#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

#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

#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

 

#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

#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