Joe’s Pizza Opens in Midtown, Immediately Becomes Times Square’s Best Pizza

For as many tourists that visit the Great White Way, Times Square has long been a wasteland for good pizza. I don’t know what’s worse, bedbug Elmos or that tourists grabbing a slice at La Famiglia or Little Italy Pizza (God forbid, 2 Bros), think they’ve tasted the legit pizza New York is known for. Sure there’s the Midtown John’s outpost, but as far as good slicerias go, you used to have to walk down to New York Pizza Suprema across from the Garden. Things have improved. You can walk over to Corner Slice on 11th Avenue or crosstown to Sofia Pizza Shoppe but until recently, if you wanted a great slice right there in Times Square… fuggedaboutit. No longer. Today, Joe’s Pizza opened at 1435 Broadway just two blocks south of where the ball drops. It immediately took the mantle of Times Square’s best pizza.

“You’re always nervous when you move into a new neighborhood,” Joey Vitale told me. Joey is the grandson of the original Pino ‘Joe’ Pozzuoli, famed pizza operator of Joe’s Pizza in the West Village.

By the looks of things, he’s got nothing to worry about. The new Joe’s Pizza on 1435 Broadway literally a block from Bryant Park and just a few steps up and out of the Times Square NQR station has the look and feel of the 14th Street East Village expansion. Unlike the West Village original, it’s roomy with stools and counters on either side of the pizza counter, behind which, three new deck ovens are being broken in.

“The ovens are going to need to get seasoned, but we’ll get there,” Joey said, noting on an Instagram post that the “neighborhood took us in with open arms.”

I’ve done same-day comparisons of slices at the 14th Street and West Village Joe’s Pizza locations, something that I’m not prepared to do this early on until they’ve had a chance to break in the ovens. Judging by the number of folks likely to swing through, that shouldn’t take long. (Good luck on New Year’s Eve, guys.) For now, I can say that there’s that classic Joe’s super-thin crust with the crispy, almost toasted undercarriage, lightly sweet sauce and just as thin a layer of cheese. I’d argue that there’s a little less cheese on this slice, but you have to give them a minute to get settled and a chance for these ovens to be broken in.

There’s that classic Joe’s super-thin crust with the crispy, almost toasted undercarriage, lightly sweet sauce and just as thin a layer of cheese. I’d argue that there’s a little less cheese on this slice, but you have to give them a minute to get settled and a chance for these ovens to be broken in.

It’s a great slice, I’m sure they’ll hone until they get it right, and even now I’d say I’d be proud to have folks from out of town hit it up and leave with it as their impression of New York City pizza.

For the uninitiated (whatsamattayou), here’s what I’ve said about Joe’s Pizza in The Daily Meal’s list of 101 Best Pizzas in America and in Phaidon’s Where to Eat Pizza in the past:

Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza has served fresh, hot, cheesy slices to tourists and residents alike, making it a truly iconic New York City landmark. It’s as synonymous with New York City as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Everyone has a favorite slice joint, but if the city were to have just one, this would be it. It’s made every conceivable best-of list (many of them tacked on the walls and in the windows), and for good reason. The key to Joe’s success is their traditional New York City-style pizza with thin crust, great sauce, and just the right ratio of cheese, sauce, and crust (just a bit less of the first two). It took about 38 years for Joe’s to try to capitalize on its West Village success, opening an East Village location on 14th Street a few years ago that turns out a similar-quality product — if with slightly less demand (consider this side-by-side comparison). That was followed pretty quickly by their first location in Brooklyn (in Williamsburg), where they promised not to lose sight of their blue-collar virtues — they’ll still sell pizza for $2.75 a slice. 

Joey said that he’s managing the Williamsburg location, that his uncle would continue to run the West Village spot, that his cousin would be taking over Times Square, and that “We’re going to have to come up with some new family members to open up other locations.”

Might be time to have some more kids too. In the meanwhile, God’s work, guys. Thanks for fixing the Times Square pizza problem, finally.

Joe’s Pizza
1435 Broadway,
New York, NY 10018 
Phone: (347) 312-4955
joespizzanyc.com/
Subway: N, Q, R, W, 7, B, D, F, M, A, C, E

Joe's Pizza in Times Square
Times Square tourists and office workers finally have a great slice to call their own.

50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

There’s a new online pizza guide that is setting out to rank the world’s best pizzerias and while Italy is the dominant part of the guide so far, 50 Top Pizza representatives gathered today at Neapolitan pizzeria Ribalta in Manhattan to announce the top 50 winners across five different continents outside of pizza’s birthplace.

“This is the first online guide for pizzerias, not pizzas, we’re talking about the pizzerias,” announced Maria Rosaria Galletta, who translated the event’s announcements from Italian.

Parse that as you will. There’s a trove of pizza listicles writers out there who may beg to differ, but you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find any who will disagree that 50 Top Pizza may be the most thorough online ranking of Italian pizzerias. In attendance were 50 Top Pizza’s curators, wine journalist Luciano Pignataro (LucianoPignataro WineBlog), Barbara Guerra and long-time sommelier, master taster of cheeses and olive oil, Albert Sapere. The list was published by Formamentis and financed by a number of sponsors including Caputo Flour, Olitalia, Così Com’è and Consorzio Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.

