New Yorkers pride themselves on having the best pizza in the world. In fact, you might even find most New York residents refusing to even acknowledge pizza from other places as the real deal.
While we can agree that properly made pizza is delicious no matter where it’s found, there’s certainly something to be said for the classic New York style. There are thousands of places to grab a pizza in New York, which is something that every visitor and resident does there on a regular basis.
There might be several styles and types of pizza in every New York pizzeria, restaurant, or slice joint. Let’s find out more about the unique New York style below:
What the New York Style Pizza Looks Like
The New York pizza slice was actually developed from the Neapolitan style that the Italian immigrants brought over to America. This is believed to be around the early 20th century. The slices of the New York-style pizza are usually large, wide, and have a thin crust that you can fold. However, the crust is also crispy and has its own particular taste.
The traditional topping of the New York-style slice is tomato sauce along with mozzarella cheese. Any other toppings, such as chicken, pepperoni, or vegetables, are placed on the cheese before the whole thing is baked.
You can usually find a New York-style pizza available for sale in slices or sold by the pie. The latter is very large, usually 18 inches, and can serve about 4 to 8 people depending on how much they eat.
The traditional way of cooking a New York-style pizza was in an oven, usually powered by coal. Some pizza places might still use this method for authenticity, but you’ll usually find more modern establishments turning to gas ovens now.
The History of New York Style Pizza
This style of pizza is believed to have emerged with Lombardi’s, which was America’s very first pizzeria. Gennaro Lombardi was the owner, while the location was in Manhattan, Little Italy. The opening dates back to 1905, when Lombardi’s employee, Antonio TotonnoPero, made the pizzas. One slice back then sold for about five cents, which only shows us how inflation has changed our lives.
Totonno eventually left the original pizzeria to open up his own establishment under his own name in Coney Island. Patsy’s in the Harlem area was yet another competitor in 1933, and all three pizzerias used coal-fired ovens. Interestingly, these establishments can still be found today.
In 1964, Di Fara Pizza made an appearance and has been under the same owner since. Some believe that this is the place that sells the best pizza in NYC, as it combines the Neapolitan and New York methods.
When you visit New York, you may also be confused about the several variations of Ray’s Pizza there. There are several independent establishments by this name, with some calling themselves ‘Ray’s Original Pizza’ or Famous Ray’s Pizza’.
The Ingredients of the New York Style Pizza
We can generally differentiate between a Neapolitan and a New York-style pizza by the number of ingredients. The base is made from high-gluten bread flour, yeast, sugar, and olive oil. Water is then added for making the dough, which is then hand-tossed.
The last ingredient, water, is actually quite important. Some even say that the particular flavor of a New York-style pizza comes from the unique mineral composition of NYC tap water.
Once the base is tossed, the tomato sauce is applied. This is usually pre-cooked, heavily seasoned, and made from a mixture of other basic ingredients. These include canned tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt, oregano, basil, red pepper, and several other herbs. This is quite different from a Neapolitan sauce which is a basic combination of salt with crushed tomatoes (uncooked).
For the most authentic New York-style pizza, one should use low-moisture mozzarella in its grated form. Mozzarella slices are best reserved for the Neapolitan style or the Chicago pizzas.
After or before adding the mozzarella, one can add all kinds of vegetables, meats, and even fruit that they want on the pizza. According to preferences, one can also add other kinds of cheese for a more varied experience.
After the pizza is finally ready and scooped out of the oven (the pizza usually doesn’t require a pan for baking), you can also put several condiments on a slice. Many New Yorkers will scorn the idea of ketchup on a pizza, though some tourists might prefer it that way. Garlic powder, oregano flakes, grated Parmesan, and crushed red pepper are usually the best choices.
The Modern Type of New York Style Pizza
While coal ovens might have been the need back in the day, the New York-style pizza that we now know is usually made in a gas oven. You won’t find the original pizzerias selling pizza by the slice either. However, there are several slices to be found on just about every street corner.
The easy and cheap availability of pizza slices in New York is quite an important detail. Once the slice was liberated from the pie, one could have their pizza on the go. A slice is easily potable, makes for a very cheap meal, and is served to you immediately. This is what makes the pizza such a quintessential symbol of New York life.
What’s more, you’d find a lot more cheese in the New York-style than in the traditional Neapolitan-American pies. You’ll see cheese covering most of the pizza, with the sauce only barely visible. Since the mozzarella is a low-moisture one, it withstands the low temperatures and longer times of gas ovens.
With gas-fired pizzas, you don’t get that slightly sooty look and taste that you get with the coal fire pizzas. However, the crunch is still there, along with the soft texture of the dough.
The Advent of Food Trucks
Food trucks are now a dime a dozen in New York City, but pizza trucks were their predecessors. All kinds of pizza are available from food trucks in this area, from a simple New York-style slice to an authentic Neapolitan pie.
If you want to try some food truck pizza, you might want to look at Jiannetto’s in Midtown as well as Valducci’s. These are among the oldest pizza trucks in operation. The Neapolitan Express pizza truck is so successful that it’s probably achieved a permanent location by now.
The One-Dollar Slice
The budget dining experience is a huge part of NYC living, especially when we look at the recent trends. Having that $1 slice is also believed to be part of being a true New Yorker. The hot dog used to be the usual street food until the $1 pizza slice eclipsed it. Hamburgers can no longer be found at a decently low price, at least not unless you’ll willing to severely compromise on taste.
The magic of the $1 slice, however, is that you get almost the same taste as in a bonafide restaurant. Without breaking the bank, this is usually the best meal that people could have even when they’re not on a tight budget.
There are several more types of pizza which some might say to be local to New York, but they have their own method, shape, and flavor. The point here is that New York is definitely one of the best places in the world to go for all sorts of pizza. Be sure to try some next time you’re there!