Frank Pinello's Guide to NYC Pizza
Nowadays, he works what any pizza aficionado would consider a dream job. When he’s not making pies in his shop, he’s on the set of his show in Queens eating pizza with Action Bronson or in Las Vegas scoping out the International Pizza Expo.
Pinello recently gave us the lowdown on New York City’s top pies. From a neighborhood slice joint to a legendary pizzeria in deep Brooklyn, here is his roadmap to pizza in NYC.
On Bleecker street, there are three or four of my favorite pizzerias in the city. Head down there for a pizza crawl. The first thing that you should do is go to Joe’s Pizza to grab that regular, classic New York slice. Walk over to the counter, and put some parmesan cheese, oregano, and chili flakes and that’s it. Keep it simple and enjoy.
From Joe’s, you go to Bleecker Street Pizza, another classic joint I grew up going to, to get another awesome regular slice and a great square pizza. There are only three main components of pizza, so you have to use the best ingredients. When you put the pizza in your mouth and you can taste each ingredient, that’s what I look for. Can I taste the tomatoes? The mozzarella? A nice, savory crust? Here, the answer is yes.
Not too far away is Prince St. Pizza, which is specifically known for the square pizza with the spicy pepperoni. That’s a go-to for sure. So, Joe’s, Prince St., and Bleecker are all quick, classic pizzerias—the kind of thing where you walk in and only have two or three minutes, so you grab a slice. For only a few bucks, you’re going to be satisfied.
Nearby you have Kesté Pizzeria, which is one of the best Napoli style pizzerias in the country. The Napoli pie is more of a personal pizza and most places don’t even cut it. It’s not like the crispy, textured pizza that you expect in New York. It’s more of a fluffy pizza. At Kesté, they use the best ingredients, so you can taste the minerals from the San Marzano tomatoes, the creamy mozzarella cheese, and the delicious crust. You sit down, there is a server to take your order, and definitely some more Italians hanging out. That’s Kesté.
I love John’s of Bleecker St. because it has so much character. The place itself feels like it’s been in New York since day one. All of the tables are scuffed from people carving their names into the wood. At John’s, I’d recommend sitting down and getting the classic cheese pizza. I like to go with the originals, but the margherita pizza is nice and crispy, too. Get a couple beers and a couple pizzas.
It’s so easy to jump on the L train and head right over to Williamsburg. Come by and visit me at Best Pizza. I recommend doing our grandma pizza or the white pie.
In Brooklyn, there’s also Lucali, which is my favorite pizzeria. I love it, it’s just a romantic little place. It’s a great place for a date or to go have a pizza and a glass of wine by yourself. Mark Lacano, the owner, is always around. He’s a neighborhood guy. At Lucali, the pizza is New York style, but it’s sit down so it has a Napoli vibe to it. Mark’s pizza tastes like the kind I ate growing up, so when I taste his pizza, it really feels like home. He’s the best.
It’s hard to say a pizza list in New York without mentioning Di Fara Pizza, which is owned by Dom DeMarco. He’s the inspiration for a lot of us pizza guys. Going to Di Fara is cinematic: I used to go before I opened Best Pizza just to watch Dom. He’s there every day making pizza, so his hands are calloused out. He just pulls the pizzas out of the oven without even using a peel. He uses scissors to cut fresh basil like an artist.
You have to go there and wait. Sometimes it takes hours. It’s kind of chaotic, but at the same time it’s this special New York experience. I think anyone who has the chance to go while Dom is still making pizza should.
I used to work at Roberta’s and to me it’s the most influential pizzeria in America. Everyone who eats there wants to go home and open up a pizzeria. The level of food is through the roof and it’s all happening in this garage/warehouse type setting. Roberta’s represents a new style of Brooklyn dining that a lot of other people ended up taking cues from.
The early days at Roberta’s were some of the most exciting times of my career because there was so much going on. Watching how that pizzeria changed Bushwick, it made me understand how powerful pizza can be—how it brings people together and can reinvent a whole neighborhood.