While most of the awards will be doled out to pizzerias in Italy, it was the international (outside of Italy) results that were shared at the event, some of which are bound to set at least some American pizza experts, specifically New Yorkers and Chicagoans, talking.

Before the list’s methodology was explained, the event began with the curators offering a reminder that pizza was born in Italy, noting many actually don’t know that (it was unclear through the translation if this was tongue-in-cheek or they really felt it needed to be said).

“There are other pizza guides in Italy, but this one is different because it’s online and it’s completely free” asserted Mr. Sapere. “And there is a geolocation system that can bring you all the way to the door of the pizzeria.”

The curators reached out through their personal networks to pizza experts and passionates to create a panel of 107 people from all over Italy. Each was asked to submit up to 20 favorite pizzerias in Italy. All told, 900 pizzerias were nominated. The top 500 are being featured in their guide and were all reviewed anonymously by the panelists. While Neapolitan pizza may be the most famous Italian pizza style, Roman-style pizzerias, “gourmet pizza” (which they defined as pizza mostly served in Italy’s northern regions), and the pizzerias of Tramonti were also included.

Continue reading 50 Top Pizza Releases 2017 International Pizza Rankings

New East Village Artichoke Pizza About To Open

The sign is up and the butcher paper is about to come down at the new Artichoke Pizza just across the street from the old one, which sadly burned down just a few weeks ago (FDNY fire marshals said it was caused by heat from its overheated pizza oven flue). The new sliceria had been in the works for almost a year and there’s a new lease, about six times the space for customers, and about 15 times more room for the Artichoke crew to sling their signature pies late into the night for hungry East Village party-zens. These things sometimes have a way of turning from days to weeks, but cousins Francis Garcia and Sal Basille said they may open as soon as today.

It’s happy news that the block will continue to feature one of businesses that helped bring life to a strange stretch of 14th Street that will soon see even more foot traffic from all the people who will call all the new construction going up either work or home.

And it sounds like if you swing by in the opening weeks, you may have a chance to eat a slice from a pie personally slung by one of the owners. More from the Artichoke pizza boys to come.

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
320 E 14th Street,

New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 228-2004
artichokepizza.com
Subway: L

Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

Whether you agree with Buffalo chicken as a pizza topping from a culinary or philosophical perspective or throw it in with pineapple and ham as a controversial bastardization, you’d be hard-pressed to deny Buffalo chicken’s iconic presence on menus at pizzerias across America. And while Teressa Bellissimo is generally credited with having invented Buffalo wings at Anchor Bar in 1964, credit for its invention as a pizza topping is a little harder to pin down. When did wings move out of the side dish and onto the pie? Who Invented Buffalo chicken pizza?

The hard beginning of a search for the originator of Buffalo chicken pizza has to be 1964 with their Nickel City origin. From there, consider that La Nova Pizza is generally accepted as the first pizzeria in Buffalo (in 1971) to also start serving wings. It seems logical that would mark the best starting point for the first pizzeria to serve Buffalo chicken on top of pizza. I’m working on finding out when La Nova started making their Chicken Finger Pizza (it features a blue cheese base, spicy crust, fontinella, Cheddar and mozzarella) but so far, no word as to whether it marks the birthplace of this topping’s national prominence.

Continue reading Who Invented Buffalo Chicken Pizza?

New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland

Slice aficionados who’ve bemoaned the lack of a good slice in Midtown can rejoice. A new sliceria called Sofia Pizza Shoppe in Sutton Place is serving a crispy-bottomed thin pizza that inspires faith that the art of the quality New York City slice joint may yet persevere in the face of average reheats and the $1 slice. But this kind of quality doesn’t usually pop up out of nowhere. No wonder then Sofia’s family pedigree is linked to one of Brooklyn’s longstanding, unheralded neighborhood pizza institutions, Bensonhurst’s J&V Pizzeria.

Sofia opened last July on the west side of 1st Avenue between 54th and 55th streets in a space last occupied eight years ago by a pet groomer. Founders and friends Tom Degrezia (left) and Matthew Porter have both directing and acting credits (Porter had a role on “30 Rock”) and a passion for pizza. But it’s Degrezia with the sauce in his veins. His grandfather Vincent Degrezia opened J&V Pizzeria in 1955. And Sofia isn’t his first restaurant. Tom and his dad opened Sofia Wine Bar & Cafe on 50th near Second Avenue in 2008, where they serve a limited pizza menu.

“We live in the area, so we knew there weren’t any great slice places around, but when we started getting pizza delivery requests at the wine bar, we knew it wasn’t just us that felt the neighborhood needed a go-to ‘sliceria,’” Tom explained.

In fact, Degrezia and the New Hampshire-born Porter (who name Staten Island’s Joe and Pat’s and Rocco’s Pizza Joint in Chelsea as their respective favorite slices after theirs and J&V’s), said until Sofia opened, they had to go downtown or Brooklyn to get a good slice. They weren’t alone.

