New York prides itself on having the best pizza in America.
But what makes one pizza better than another is subject to intense debate. One pizza blogger may have thrown a wrench in many New Yorkers' perceptions, and perhaps altered the pizza conversation a bit.
Colin Hagendorf, 28, of Brooklyn, decided to eat a plain slice of pizza from all 362 locations in Manhattan. He posted his findings on his Web site, www.sliceharvester.com.
In a Nov. 30 article in the Wall Street Journal, Hagendorf admitted that writing about his findings had become a chore, but had no problem eating so many slices of pizza. He said he likes grease simmering above the cheese, and that a good dollar slice is like finding the Ark of the Covenant.
Though there are plenty of great pizza places outside of Manhattan in the New York area, Hagendorf understandably didn't want to exhaust himself so he limited his mission to eat at only Manhattan locations. Some would argue that Staten Island probably has the best pizza at the moment, and that Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx have better pizza than Manhattan, as well. New Jersey and Long Island citizens are also quick to boast about their quality pizza.
It must be stressed that Hagendorf didn't rate pizza restaurants that serve the whole pie, so if he did, established restaurants such as Keste (271 Bleecker St), Luzzo's (211 1st Ave), Grimaldi's (1 Front St.; Brooklyn), and Di Fara (1424 Avenue J) would surely have cracked the list. Even tourist restaurants like Lombardi's (32 Spring St.) would have received a favorable rating.
Hagendorf only gave one perfect score. Only New York Pizza Suprema (413 8th Ave) received a score of 8 out of 8 slices rating. Two others received a 7.5 out of 8 slices, which went to Rocky's (607 2nd Ave.; and 304 W. 14th St.) and Gino's (345 East 83rd St).
It seems like Hagendorf must know what he's talking about after sampling so many places. However, he might be a little jaded, and his judgment might also have been effected, by having so much pizza.
Of course, Hagendorf offers only one person's opinion, and his taste differs slightly from many average New Yorkers. He has publicly admitted that rating pizza is completely subjective. New Yorkers have a tendency to enjoy a good debate either way.
What nearly every New Yorker can agree on is to avoid eating at any place called Ray's, which screams tourist trap.
Here's a list of the five best places to grab a slice in Manhattan:
1. Rocky's on 607 2nd Avenue and 304 W. 14th Street.
Most locals swear by the Murray Hill and West Village establishment and for good reason. Rocky's, which had been run by the family of famed-boxing heavyweight Rocky Marciano, continues to deliver consistently top-notch brick-oven slices in Manhattan to a crowd that often arrives as late at 4 a.m. Many gravitate to the fresh ingredients as well as the slices of chicken Caesar salad, vodka penne, vegetable, and margherita, and certainly the cheese slices, which have the perfect ratio of slightly sweet marinara sauce to mozzarella cheese, and all on a perfect thin crust. The quality of mozzarella in each slice is particularly delicious, and the flavor of the crust is authentic New York-style. This is nearly flawless pizza, and there are constant raves about the quality from newcomers. Meanwhile, the boxing décor that adorns the brick walls provides a sense that you are at a special and historic place.
Hagendorf rated Rocky's the second best cheese slice in Manhattan, and he still seems to have under-rated it.
2. Bleecker Street Pizza on 69 7th Ave South
Not sure what Hagendorf was thinking when he gave Bleecker Street Pizza just a 4 out of 8 slice-review, because it is certainly legit. The pizza is very New York-style, and it's hard to find a bad slice. The crust is precisely crispy, and there isn't an overwhelmingly amount of grease like many other New York places. Many regulars enjoy the grandma slices, and the Nonna Maria. Some say Bleecker Street Pizza has gone downhill, but that's not the case, as it has a lot to offer for people who pride themselves on quintessential neighborhood pizza. With a prime location, it's a staple in the Village, and many locals speak fondly of the restaurant's atmosphere.
By the way, Hagendorf may not like Bleecker Street Pizza, but Jimmy Kimmel does, so that should mean something, right?
3. Rosario's Pizza 173 Orchard St
To many people who regularly eat pizza in New York, Rosario's is just a standard spot. But that's why it cracks this list -- it consistently delivers quality. The Lower East Side crowd often find their way into Rosario's after a night of drinking, and it usually does the trick. Every pizza is rarely disappointing, and the cheese slices have the right amount of sauce that satisfy purists who want a specific amount of grease. The barbecue chicken pizza often gets solid reviews from the patrons, and you can't go wrong with the meatballs if you feel like getting a pasta meal. It is certainly well-respected for a reason.
Hagendorf gave Rosario's a high score, and his review seemed to be accurate with public sentiment.
4. Artichoke Basille Pizza 328 E 14th St
This is not typical New York-style pizza like the rest of the places on this list, but Artichoke is very good. They don't have a cheese slice, but they do have a margherita that is excellent, and probably their best slice. Artichoke's signature slice is obviously the artichoke slice, but it shouldn't be the sole reason to go there. People gravitate to Artichoke for its crunchy crust and rich sauce. The basil is really what gives the slices their distinct flavor. If there is a drawback to Artichoke it's the feeling afterwards, as your stomach may experience some pain, and your wallet has become a little thinner, as the prices are a little high. Still, it is a place for a pizza lover to frequent.
This isn't the type of place Hagendorf likes, but he gave it a mixed review, saying it confused him.
5. New York Pizza Suprema 413 8th Ave
Not nearly as good as Hagendorf boasts, but it's certainly good pizza and deserves to crack the list. Despite an unorthodox ratio of sauce to cheese as well as odd hours and a touristy location, New York Pizza Suprema still has very good crust, and delivers quality ingredients and at a reasonable price. The tomato sauce is what makes New York Pizza Suprema such a delight. It is perfectly sweet and it drips off the slices. If you want to venture beyond a regular slice, try the Sicilian, which is also very good. The fresh mozzarella slice is one of the better slices, and you can't go wrong with the vegetables.
Hagendorf over-rated this place with a perfect score, but that shouldn't be a reason to prevent you from dropping by.