It's true that America introduced Italy to tomatoes. And Stanley Tucci indeed spent last year searching for authentic Italian food. But we can stay in NYC to enjoy some of Italy's best right here, especially their pizza made with our own native tomatoes. Invented in Naples, the ultra-portable, ultra-delicious culinary favorite has been mimicked and riffed upon with various shapes, toppings and sizes. So turn off your fantasy show about Stanley Tucci. We have the real deal in New York and the best gift that Italy could have ever reciprocated with: the great American pizza pie.
Emmy Squared introduced Detroit-style pizza to NYC five years ago. The pizza restaurant's three locations in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), the Upper East Side and the East Village are more than just a place for a casual slice. This is a pizza bistro if you will, and the square-shaped, crispy-bottomed pizzas are distinctive among the city's many favorites. Bring a group so you can share a couple of permutations like the standout Colony, layered with pepperoni, pickled jalapenos and honey; the MVP, a true winner with vodka sauce, parsley pesto and basil; and the flavor-forward Big Al, a dreamy, creamy blend of basil, Calabrian chiles, sausage and burrata.
For simple elegance, pizza veteran Di Fara in Brooklyn's Midwood and Williamsburg neighborhoods creates each pizza slice as you watch. Snipping fresh basil from pots sitting in the pizzeria window, pizza masters adorn thin-crust Margherita pies with fragrant leaves. A choice of Sicilian pies is also available, but you should stick with the award winner, the plain Margherita round. Be prepared for long lines. Slices are available, too.
Pizza lovers on a mission trek to East Harlem for the original Patsy's Neapolitan pizza. Simple, cheesy, with a thin crust that almost defies explanation, a slice at Patsy's explains the queues of people and taxis along First Avenue. Patsy's knows not to mess with perfection -- they've been putting out their pies from coal-fired ovens for just under a century. Some call this the closest thing to Naples. No frills, and possibly the best tomato sauce in the city. 2287 First Avenue, no website.
Pizza dreams are made of these Lucali pies. The legendary, tiny pizza restaurant in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens has attracted crowds since its opening in 2006. Those in the know show up at 5 p.m. (or even earlier), put their name on a list, and wait to be summoned by cell phone for one of the few tables or even for takeout. Lucali requires determination and dedication – there's virtually no available parking, it's cash-only, and the outdoor shed hasn't added much in the way of seating. But as pizzas go, this one will be a bucket-list dish for you for years to come. The crisp-edged margarita with pepperoni is highly recommended, and even the pepperonis are perfect. While it's whole pies only at Lucali, their new offspring, Baby Luc, also in Carroll Gardens, happily offers Sicilian-style slices as well.
L&B Spumoni Gardens
You may have guessed by now that Brooklyn excels when it comes to pizza. L&B Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst is what you would call a destination pizza restaurant. Cheese-draped square slices are what most people order if they decide against a whole pie. The portions are so rich that two should do the trick with their oozy cheesiness and rich dough. The pizza here is upside down, meaning there's a layer of cheese on the dough, topped with tomato sauce and finished with an additional layer of cheese. It's sort of like a pineapple upside-down cake, done pizza style. There's plentiful outdoor seating for the crowds of locals, tourists, cab drivers and delivery people who are L&B connoisseurs. Finishing with L&B's icy spumoni, made with more ice and flavors than cream, adds a special touch.
Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern
Tucked away on a side street in Staten Island, the borough's rich Italian heritage shines through at family-friendly Denino's. With a history of hospitality dating from 1937, the pizzeria welcomes every guest like family and pizzas are the star of the show. Here you'll find your old-timey favorites from clam pies and white pies to meatball pies, pepperoni, mushroom and sausage or simply unadorned Margherita. Pies are generously sized, designed for sharing, and you won't find "personal pies" on the menu unless your interpretation of single-serve means eight oversized slices. Order a cold one and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.