Ten years ago, bewildered by the dearth of quality slices in Midtown, I spent a week systematically seeking good pizza. River to river, 25 blocks deep, America’s supposed pizza capital was dominated by Bravo, Little Italy Pizza, Sbarro, and Papa John’s. Neapolitan joints PizzArte NY and Don Antonio by Starita (by Roberto Caporuscio of Kesté renown) have made inroads, but when it came to New York slices, it was a disgrace. (For the record, Pizza Suprema on 31st and 8th is technically in Chelsea.)

The wait is over.

Continue reading New Slice Joint Sofia Pizza Shoppe, an Oasis in Midtown’s Pizza Wasteland

That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

This essay was written September 11, 2007 during a four-month eating odyssey across Europe.

“Shit!” I cursed with a heaving breath as I ran down the dark, empty street parallel to the Calata Piliero in the Porto di Napoli.

I was halfway through three months of eating my way across Europe using my last shiny dimes saved during five years of an unfulfilling office job in New York City. This was the last ferry to Sicily. I was trying to run from the ticket office to the pier by ten o’clock. With each asphalt-slamming stride the thirty kilos strapped to my back and chest lofted up and crashed down, knocking the air out of my lungs. If someone was to jump from behind a cargo container or shadowed doorway at least I was running. I had eight minutes to catch the ferry and no accommodations in Naples.

It was the pizza’s fault.

Continue reading That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

Da Michele Opens in Rome

When you think about it, it’s hard to understand how one of Italy’s most storied pizzerias hadn’t opened a second location. And so it happened in November, the first offshoot of the Naples icon L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele opened its first location outside of Naples, in Rome.

The Local reported that the Rome location was a surprise. Apparently, the restaurant had already announced plans for a London branch (London!), but there was no word of expanding within Italy until it actually happened.

There’s some poetry (and irony) in the Rome location. If you start digging into the history of pizza, you find pretty quickly that it was a Neapolitan dish popularized by the poor — something that didn’t migrate north to cities like Rome because, well, it wasn’t regarded as worth the north’s attention. And yet here it is now.

Rarely even do the truest things stay pure, some say. Perhaps. And it’s easier to say this without having a financial stake in Da Micheles popping up in Rome, London, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Tokyo, Brooklyn and Los Angeles but there was something beautiful about Da Michele having one location.

Having not been to the Rome joint on Via Flaminia 80 (a short walk from the Piazza del Popolo) and not planning on visiting soon, I’d recommend anyone visiting Italy interested in pizza to visit the original.

Recalling my first experience at Da Michele nearly a decade ago, here’s a travel essay I wrote during a four-month food tour of Europe that details a visit: That Time I Spent $86 for Pizza and Learned the Sicilians Are “Masters of Food”

“Portafoglio” Pizza Lands in New York City (Again)

Not that you needed a food day to celebrate America’s favorite comfort food (is there even really any doubt that pizza wears that crown?), but today is National Pizza With Everything Day, and West Village Neapolitan upstart Rossopomodoro is making it the obligation of New Yorkers with good sense to pay respects. Rosso is slinging free pies out of the back of their kitchen on 118 Greenwich Avenue for two hours on Saturday afternoon between 4 pm and 6 pm. And not any old slices, but “portafoglio” pies, a style that has landed before in Gotham but never quite taken hold. That’s right, New York pizza-style hounds, if you haven’t had the Naples fold yet, here’s your chance.

“The literal meaning of ‘portafoglio’ is ‘wallet,” explained chef-owner Simon Falco. “It is the best you can get for your money. In Italy, pizzas are about the size of our small version and are eaten by one person. In Naples, portafoglio is their ‘fast food’ version of pizza in which an entire Neapolitan pizza folded in a particular way.”

Think Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever’s eating-a-slice-while-walking sequence but Naples style.

“We make the portafoglio a tad smaller, so you can eat it on the street and it is truly for one person,” Falco said.

The fold? A half-moon then a quarter-moon. According to Falco, it’s usually only made with Margherita pies because the double-fold doesn’t allow much room for toppings. That doesn’t quite jibe with the food holiday, but makes sense from a practical standpoint.

This isn’t the first time eating pizza “al portafoglio” has appeared in New York City. Not long after Kesté first opened on Bleecker Street, there were reports of it being served there (New York Magazine’s “Folding Manifesto” features a great diagram). But for all the new Neapolitan places, the folding method has never really seemed to have taken off. Falco thinks he knows why.

“Whenever portafoglios have popped up in New York City, the restaurants have tried to serve them at a sit-down table. But this pizza is meant to be eaten on the street and not at a seated meal. We will be able to showcase the dish in an authentic way by serving it through the back of our kitchen on the street.”

The restaurant will also be collecting signatures to advocate for the addition of Neapolitan pizza-making to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Falco hopes that could lead to more training of chefs in how to make pizza like a true Neapolitan pizzaioli.