#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 NYC…

We’re doing something a bit different today and interrupting our stories from our Epic Pizza Roadtrip last year. Although we haven’t been flying around the country for pizza this summer, we’ve been exploring our hometown of NYC, and all of the amazing pizza that it has to offer. So, we thought we’d give you a look in more detail at the pizzas we have been tasting the last couple of months.

June 28th
Farinella Bakery, Manhattan

We decided to check out Farinella Bakery after hearing a recommendation from my cousin, who lives nearby. We went to the location in East Midtown, since we didn’t feel like hiking all the way up the Upper East Side. This was Eric’s first time trying this Roman-style of pizza (I had tried this in Stockholm). The pizzas are called “palams”, and you can order them whole or by the slice. We decided to order a variety of slices. Our favorite was the Caprese and the Felice, which had burrata, arugula, and parmesean. The slices are a bit pricey, but they are delicious.

July 5th
NY Pizza Suprema, Manhattan

Where has this slice joint been hiding all of our lives and why isn’t it on the Daily Meal list? Please, can someone answer that question? I walked by this place every week on my walk from PennStation and never noticed it (which may be because I walked by at 6 am, when there was no line out the door). Anyway, we finally made it. We tried the Margherita, an upside down, and a marinara slice. We say it is worth fighting the Penn Station crowds at the end of the day to get some slices here. There will be a line, but it moves fast!

 

July 26th
Tappo, Manhattan

We wanted to switch it up one day and headed up to Tappo. This place was PACKED for lunch. These pizzas have seriously thin crusts, almost like a cracker. It was a nice, light lunch, but the personal sized pizzas wouldn’t have been enough for us for dinner. We also had an order of the bruschetta. We tried the ‘shroomtown pizza and also a Formaggio Blanco with arugula. You really should make sure you like mushrooms before you get the ‘shroomtown.

It’s located in prime location for a business lunch rush, and they have great lunch specials, but if thin crust is your thing, this place should be on your list.

 

July 29th
Pizza Barn, Yonkers

One Saturday, we were going to head to Philly but our plans changed last minute. We decided to drive up into Yonkers to Pizza Barn, home of the “super slice”, which is just over 2 feet long. One “super slice” costs $12, and it was PLENTY to feed both of us.  They actually cut the slice into smaller “slices” for you.

We kind of wished that they hadn’t cut it at all because it would have been fun to eat uncut. In full disclosure: this isn’t a real “slice” of pizza. They make it on a baking sheet, one “slice” at a time. It has a full crust around it when they bake it, but then they cut the side crusts off to shape it into a “slice”. But don’t worry – we asked, and they use the discarded crust for breadcrumbs.

August 2nd, 2017
Don Antonio, Manhattan

Don Antonio is operated by the same chef and owner of Kesté, and we could see the similarities between the two Neapolitan pizzas. Don Antonio is located up in Midtown, and we were worried about the crowds when we went in for dinner one night after work, especially since the restaurant is tiny. We luckily grabbed seats at the bar. We tried the Margherita here, and one of the Rachetta, which is part pizza-part calzone, but we didn’t get to try the fried pizza. We liked the hint of salt on the crust. Don’t try to go here with a crowd, it is very tight inside.

Let us know if we haven’t made it to your favorite NYC pizza yet! We’ve got a list going and are always looking for some new options!

We Went on Scott’s Pizza Tours!

June 11th, 2017

New York, NY

Some of you may be familiar with Scott from Scott’s Pizza Tours. We’ve known about Scott for AGES. He personally knows EVERYONE making pizza in NYC, and his instagram is constantly reminding us about all of the pizza places that we have yet to try. He pretty much has our dream job: eating pizza, talking about pizza, and having people actually listen to him talk about pizza. He’s even starred in a documentary about pizza.

