“The Best Thing I Ever Done”

You might know these two things about food in New York:
1) Pizza is everywhere (as is Chinese food, but that’s another story).
2) The question of who makes the best pizza in New York is one that has been studied and debated by scientists, scholars, think tanks, government agencies and international consortia.
Well, maybe not. But people are passionate about their pizza. Some are absolute devotees of a particular shop. Others search and compare margherita after margherita, uptown, downtown, east, west, borough to borough.
Complicating matters is the trend in recent years toward artisanal pizza shops. I’m of the opinion that these new “fancy” places (some of which are excellent) are different animals than the old style pie shops, and there’s no sense comparing, say, Donatella to Grimaldi, Co. to Totono’s.
A popular contender for the title of best New York pizza is Di Fara, where Domenico DeMarco has made every pie by hand for close to 50 years. Obviously, Di Fara falls into the old style “it-ain’t-fancy-but-it’s-good” category. I’m not sure it’s my personal favorite, but it’s great pizza, and worth the wait, first in line to place your order, then for your hand-made pie to be served up by DeMarco, who puts his bare hands into the oven to make sure each pizza looks exactly right before he takes it out. You can put the wait to good use, praying that one of the few tables will open up at exactly the moment your pizza is ready, and that nobody else will grab it first.
Someone named Margaret Emily MacKenzie has made a short film about DeMarco and his pizzeria. It’s entertaining and worth watching, this testament to one person’s dedication to his craft, to the extraordinariness of the ordinary, the poetry of pizza.
Tell me (by leaving a comment): who do you think makes the best pizza?

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7 Responses to “The Best Thing I Ever Done”

  1. I had a pizza in florida at a place called Vincenzo’s. That was about 12 years ago, I always think of that pizza when asked about the best..

    • In my memory, the best pizza I ever had was in its birthplace, Naples. But It was so many years ago that I’d started to wonder if its magnificence had grown in memory. But my husband was in Naples last year and confirmed that the pizza there was amazing. As for New York, well, I haven’t tried them all. I’m partial to Grimaldi’s, and this week we’ll be trying one of the new fancy pants places (with a gold oven, no less), Donatella’s.

  2. Peter Cox says:

    I always go to Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street in Greenwich Village. In my opinion they make the best pizza anywhere.

  3. Di Fara is really the only pizza in New York that comes close to New Haven pizza, which is really where it’s at: Pepe’s, Sally’s, or Modern Apizza are the “big three” that are worth driving the 75 minutes from NYC for.

    As far as the more “artisanal” pizza in New York, my husband and I are big fans of Bella Via on Vernon Blvd in Long Island City, Queens. It’s family-run and has that nice family vibe to it.

    • Yes, New Haven pizza! I’ve heard about it, but have not yet experienced it. One of these days. Thanks, Amanda!

      • Noah Baerman says:

        I know this was supposed to be about NY pizza, but I have to agree with Amanda. The menus at the two most popular ones, Sally’s and Pepe’s (along with Pepe’s “annex,” the Spot, where you get the same pizza with usually shorter lines) are telling. There are a handful of topping options, 3 sizes, beer and a local brand of soda. Sandwiches? nope. Individual slices? nope. Salads? hahaha! Something has got to be going right when you offer so few options and can still hardly keep up with demand. By contrast, in New Brunswick, NJ, where I went to college, every pizza joint in town also sold chicken wings, gyros, cheese fries and so on.

      • Oh, you Connecticut snobs. What are we to do with you?
        But, really, it doesn’t have to be about NY pizza specifically; your comment (and Amanda’s) is very welcome.
        One of these day’s I’ll sample the legendary New Haven pizza.

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