#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

#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

Lately around Brooklyn…

Earlier this month, I mentioned some pizzas that we’ve been enjoying around New York City. We’ve been hitting these on our lunch breaks and as after-work dinner dates. It gives us an excuse to get around the city and into areas that we haven’t otherwise been able to explore. Today, I’ll tell you about our most recent adventures around Brooklyn, which makes some of the best pizza in the city.

May 19th
Luigi’s Pizza

We went to a pizza panel at the Brooklyn Brainery last year, and Luigi (owner of Luigi’s Pizza) was one of the panelists. We knew that we had to check out his pizza, but we were deep in the middle of the Daily Meal list and so it took us until this past May to finally get around to going. We tried a variety of slices here and agreed that the fresh mozzarella slice is one of the best. These are classic slices, although we are more partial to some of the other slice joints around Brooklyn, and it wouldn’t be our first pick.

 

Also: you should note that there is ANOTHER Luigi’s Pizza on 5th Ave in Brooklyn. It is farther south than the *real* Luigi’s. Google brought us there first (thanks, Google!) and we quickly realized that we were in the wrong place. Although, that pizza didn’t look half bad either.

August 23rd
Fornino

If you are looking for a Neapolitan-style pizza, and you have already been to Roberta’s, Motorino, and Pizza Moto, you may want to check out Fornino. We went to the Williamsburg location, but they also have two other locations in Brooklyn. The feel of the restaurant is a lot like Kesté’s new Wall Street location – clean, open, and slightly rustic. The pizzas were similar also, with a nice doughy crust, interesting topping combinations, and really fresh ingredients.

We tried a Genovese pizza with pesto and fresh cherry tomatoes, and also one with sausage and artichoke. I liked these a tad more than the pizzas at Kesté, but Eric was more torn between the two.

August 16th
Best Pizza

Best Pizza has a big name to live up to. It is off the path in Williamsburg, and sells slices and whole pies. We took the opportunity to try every slice that they had available. Our favorite slices were the grandma slice (Eric LOVED the sauce on this one) and the white slice, but they make a solid cheese slice too. Smaller slices than some of the others around town, but it’s a contender for one of the best slices in Brooklyn.

 

 

August 30th
Krispy Pizza

If you find yourself all the way down in Dyker Heights, you’ve got a few options for pizza. One is J&V Pizza, as previously mentioned, but now we’ve also discovered a couple more for you. Krispy Pizza is just a little bit farther away, but serves pretty good slices. It also has a solid following of fans, and is a bit of a “hidden gem”. They have a Grandpa slice, which is like the more traditional Grandma, but in triangle form. We like it more than the Grandma because there is more of it! They also make a decent square slice. I want to go back to get their salad pizza, which had chicken and a drizzle of balsamic.

I know that salad pizza has a lot of haters, but sometimes you need a healthy(er) option.

 

DaVinci Pizzeria

We actually went to Krispy Pizza and DaVinci Pizzeria on the same day. We don’t take the N train too often, and we saw that these were within walking distance of each other.  

We got a marinara slice, another Sicilian, and a regular cheese slice here. We figured we do a real comparison for you. The Sicilian here was better than at Krispy, but the Grandpa slice at Krispy was better than the cheese slice here. So I guess it depends what you are in the mood for. The marinara slice was really good here, too. It is hard to find a good tomato pie-like slice outside of NJ/Philly, but just look at that amount of sauce! The owner here was really friendly, too, and next time we’ll have to stay longer to chat.

#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

Six of our favorite NYC pizzas NOT on the list

As we’ve been tackling the Daily Meal list, we’ve been accumulating a list on the side of other NYC pizza places that have gotten good reviews, either from other “Top NYC Pizza” lists around the internet, or personal recommendations from friends and family. Currently, our “other list” has about 20 pizzerias around NYC that we still would like to hit, but here I’ll highlight a couple that we’ve been to in the past year that we feel could be on any list.

  1. Franny’s

Franny’s is out in Brooklyn, and we ended up going there one night when we had plans to head down to J&V Pizzeria. If you remember my previous post, we got frustrated with various subway delays and got off earlier in Brooklyn, not too far from Franny’s. Franny’s has gotten a lot of press since it opened in 2013, and is found on most “Best Of” NYC pizza lists that we’ve seen. We split two pizzas here, one Margherita and one white pie with garlic and hot peppers. Both were good, and we would have also tried an appetizer if everything wasn’t priced so high. Also, you get to cut your pizza here with scissors. They really make you work for your dinner.

