Even in a city like New York, nine out of ten times, walking into a pizza parlor is a mistake. Either the cheese has coagulated, undergone rigor mortis, and begun to wrinkle like a scrotum, or there is too much bread, the sauce is too sweet, or the whole slice is entirely too hot and takes off the top layer of your pallet, leaving it much like an aging socialite’s face after a botched chemical peel. Of course, however, there is the pizza that set the famous and impossible standard for all New York slices. It just takes some time, and a lot of trial-and-error to find it. God knows, to compile this list we had to eat a lot of bad pizza.
1. Sal and Carmines (101st and Broadway)
There are very few people today that can get away with open and unabashed racism. Among this select group are Sal and Carmine, because their pizza is so damn good that we just put up with their bullshit as a sort of trade off. In fact, we’re probably getting a deal. Aside from keeping flour on the their uneven, perfectly doughy crust, and putting a dash of heavy cream into their sauce, I’m sure they use some sort of Sicilian cooking magic from the old country to give the slice its extra kick. You know, my Father’s name was Antonio Andolini, go the mattresses, do you renounce satan. As a side note, however, this place is not good for small children with naive sensibilities and fragile ears. Also, keep in mind that American ideals of amenities and business ethics go out the window at Sal and Carmines. That is, the customer is always wrong.
2. Joe’s Pizza (7 Carmine st. at Bleeker)
This is the classic slice, the quintessential slice, the original New-York-born, son-of-a-bitch slice. But it is far from ordinary. Joe’s takes on what is perhaps the most difficult task. It aims for complete simplicity, no frills, no specialty toppings, and yet to maintain, all the while, total perfection. Joe’s does the most normal thing, and does it better than anyone else. It’s like a prostitute who can give you a good old fashioned lay without any whips or costumes or fecal matter but can still make it a night to remember. Joe’s also employs Peter Parker in Spiderman II, so ultimately how you feel about Joe’s depends on how you feel about Tobey Maguire and sequels to superhero movies.
3. Difara’s (1424 ave J, Brooklyn)
The downside to Difara’s is that they never really sell pizza by the slice. But it’s not really an issue once you taste the square pizza, because that pizza could probably end wars, and can certainly get us over our dislike for having to buy whole pies. You’re probably thinking that pizza should stay round and never be square, much like car-tires, eyeballs, breasts, fat cats, and cucumbers. But trust us when we say that there is something undeniably old-fashioned about Difara’s pizza. What separates Difara’s from other pizza joints is the secret recepie. And being that Mr. Difara is getting old, and that there is no heir to the Difara pizza throne, on top of the fact that when Italians promise to keep a secret they will take it to the grave, it’s probably best to mosey over to Brooklyn for some pizza sooner, rather than later. Now might be a good time.
4. Two Boots (multiple locations)
Just because Two Boots got some whack-job to decorate the interior of their shop like a voodoo-bayou strip club doesn’t mean that they have whacky ideas about pizza. Well, not too bizarre. Actually, come to think of it, things can get pretty crazy in there They have bacon-cheddar burger slices and vegan slices, and peppered slices, all named after celebrities and personalities from the 80’s and 90’s. In 2010, slices named after Tony Clifton or Newman from Seinfeld can be pretty disarming. But if you’re going to go to Two Boots, it’s best to steer clear of these frankensteinian slices and stick with the plain slice, which they have appropriately shaken up in their own fashion, considering they come from Louisiana. The pizza has a bit of a spicy kick, making it a bit more interesting, exotic, and well, cajun.
5. Artichoke Pizza (14th street btw 1st and 2nd ave.)
Hole-in-the-wall used to mean something. It used to mean rundown. It used to mean grimy, cheap, but fantastic. Not hip, not chic, not affected. Artichoke gives some significance back to this phrase. On a saturday night lines for a slice might go down the block. This is perhaps the only place it might be best not to try the plain slice before anything else. The spinach artichoke slice is creamy, to say the least. It’s creamy enough that drinking lemonade or anything of the sort will cause it all to curdle in your stomach. But there is really nothing like Artichoke’s cheese, artichoke, and spinach cream slice, topped off with hearts of artichokes artfully placed over the top. Going to Artichoke is kind of like going to party or a night club, complete with dancing and singing customers, and alcohol. It’s fun, so head down, kick back, sit on a bench, enjoy a slice and remember not to eat beforehand, sip on a beer, make out, and go back for a second slice. Oh yeah, and get harassed by the homeless every three seconds.