another of the top-ranking Brooklyn pizzerias on the list, Lucali.

Lucali may be the most romantic pizza place that we went to on the list, and there is a good reason why it is ranked so high. Tucked away in Carroll Gardens, the restaurant only seats a few tables at time, and it has a quiet ambiance, and makes amazing pizza.

The pizza here is kind of like if you were to smush all of the other NY greats together. The fresh basil on top from Di Fara,  minimal available toppings, like the classic slice joints (Joe’s), and a soft, Neapolitan-like crust.

Recommendations if you want to try the pizza here (and you really should!):

  1. Do NOT come here with a group of people – bring your husband, date, or best friend, but keep it small. Or you may never get a table.
  2. The restaurant officially opens at 6, but they start taking names for tables at 5:30. We didn’t realize this and showed up right before 6, and had over an hour wait to get a table. If you are on a time crunch, make sure to get your name in for the first seating. Like many of the other Brooklyn greats (see Emily or Paulie Gee’s), the line can be long. Otherwise, be prepared to wait AT LEAST an hour. We went on a Wednesday night. I’ve read about people who show up at 5:30 on a Friday and don’t get a table until 8 pm (just warning you!).
  3. BYOB! Do I have to say more? You probably have plenty of time after you put your name in to go find a bottle of wine.

When you have to wait for your pizza, your anticipation really grows. The longer the wait, the more you feel like the pizza has to live up to the wait. Well, you really don’t have to worry about that here. This pizza really lived up to the wait. We both rated this on our personal lists much higher in the top 20.

We ended up ordering half plain, half pepperoni. The pizza is expensive, and so we didn’t want to order two. We also were happy to not have too many topping selections – simple is sometimes best. We left happily full, but not stuffed.

After writing this, I think we need to go back here as soon as possible. We’d wait over an hour again for this pizza if we had to.

To visit:

Lucali
575 Henry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231

#36 Santarpio’s

June 5th, 2016

Boston, MA

If you’ve been following my posts on our birthday camping pizza road trip, you will know that we spent the weekend in Portland, Maine, eating pizza and trying out our brand new (hand-me-down) canoe. That Sunday was Eric’s birthday (!!) and so as we drove back down to NJ, we stopped in Boston for our last Boston pizza stop of the weekend at Santarpio’s.

Even though I spent several years in Boston for college, I had never been to (or actually, heard of) Santarpio’s. I realized that this was mainly because it isn’t located downtown and is found in an area of Boston where I never, ever visited ( East Boston, out near the airport). East Boston is actually an island, and only connected to the main city by tunnels (not walkable). Any Boston local will have heard of Santarpio’s, though, because it has been serving pizzas since 1933 and has a pretty solid following.

It was kind of nice that Santarpio’s was outside of downtown – we didn’t have to fight any crowds to get there, we didn’t have to struggle to find parking (like we would have in the North End), and we got a table quickly for lunch! And since it was Eric’s birthday, he talked one of his Boston-resident friends into joining us out in Eastie.

We ended up with the cheese, sausage, and garlic pie. We heard that you had to try the sausage here, and I was outnumbered by meat eaters. Also, it was Eric’s birthday, and he loves a good sausage pizza. You should know that the pizzas here start with the toppings on the bottom. Don’t expect an even distribution of toppings, either. They don’t make a lot of exceptions, so don’t expect them to. The sauce was good, and the crust was even better. Nice and crispy, but sturdy to hold up to the cheese and toppings.

The pizza here is made in it’s own, old-school style, which kind of reminded us of Lombardi’s in NYC (but bigger, and cheaper). It is just as good as Pizzeria Regina, and you don’t have to fight the crowds for it. Although you do have to figure out the best way to get over to East Boston.

To visit:

Santarpio’s
111 Chelsea Street
East Boston, MA 02128

#96 Micucci’s Grocery (+ an extra)

June 4th, 2016

Portland, ME

You really don’t know what a “slab” of pizza is until you go up to Portland. When we were on our camping trip last year for Eric’s birthday, we made some day trips into Portland (in between trying to steer our canoe without capsizing and also trying to start a fire with wet wood).

Walking up to Miccuci’s Grocery, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place. The grocery is sort of near the outskirts of downtown and from first glance looks like a regular local Italian market. It sells fresh and dried pastas, homemade sauce, imported olives and specialty goods, and it has a counter for sandwiches and pre-made sides. Everything smelled and looked great, but we didn’t see any pizza.

We walked around the back of the store, though, and we saw these slices. You might think that a “slab” of pizza is the same thing as a “sicilian” slice of pizza (we did). After seeing these slices, though, it is easy to see that they are two totally different types of slice. We think we like “slabs” better.

Micucci’s has a few stools inside to eat your pizza, or else you can take it to go and eat at one of the small tables outside. They generally have only two styles of slab – plain and pepperoni. They don’t take advance orders. The pizzas are made throughout the day, so you always seem to get a fresh slice waiting for you. Sometimes you have to wait a little while for a new pizza to come out of the oven, but we didn’t have to. We got two slabs of cheese, and grabbed seats at the bench.

