8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams, 2016

Prince Street Pizza’s Spicy Spring slice. [Photo: Adam Kuban]

Each year I like to take stock of all the pizza I’ve eaten in the previous 12 months and drop a quick list of the “8 Pizzas That Haunt My Dreams.” As I always say, this is compiled from the roster of pizza I ate during the year. If your favorite place isn’t on here, that’s because I either didn’t eat there or it didn’t necessarily jump out at me when I went to make this list. Does that mean I didn’t include some really great and/or deserving places? Sure. But, like I said, it’s a list of slices and pies that, when I looked back over my Instagram feed for the year, really tugged at my taste/memory heartstrings. The heart wants what the heart wants, and the chips lie where they fell. So, without further ado, let’s go!

Prince Street Pizza

Prince Street Pizza in SoHo made the list last year, and probably in previous 8PTHMD lists (I haven’t looked back at the rest yet). The Spicy Spring is a deeply satisfying piece of pizza and among the best of the New York–Sicilian pies around the city. I’ve converted a number of people at my office into PSP fans — which is nuts, because how can anybody not know about Prince Street at this point?!

27 Prince Street, Manhattan NY 10012

Lillian Pizza

Lillian Pizza is the definition of a “neighborhood spot” here in Forest Hills, Queens, where I live. It’s tucked away in a quiet part of an already quiet neighborhood, not really near any train. It anchors one corner of an incongruous island strip of commercial buildings in an otherwise residential area. I love its super-local feel and its laid-back (though not necessarily slow) vibe. It feels timeless and comforting. My daughter, Margot, and I went on one of first “Pizza Adventure” to Lillian in 2015, and we’ve returned throughout this year. We always get Margot’s favorite combo — pepperoccoli (pepperoni and broccoli), though the plain slices are great on their own. Trivia: Lillian is Ray Romano’s favorite pizzeria in NYC. He grew up nearby and still visits the neighborhood regularly, as his mom lives there.

96-01 69th Avenue, Forest Hills NY 11375

Harry’s Italian Pizza Bar

I’ve slept on Harry’s Italian until this year, preferring to hit up its predecessor/sister pizzeria, Adrienne’s Pizza Bar, instead. But then I remembered that there’s one on the Concourse level of Rockefeller Center, near where I work. I still prefer Adrienne’s, but Harry’s hits the spot when I’m craving a really good slice in Midtown—particularly the pepperoni or sausage slice. The coolest part, for me anyway, is that I know a secret subterranean way to get nearly all the way from my office to Harry’s. I feel like I’m sneaking around and in on a little New York secret while making my lunch run. And it’s a handy route in rain or cold weather.

Various locations, see harrysitalian.com

Emmy Squared

Emmy Squared. How could I not include this place?! NYC’s first Detroit-inspired pie, coming to you straight outta Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Full disclosure: I’m friends with the owners and run my pop-up, Margot’s Pizza, out of their original spot, Emily, in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.) I’ve pictured their Hatchback pie here, primarily because it’s the best photo I have of one of their pizzas. It’s a fine choice, but my favorite so far is their Deluxe (sauce, mozzarella, sausage, peppers, mushrooms). The crust is consistently excellent — light and airy, yet supremely crisp and sturdy enough to stand up to the toppings. If you go, don’t miss the appetizers and sandwiches, either. IMO they could open a standalone restaurant on the nonpizza stuff and do gangbusters.

364 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11211

Mack’s Pizza

Sadly we didn’t get out of town that much this year, which is why most of my picks are New York–based. Mack’s Pizza, in Wildwood, New Jersey, is the one exception. I start craving this slice the second we pack the car for our annual summer trip to the Jersey Shore. It’s superthin, crisp, loaded with sauce, and has a great combo of cheese that includes just a bit of cheddar, which I was initially resistant to but now love — as long as it’s not overdone. Also? Mack’s has THE BEST T-shirts. Make sure to get one if you go!

4200 Boardwalk, Wildwood NJ 08260

Bruno

Bruno Pizza is an ambitious East Village pizzeria that opened in 2015, milling its own flour, serving pies with fermented tomatoes and the like, and drawing a ton of attention—both good and bad—for its visually arresting pizzas and appetizers. I finally got to try it this summer and enjoyed the Summer Squash pie. Of course, the company didn’t hurt—I got to meet some fine pizzeria owners from Cleveland and St. Louis, who were in town visiting—and finally got to meet owner Demian Repucci, whose thoughtful approach is found in every detail of the restaurant.

204 East 13th Street, New York NY 10003

Pugsley Pizza

Pugsley Pizza. What a trip! Been reading about this place for years but had never been. Just off the Fordham University campus in The Bronx and located in a former horse stable, it’s a popular student hang-out spot. It sounds trite to say, but the owners, Salvatore & Laura Natale, truly make the pizza with love—in fact, the pizzeria’s motto is, “Love is it!” And they seem to practice that sentiment with all customers, old and new. Heck, Sal let Margot behind the counter to ring one of the many bells he has hanging from the ceiling and even ended up giving her a T-shirt. The pizzas are large, solid, and satisfying. Just the kind of pie you’d want to spend a long, laid-back lunch eating with friends. See also:

590 East 191st Street, The Bronx NY 10458

Farinella Bakery

And so it was at Farinella Bakery that the master became the student. Margot visited the Midtown East Farinella with her mother a few weeks ago and reported, “it was quite good — have you been, Papa?” Not this location, and it had been years since I’d even eaten at their original (now-closed) Tribeca shop, so Margot declared that she wanted to lead the next Pizza Adventure and take me to Farinella. It was an enjoyable trip and reminded me I should eat more Roman-style pizza.

Various locations, see farinellabakery.com

Homemade Prince Street clone

And, we’re sorta back where we started this list. This homemade Sicilian-style pizza comes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s recipe for “Sicilian Pizza with Pepperoni and Spicy Tomato Sauce” and is his attempt to clone Prince Street’s Spicy Spring slice. (I didn’t use Kenji’s sauce recipe, though, since I have my own I like and usually have on hand.) I had given up on making Sicilian-style at home, but since I had a mess of cup-and-curl pepperoni in the fridge, I figured I’d give this Prince Street Pizza homage a shot. I’m SO GLAD I did. It’s one of the best pizzas I’ve made at home. The trick, IMO, is to cook this pan pizza on a Baking Steel or pizza stone; it helps accelerate the cooking, ensuring that your crust is crisp and sufficiently browned. I think I’m going to be playing around with this recipe for some time to come.


Anyway, those are the pizzas that haunt my dreams this year. It’s not as wide-ranging, as rollicking, or as passionate as years past, but… 2016. It’s been a shit year.