To visit:

Franny’s
348 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11238

 

2. Sottocasa

Sottocasa is also in Brooklyn, although they also have a location in Harlem. We first heard about it when we went to that pizza discussion night at the Brooklyn Brainery, where the owner of Sottocasa, Luca Arrigoni, told us all about his adventures starting the Neapolitan pizzeria, including a fascinating story of how they dropped the oven in to the backyard of the restaurant using a crane originally going to be used to lift an airplane at JFK, after flying it over from Naples (the things you must do for TRUE Neapolitan pizza!). They couldn’t get it through the door. Here, we also split two pies, one Burrata and the Parmigiana, which had tomatoes, eggplant, and spicy sausage. They were both awesome. If you are huge Burrata fans (like we are), you should know they only serve that pie from Friday-Sunday, so plan accordingly. Also, this is a great date-night spot.

To visit:

Sottocasa
298 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201

3. Juliana’s

Juliana’s is the third Brooklyn pizzeria we are going to mention here, and then I’ll move on to Manhattan. If you’ve ever been to Grimaldi’s, you may have noticed a second pizzeria right next door. Well, that one is Juliana’s  and if you don’t feel like waiting in line at Grimaldi’s, the pizza here is also very good (although I can’t guarantee that there won’t also be a line here). Juliana’s is named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mother, and it is a less-touristy version of Grimaldi’s. It has actually been listed as the best slice in NY before as well, but not by the Daily Meal. We went with a traditional pie here, which certainly could have been on any “Best pizza” lists.

To visit:

Juliana’s
19 Old Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

4. Marta

Moving on to a few good pizzas in Manhattan, we went up to Marta one evening after work.  This was another pizzeria that has gotten a lot of good press. It was a little difficult to find, because it is actually in the lobby of an old hotel, but the actual restaurant was very spacious. It also looked like it had a nice bar, although it wasn’t too crowded when we were there because we went a bit on the earlier side for dinner. This isn’t traditional NY-style pizza. Instead, the pizzas are very thin crust. We got the Mercato and the Carciofi, which had artichokes and garlic bread crumbs. If you like thin crust pizza, you should check this place out. And we also highly recommend the butternut fries to start.

  

To visit:

Marta
29 E. 29th Street
New York, NY 10016

5. Patrizia’s

Patrizia’s is famous on instagram for their star shaped “Stella” pies. We admit it, we went purely for the photo. But we’d go back again for the pizza, because it was really good. They have other locations in Brooklyn and around NYC, but we went to the location right in Manhattan. We got my sister to join us for pizzas (and wine), so we ordered a Margherita, one with a bunch of veggies, and Eric got one of the sausage pizzas. They were all very tasty. We were too full to eat a dessert pizza there, so they kindly made us two Nutella pizzas to go. We reheated one when we got home in the oven, and it satisfied our chocolate craving for sure.

 

To visit:

Patrizia’s of Manhattan
462 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10016

 

6. Bleecker Street Pizza

Finally, we want to mention one of our go-to slices places, Bleecker Street Pizza. We like these slices almost as much as Williamsburg Pizza, and Bleecker is ever closer to our office. It is actually right near Joe’s, and in our opinion, the slices are even better here. It is slightly different than your traditional NY slice because it has a thinner crust, but they always have a decent selection of pies to choose from for a quick lunch break. It’s tight inside, but if you go when it is nice out they also have a few small tables out front. When we just went back there for lunch, we grabbed a fresh cheese slice right from the oven, a buffalo chicken slice for  Eric, and two slices of the almost-Sicilian, the Nona Maria, which is our new favorite slice here. If you are wandering around Bleecker street, we’d recommend stopping here AND at Joe’s, just for the comparison.

To visit:

Bleecker Street Pizza
69 7th Ave S
New York, NY 10014

Let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites!

#63 Williamsburg Pizza

September 14th, 2016 and April 3rd, 2017

New York City

This is a new addition to the 2016 list, and we’ve already been here twice. Williamsburg Pizza has three locations, two in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan, and we’ve been to two of them.

      

The first time we went out to Brooklyn. We figured we should try the original location, since it is called Williamsburg Pizza. Once again, we walked there from Manhattan, and once again, we got caught in a downpour. I think I mentioned that this happens to us fairly regularly on our pizza treks. By the time we got to the pizzeria, we were drenched. And hungry.

We ordered a wide variety of slices because the selection here is amazing. We tried a regular slice of the Brooklyn and one called a Sophia Loren, which had fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes and basil. We also had a few Grandma slices, including one with kale and sausage (the Kale Tallegio), one with sausage, mushrooms, roasted red peppers (Paesano), and one with wild mushrooms (Tartufo).