The crust on these slices is SO fluffy. It is really like a giant slice of freshly baked bread. You’d think that having that much bread would overwhelm the pizza, but that wasn’t the case at all. The sauce steals the show on these slices. So much so that we took home 3 jars of the sauce from the store so that we could use it on our pizza at home. There isn’t too much cheese, either, so the sauce and crust were really the stars here. We loved it.

I was back in Portland this past summer and stopped in again at Micucci’s Grocery, to buy another slab of pizza AND more sauce. While I was in town, I made another stop for another slice at Slab

  

Slab was started by the original baker and creator of the slab at Micucci’s back in 2013.  He was fired from Micucci’s in June of that year, so opened his own restaurant in the Portland Public Market space right downtown. I made it a double-slab day and tried grabbed a slice (a “hand slab”) to take outside.

The two slabs are very similar. This slab was even bigger than the one at Micucci’s and had even more crust, which I actually thought was a bit too much. I didn’t end up finishing it (Eric would have, though). I didn’t think there was enough sauce, and the sauce wasn’t as good as the sauce at Micucci’s.

I don’t know if I’d recommend eating these two slabs back-to-back like I did, but they are both excellent choices if you are in Portland. This was one time when I really wished Eric had been with me because I hated having any part of these two slices go to waste.

To visit:

Micucci’s Grocery
45 India St
Portland, ME 04101

Slab
25 Preble Street Extension
Portland, ME 04101

#88 Sofia Pizza Shoppe

November 13th, 2017

Manhattan, NYC

We have been to Sofia Pizza Shoppe a couple of times now. It is super inconvenient to get to via subway from our offices, but worth it for the slices every time. Our first trip up here was probably around 6 months ago.  The small restaurant just opened in 2016.

It must be hard to open a new slice shop in NYC. For a city that has such ingrained pizza traditions and so many famous slice joints, it is really surprising (and amazing!) that a newcomer like Sofia Pizza Shoppe could open its doors and make it on to the 2017 Daily Meal list while primarily selling no-frills, traditional NY slices. It just goes to show that location is everything – it is really hard to find a decent slice in this area of Midtown.

The other reason that Sofia Pizza Shoppe got so famous? The DoughDici. The best way to get food-famous in NYC is to create something outrageously expensive that everyone will want to instagram. A $38 pizza available only a few days during the week that you have to buy tickets for? I think that fits the bill exactly.

There’s been some debate on if the DoughDici is worth the money. We bet it probably is. It is a style of pizza all its own: a 2 inch, fluffy crust, topped with sauce and cheese, with a crusty edge reminiscent of Detroit-style pizzas. The crust is cold-fermented for 3 days and then risen in the pan for 12 hours to get the super-tall rise. Honestly, we’d love to try it, but after our previous experiences with pizza ticket buying (cough..Margot…cough) we didn’t (and still don’t) feel like trying to fight our way in.

So, while we can’t say how good the DoughDici is, we can talk about the rest of the slices here. The first time we came we tried a variety of slices, including the spinach dip slice, which is a bit more spinach-y than the spinach artichoke slice at Artichoke, and is slightly less filling (although maybe just because it is a little bit smaller).

This time, we tried a classic slice, a Sicilian, and our new favorite slice, the upside down. They were all really solid NY slices. Our favorite upside-down slice is still from NY Pizza Suprema, but this one was really good.

Between the two of us, we had 5 slices. The lady sitting next to us said that she’d be impressed if we could eat all of them. She obviously didn’t know us.

While we won’t usually take the trip up to get slices here, we’d highly recommend it if you are in the area.

Also, if you want to get tickets to try a DoughDici and want to invite company, we’d be thrilled to join you.

To visit:

Sofia Pizza Shoppe
989 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022

#100 Il Forno

November 4th, 2017

San Antonio, TX

We managed to get a bit of sleep after our first late-night pizza stop in Texas, but we couldn’t sleep too late because we had to make a detour to San Antonio before heading a bit further upstate to the wedding. It took us a little over an hour to drive to San Antonio from Austin and we showed up at Il Forno just after noon.

This restaurant is a newcomer to the 2017 list, and it has only been open for about a year and a half. We were a little skeptical that it would live up to the others (especially since Via 313 was taken off of the list in 2017), but we were really surprised here.

Il Forno is located in a quiet part of San Antonio, a little bit south of downtown and away from the crowds visiting the Alamo. From the outside, you couldn’t tell it was a pizza place because it is painted lime green and has an overgrown looking garden out front. As soon as we walked in, though, we saw the massive wood burning oven and we knew we were in the right place.

Although it has only been open a little over a year, Il Forno already produces their own sage and basil, and will expand the garden as the years go on. They have kumquat trees planted out front that will take a couple more years to produce fruit! All of their ingredients come from local Texas farms, and even more impressively, they cure all of their own meats in-house.

When we heard that, we had to order the Entero, which came with a “chef’s selection” of three meats. There was a spicy sausage, a spicier pepperoni, and a third pepperoni-ish meat as well. Sorry that I am not very good at meat identification – whatever it was, it was tasty! We also ordered a butternut squash salad that was topped with pistachios and goat cheese. We had to balance out that meat with some vegetable!