So even though we knew all about Scott, and he (sort of) knew about us because he followed our instagram, we had never personally met him or been on one of his famous tours. For Eric’s birthday gift this year, I got us tickets to one of the Sunday tours. Scott always leads the Sunday bus tours but he has other pizza-dork/tour guides to run some of the weekday walking tours.

So, a few weeks ago we found ourselves running from the World Trade Center PATH station up to the start of the tour at Lombardi’s. The PATH had been super delayed that morning, and we REALLY didn’t want to miss the beginning of the tour.

It is lucky that we are pretty quick runners (even in sandals) and we made it to Lombardi’s JUST at 10:30, as Scott was introducing the tour and telling us how much pizza we would be eating that day.

 

At each of the four stops, we’d get a slice of pizza. We were looking forward to trying the pizza at Lombardi’s again. We had stopped there earlier last year and hadn’t been too impressed.

We got to check out the super old coal oven that Lombardi’s uses to cook its pizzas as we walked back to our seats. It was looking like it had seen better days, but it still cooked the pizzas just perfectly!  We noticed some differences in the pizza since the last time we came. The sauce was slightly different and the size of the pizza was different too. But we weren’t too concerned with the smaller slices, since we knew we’d be eating plenty of pizza over the course of the day.

We hopped on the bus and headed uptown to Patsy’s. This was another place that we had been to before and we really liked. If you remember from our previous post, Patsy’s was ranked in the top 20 on the Daily Meal list. Unfortunately for us, it is located all the way up in Harlem and we never make the trip back. We were glad that the bus took us all the way there so that we could try it again!

Patsy’s was the same as we remembered. A little more sauce, a little more cheese, a more NY-style crust than Lombardi’s. Patsy’s also makes a coal oven pizza, and it was fun to be able to compare it with Lombardi’s with back-to-back tastings!

We also got to check out the ovens at Patsy’s! Check out that hot coal over on the side!

 

Our third stop on the bus tour was all the way up in the Bronx, another area of the city that we don’t travel back to often for pizza. Mario’s Restaurant on Arthur Ave is in the “Little Italy” area of the Bronx, and it doesn’t seem to be known for its pizza since they have an extensive regular Italian menu. We could see why Scott included it on his tour after trying it, though. It was Eric’s favorite style of pizza. Smaller slices, again, but with a good crunch on the crust and a really flavorful combination of cheeses.

We had a quick laugh because at Mario’s they cook the pizza AFTER they add the basil (unlike pizzerias like Di Fara, where it is added after it comes out of the oven). Scott had just told us that this is one of his pizza pet peeves. We didn’t think it altered the flavor too much, though, and the pizza still tasted really good. But we definitely tasted the crispy, almost-burnt basil.

PS: Here’s Scott showing us all about the pizzas at Lombardi’s —————————————>

Our last stop on the bus was also up in the Bronx. Eric and I remember taking the looooong subway ride out to Louie & Ernies over a year ago. We thought it was a good slice then, but we wouldn’t have ranked it in the top 10.

We really liked the outdoor seating here, which we hadn’t gotten to sit at before! For all of the pizzas so far, Scott had ordered a regular classic cheese pizza, but Scott also ordered a sausage pie here. If you remember from my previous post, Louie & Ernie’s is known for their sausage pizza. Eric chipped in a couple of dollars for a slice, but I was happily full with my one slice of plain.

 

These slices were better than we remembered.  We finished and then headed back on the bus for the ride back to Manhattan. Scott entertained us with some more pizza stories and his pizza music playlist and answered everyone’s questions about pizza on the drive back.

You’d think that we were full at this point, but with all of the bus rides between the different pizzerias we were probably only averaging one slice per hour. So we stopped and got Mr. Softee ice cream from the truck on the way back to the PATH.

 

I think Eric enjoyed his birthday trip! We are definitely considering going on another pizza tour, especially if we can stop at some places that we haven’t been to yet. Even though we knew most of the random pizza facts that Scott told the group, we definitely learned a few things (like not to put basil on pizza pre-baking!). We would also recommend to everyone to try out one of the tours if you have a free day in NYC.