   

This past Monday, we went to the Lower East Side location, which was a much shorter walk from our office. Both locations have the same feel to them, and both had the same great variety of slices. Here, we got another slice of the Brooklyn. We also had a margherita slice, and again tried the Tartufo and Paesano Grandma slices. We forgot to check what we got last time and ended up with almost the same exact order.

The Tartufo slice here is really good. We think it’s our second favorite mushroom slice, right after the pizza we had at Antico in Atlanta, and right before the one we had at Pizza Moto in Brooklyn. I think the Sophia Loren slice would be our next favorite, but they didn’t have that one at the LES location this time around.

We’ve found our new favorite slices place in NYC. (Sorry, Bleecker Street Pizza.) At only a 20 minute walk, it is a perfect lunch date location. The slices are everything you’d expect from a New York slice, with fresh cheese, interesting toppings, and sort-of-sweet tomato sauce, with a crispy crust. We have yet to try a slice here that we don’t like.

To visit:

Williamsburg Pizza
265 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

OR

277 Broome St
New York, NY 10002

 

#2 Di Fara

March 2nd, 2016

Brooklyn, NYC

I don’t even know where to start talking about the pizza at Di Fara. I guess I’ll start by saying that this pizza deserves its #2 ranking. There is a reason why the lines can be 2 hours long to get a couple of slices.

We went out to Brooklyn early to get there right when they opened for dinner. We had heard some horror stories about how long the lines could get. We were pleasantly surprised, though, because there was no one there, which was probably a combination of a) it was a weeknight, b) it was raining, and c) it was early March. We walked in when they opened, ordered our pizza, and then sat at one of the tables in the back to wait for it. About 15 minutes later, we had this amazing pie sitting in front of us. We ate the whole thing.

 

 

 

Di Fara was opened back in 1964, and is still run by the original owners. Each pizza is still made by Domencio DeMarco, who is now quite old, and many of his family members work at the pizzeria as well. When he isn’t available, they close the pizzeria. The place only has seating for about 15 people (which contributes to the long lines). It has consistently been ranked on the best NYC pizza lists for years.

 
The pizza is incredibly fresh and had the perfect ratio of sauce:cheese. The cheese is a blend of mozzarella and cow’s milk cheeses, all imported from Italy. It is such a great combination of cheeses, probably bettered only by Pizzeria Beddia in Philly. They grow the basil in house, and DeMarco personally cuts it with scissors over the entire pie.

The pizzas are not cheap. Di Fara raised it’s prices for a slice to $5.00/slice in 2009, which made it the most expensive slice in NYC. This one large, plain, pie cost us $30.

Would we head all the way out to Avenue J for this pizza again? Yes. Would we pay $30 for one pizza again? Only if it’s Di Fara’s. And if anyone wanted to join us, don’t count on us sharing our pizza. WIth any luck, the next time we go it will also be early March and slightly rainy, so we can skip the lines again.

 

To visit:

Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230

 

#81 J&V Pizzeria

March 8th, 2017

Brooklyn, NY

We tried to go out to J&V Pizzeria last week, but we ended up getting stuck on the N for a while, and ended up just getting off earlier and heading to Franny’s instead. We were hungry. This week, we tried again, taking a different combination of subways and walking to get down to Bensonhurst (south Brooklyn). It took us about an hour from our office, with Eric only taking us on a few minor detours. I did suggest that we walk there and avoid the subways altogether – but Eric wasn’t in the mood for a 3 hour walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J&V is a new addition to the 2016 list, and it is always exciting to venture to a new area of the city that we haven’t been to before. Of course, we had to get the biggest variety of slices that we could, so we went with two veggie slices, one cheese, one Sicilian, and one chicken slice.

I thought that the cheese slice was the best, mainly because the sauce was so fresh and tomato-y. Eric would probably agree with me, but I didn’t let him have a bite. So he said that his favorite was the chicken. The other slices were also decent, but nothing we’d trek out to Brooklyn for. But that cheese slice, well, I’m still thinking about it.

Eric was also fascinated by the rotating metal pizza oven they had. After some searching around, I’ve determined that it’s one of these. Eric, should we add one to our kitchen?

    

On the way home, we got interviewed for the local news! Not about pizza, about traffic and speeding in Brooklyn. Eric made me do all the talking. It only aired in Brooklyn, though, sorry everyone!

To visit:

J & V Pizzeria
6322 18th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11204

#3 Roberta’s

February 10th, 2016

Brooklyn, NYC

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

To visit:

Roberta’s
261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206