The crust on this pizza was awesome. Eric commented that it rivals some of the best Neapolitan crusts that we’ve had in NYC or San Fran. The cheese wasn’t loaded on too heavily, so all the flavors really shone through. We really approve of this addition to the 2017 list!

And since we ordered only one pizza here, we still had plenty of stomach space to enjoy an evening full of delicious wedding food 🙂

To visit:

Il Forno
122 Nogalitos St
San Antonio, TX 78204

#74 Via 313

November 4th, 2017

Austin, TX

This past weekend, we took a break from the NYC scene here to spend the weekend down in Texas. Texas has a few pizza places that have made the lists the past three years, and while we had hit a handful of them last August, there were two more additions in 2016 and 2017 that we still hadn’t made it to. Luckily, my cousin was getting married not too far outside of Austin, so we had a good excuse to fly down for the weekend!

We had a late flight into Austin, and landed around midnight. We really wanted to try Via 313, but of course their main restaurants close at 10pm. Lucky for us, they also have food trucks (trailers)! We drove straight to one from the airport.

Usually when a pizza place has more than one location, we try to go to the original one. We happened to be on a tight time frame this weekend, so we were willing to make an exception. Then we found out that the original Via 313 was opened in 2011 in a trailer! So we essentially WERE going to the original. This made us very happy.

The pizza here is Detroit-style inspired. If you read my previous post from our pizza road trip, Detroit style pizza is really unique. The brothers who started Via 313 grew up around Detroit, so they based the pizza here off of the style they were most familiar with. At the main locations, you can get pizzas in 4-slice or 8-slice sizes, just like Buddy’s, but the trailers only serve slices in 4’s. After having been to Buddy’s, we can say that this is pretty close to authentic Detroit-style pizza, even down to the crispy cheese edging.

Four slices was plenty for us, since we had eaten a small dinner before getting on the plane, and one slice was plenty to keep me full. That left three slices for Eric. We ended up ordering the Four Cheese Blend, and it had more cheese on it than almost any other pizza that we’ve had, so it was super filling. The sauce that was globbed on top was delicious. We waited 40 minutes for this pizza to come out of the oven, but we thought it was worth it.

The lines stayed constantly long here the whole time that we were waiting, since the truck is parked right out front of a bar. This was pretty smart planning by the Via 313 folks! It was also highly entertaining for us, as sober people-watchers.

To visit:

Via 313
1111B E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702

 

#80 Otto

June 3rd, 2016

Portland, ME

If you read my last post, we were on our way up to Portland to go camping with our newly acquired canoe. We were slightly worried about driving up to Maine with a canoe on the top of Eric’s little Mazda6 but we made it! The canoe didn’t get stolen when we parked it near Area Four in Cambridge, but then of course, what is a student at MIT going to do with a canoe? It also didn’t fall off or come loose. Probably because we were driving well below 65 mph. We unloaded it at our campsite and set off to explore downtown Portland!

Our first pizza dinner stop was at Otto. Until I saw the logo, I didn’t realize that I had actually been to one of the other locations of the restaurant, in Coolidge Corner, MA. This was a few years before our pizza adventure began, though. We had a short wait (Friday night) but there was a street art fair going on around Portland, so we spent the time wandering around and looking at all of the art that we were definitely not going to buy. We were eventually seated, and the wait paid off because we snagged a great table right by the window.

 

We really loved this place because they have a HUGE selection of great vegetable-based pies. We aren’t vegetarian, but we are pretty healthy eaters, believe it or not. It was really hard to choose a pizza to go with, and we ended up ordering the fresh eggplant, ricotta, and basil. And we also had a slice of the famous mashed potato and bacon while we were waiting.

Question: what are thoughts on eggplant on pizza? We are split on this between the two of us – I will only eat the eggplant if it isn’t breaded. Eric likes it both ways. Usually, when we see eggplant on a pizza as a topping, we assume that it is breaded. Modern is famous for its (breaded) eggplant pizza. In all of my google searching, I couldn’t figure out if this is actually an issue for anyone else? Maybe no one else cares…

In any case, the eggplant on this pizza was fresh, which was unusual. It was delicious because it wasn’t watery and was cooked just the right amount. I imagine this is why people don’t use eggplant much on pizza – because it is hard to get right. The ricotta on this really elevated the pizza to the next level. Anyone who has read this blog before knows how much we love our ricotta. The basil was snipped in strips across the top of the pie, which was also unique but really got the basil flavor in every bite. The crust was slightly salty and the sauce was also very good.

I happened to stop at the slice shop in Cambridge while I was there a few weeks ago with a friend. We tried the mashed potato and bacon slice again, and also a ricotta and basil plain slice. Honestly, the slices didn’t live up to the pizzas at the original location. Maybe because they were reheated. The slices were decently sized for lunch, but the ricotta was a little sparse and the crust didn’t have the same crunch or saltiness that I remembered. We’d recommend just going to one of the sit-down locations and ordering a whole pie.

 

To visit:

Otto
576 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101