    

#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

#85 Sal’s Pizza

April 10th, 2016

Mamaroneck, NY

Sal’s Pizza in Mamaroneck is ranked mainly for their Sicilian pie. We took our friends Claire and Jeff out to Mamaroneck one weekend afternoon to test it out. Mamaroneck, for anyone who doesn’t drive around NYC that often, is right in Westchester County, right off of I-95 as you go into Connecticut. It is probably an hour drive from our house in NJ to get there. I can’t remember if Eric got us lost driving there – the chances are good that he did.

 

When we went here last April, it had been a while since we had eaten a Sicilian slice. We’d been so busy eating our way around the NY slice joints! It was good to change it up. We ended up just going with a plain Sicilian pie to split between the four of us, which ended up being plenty of food. Next time we probably would have also tried the salad pie, since it seems to be another popular option.

Sal’s is known in the area to have lines out the door for these Sicilian slices, but we were there for lunch and got a table right away. The pizzeria is very old-school, and just what you’d expect from a 50-ish year old restaurant in terms of both atmosphere and decor.

 

As for the pizza, it is also pretty traditional. The regular slices looked like traditional NY slices. For the Sicilian, the crust was good. It was nice and airy and not too dense like the crust on some Sicilian slices that you find around NYC. The sauce was on the sweeter side. The mozzarella was not put on lightly (as you can see in the picture above). The Sicilian slice was pretty much everything that you’d expect from a Sicilian slice, although it also sort of reminded us of Ellio’s frozen pizzas.

We know that some people like their pizza full of cheese and grease. If that’s you, you should make a stop here at Sal’s as soon as possible. You probably aren’t trying to stay the same pants size while eating pizza 2-3 times a week.  While we will never turn down a slice of pizza, so much cheese isn’t really our thing.

There’s a rumor that Joe Torre used to stop here for pizzas on his way home from home games. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, and we think he probably could have found better pizza in the area. But it is quite possible he is one of those cheesy pizza lovers, in which case, we’d understand why he made the stop.

To visit:

Sal’s Pizza
316 Mamaroneck Avenue
Mamaroneck NY 10543

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 Louie and Ernie’s

April 3rd, 2016

Bronx, NY

After our trip to Queens, we decided to hit another NY borough and we headed up into the Bronx to try another NYC classic pie. Louie and Ernie’s ranked high on the Daily Meal list, in the top 10, so we had some major expectations. When we were researching why it was ranked so high, we kept reading about the sausage, so of course, we had to get half of the pie with sausage to see what the fuss was all about.

The closest you can get to Louie and Ernie’s on the subway is by the 6, but then it is about a 15 minute walk from there. So in total, it took us about an hour to get there from work. The restaurant has a really local vibe, and they only serve pizza.

The sausage was the clumpy-style, instead of the sliced-style (are there technical terms for this?), which we decided that we prefer. The sausage is also made locally, right up the street. We loved the crust on this one, and the ratio of sauce:cheese.

We aren’t quite sure why this is ranked so high, though. Sure, it was a good NYC slice, but to rank it higher than John’s of Bleecker, Patsy’s, or Totonno’s is strange. We liked all of those better. We ranked it on our lists at #40 (Barb) and #69 (Eric), so decently far from the top 10. If we find ourselves back in the Bronx, though, it will be the first place on our list.

To visit:

Louie and Ernie’s
1300 Crosby Ave
Bronx, NY 10461

#37 Umberto’s

February 20th, 2016 and February 10th, 2017

New Hyde Park, NY

Our first trip to Umberto’s last February was on a Saturday evening, and we drove there with Marg and Scott. As usual, Eric got us off the wrong exit in Long Island, but luckily it wasn’t too long of a detour this time. It is a little tricky to get to from the city because the subways don’t quite get out far enough, so we were glad to have driven there.

On this first trip, we ordered two pies to split between the four of us. The first was the traditional Grandma pie, which Umberto’s is famous for. It has been featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”.  Honestly, I don’t remember what the second pie we got was, because this one was just too good. We’ve had a couple of grandma slices around NYC, but we are in agreement that this is the best that we’ve had. The sauce definitely makes these slices stand out.

 

You may be wondering what the difference is between a Sicilian pie and a Grandma pie. We certainly didn’t know the difference before we started our pizza quest. A Grandma pie is similar to a Sicilian pie only because they are both stretched to fit into a square (or rectangular) pan. The crust is the main difference between the two, with a Grandma pie crust being much thinner and crispier. This is because the crust barely proofs or rises. It is hard to find a traditional Grandma slice outside of NYC. While we would generally go for a Sicilian slice if we had a choice (more bread, of course!), we’d make an exception for Umberto’s Grandma slice.

   

After our dinner last year, Margaret decided that this is the best pizza she’s ever had. She can’t believe that we ranked it at #34 (Barb) and #29 (Eric). To be fair, though, she still hasn’t been to most of the places in our top 20. In any case, she has been talking about this pizza all year and so we decided to go back this past weekend for a group birthday celebration. This time, we (Marg, Scott, Claire, Eric, and I) took the LIRR out to New Hyde Park from Penn Station.

We went with the Grandma pie again (of course) and also got a Veggie pie and one with sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions. These traditional pies were good, even with the crust being a little burnt on the sausage. We liked how the crust held up to all the toppings without sagging, although the veggie pie could have used some more sauce. Unusually for us, we had leftovers.

I think Marg will probably talk us into going out to Umberto’s again in the future, even though it is a hike to get there. Until then, maybe we will try our hand at making our own Grandma pie.

Marg, thank you for taking us out to Long Island for this pizza and reminding us how good it is. We will be happy to go again anytime, but we think you need to try some of the other pizzas on the list too 🙂

Claire, thanks for joining us and for providing us with some great photos. I didn’t post the one of the spinach in your teeth, but I’m happy to send it to you to include on a dating profile because it is a real winner.

To visit:

Umberto’s
633 Jericho Turnpike
New Hyde Park, NY 11040

#56 Lee’s Tavern

December 13th, 2015

Staten Island, NY

We’ve been in NJ for a couple of years now, and we’ve been all around New York City, except for Staten Island. We were talking on our drive out to Lee’s Tavern about this, and we both were wondering what we could do on Staten Island aside from eat pizza. (We couldn’t come up with anything, but we’d be interested to know if you have any fun things to do on Staten Island the next time we go there for pizza.)

img_20151213_182355011    img_20151213_182408392

Lee’s Tavern is one of two pizza places on Staten Island that made the 2015 list. It’s primarily known as a family and community bar, although the pizza always gets mentioned in “Best of NYC” lists. I don’t think I’d call it one of the best in NYC, although Eric has ranked this higher on his list.

The consensus is to order the clam or the pepperoni here so we ended up trying the white clam and then also a veggie to round it out. The crust is pretty thin, kind of similar to Rubirosa. The toppings were OK. The veggies weren’t cut very small, so it was a little difficult to eat. As for the clam, well, if you’ve tried a New Haven clam pie, you won’t be very impressed. We were happy to try something different, though.

img_20151213_182432443       img_20151213_182437807

Another thing that didn’t sell us here was the service. If you are a regular here or part of the town, you may be actually greeted and seated when you walk in. We walked in, waited a bit for them to even notice that we were looking for a table, and then waited way too long to get our pizza. It wasn’t even that it was crowded (you can see behind me in the photo that there are empty tables!) The family next to us offered to sell us one of their slices, for $10. We must have looked extra hungry.

To visit:

Lee’s Tavern
60 Hancock Street
Staten Island, NY 10305