What Makes New York-Style Pizza Special?

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A GREAT NEW YORK PIZZA SLICE

Lombardi’s Pizza New York Style
Lombardi’s Pizza

The slice joint is one of New York City’s most hallowed culinary institutions. No NYC neighborhood is complete without at least a handful of pizzerias, which can range in quality from merely “pretty good” to undeniably life-changing (there’s really no such thing as a quantifiably bad New York slice). New York-style pizza is what most of us think of when we think of “pizza,” but what is it, exactly, and who makes the best?

What is New York-Style Pizza?

New York-style pizza can be identified with just a glance: the pies themselves are big, round, and thin-crusted, and the slices they’re cut into can measure up to a foot (or more) from end to end.

Construction of a classic NYC round pie starts with the crust, which is usually made with just flour, water, yeast, and usually a bit of salt, sugar, and oil; it’s rolled into a ball, allowed to proof for a day or so, then stretched out (tossing it over your head is optional) and topped with tomato sauce, shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese (the block stuff, not the fresh stuff), and any other desired toppings. 

The raw pizza is then carefully slid into a hot oven (most pizzerias’ ovens are somewhere in the 550-700 degree range) for just five to ten minutes, until it’s golden brown and bubbly. Then it’s cut into its familiar slices and served.

Of course, you’ll find more than just this classic cheese pie at your average corner slice joint; many offer:

  • “white” pizzas that are topped with only mozzarella and ricotta instead of cheese
  • fresh mozzarella-topped pizzas
  • popular square Sicilian pizza, which has a thick, airy crust that’s baked in an oiled square pan for a crispy bottom.
Totonno’s
Lombardi New York Pepperoni Pizza
Lombardi’s Pizza

What is the Difference Between New York-Style Pizza and “Regular” Pizza?

If your only experience with pizza is from your local fast food joint, then your first bite of real New York City pizza can be nothing short of a revelation. 

The key is in the balance: the perfect NYC pizza slice has:

  • A thin crust that’s sturdy enough to hold the toppings and not get saggy, and crisp enough on the bottom to have a little crunch when you bite into it but not not so much that it splits in two when folded. 
  • It also needs to have the ideal ratio between cheese and sauce to meld perfectly when baked, turning into something greater than the sum of its parts. 
  • All the toppings also need to work in harmony.

While the countless other regional pizza styles out there (rightfully) have their loyal devotees – and are undeniably delicious – there really is nothing like a hot-out-of-the-oven slice from a great New York pizzeria. 

Read More: Our Guide to Regional Pizza Styles

Is New York-Style Pizza Thick or Thin?

This is a little bit of a trick question, because while the classic New York slice is thin-crusted, slice shops also offer the afore-mentioned thick-crusted Sicilian pizza; many also now offer a third variation called “grandma pizza,” which is square like Sicilian pizza but with a crust that’s closer in style to its round cousin.

Read More: Grandma vs. Sicilian Pizza

Loring Place’s Grandma Pizza 2
Loring Place’s Grandma Pizza
Christian Petroni’s Sicilian Pizza
Christian Petroni’s Sicilian Pizza

What Kind of Crust is NY Style Pizza?

The crust on a New York-style pizza is usually as straightforward as it gets – the ingredients are the same as standard bread dough, so a good NYC pizza crust should taste like good bread. Be it thin-crust or Sicilian, the crust should work in harmony with all the other ingredients, and the ring of crust around the outside of a round pie – sometimes referred to as the cornicione – should be golden brown, not too thin or thick in diameter, and just a little puffy.

What Toppings are on a New York-Style Pizza?

Good New York pizza doesn’t need much in the way of toppings – and most pizza purists believe that the true test of a pizzeria is the quality of its plain cheese slice – but should you want to gild the lily, the most popular New York pizza toppings include: 

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Meatball
  • Onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Anchovies

Most Famous New York Pizzas

There are obviously more pizzerias in New York City than you can count (or conceivably visit in a lifetime), but across the five boroughs, some stand out as absolute must-visits for tourists and locals alike. Not only are these pizzerias great, they’re also shipping nationwide!

John’s of Bleecker Street Pizza

Manhattan: John’s of Bleecker Street

John’s of Bleecker Street was founded in Greenwich Village by Italian immigrant Giovanni “John” Sasso way back in 1929, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of what NYC-style pizza tasted like a hundred years ago. All of John’s pizzas are baked in coal-fired brick ovens, just as they were in John’s day. 

Coal pizza ovens are all but extinct in New York these days because they’re incredibly difficult to operate and maintain, but they impart a smoky char that traditional electric ovens can’t touch. The world has changed a lot since 1929, but at John’s, they’re still making traditional coal-fired pizza the old-fashioned way, and folks line up around the block for it on a daily basis.

Joe’s and Pat’s Pizzeria

Staten Island: Joe’s and Pat’s Pizzeria

“The King of Staten Island Pizza” since 1960, Joe and Pat’s Pizzeria is still run by the same family that founded it, the Pappalardos. The crust is super-thin and crisp but still retains a pleasing chewiness, and the toppings all intermingle into a perfectly balanced, slightly sweet, slightly gooey pool of sublimely saucy, cheesy goodness. Try their famous vodka pie, made with creamy vodka sauce instead of traditional tomato sauce.

Di Fara Pizza

Brooklyn: Di Fara Pizza

Quite possibly New York’s most famous slice joint (with the most famously long line), Di Fara Pizza is located in the working-class Brooklyn neighborhood of Midwood, and was founded by Dom DeMarco back in 1965. Pretty much every paper, major food critic, and the Zagat Survey has named Di Fara New York’s very best pizzeria. Dom sadly passed away in 2022, but his children continue to carry on his legacy of round and Sicilian pizzas made with the absolute highest-quality available ingredients.

You can find New York-style pizza from coast to coast, but there’s nothing like the real thing. Shop now to have real-deal NY pizza shipped straight from New York City to your door!

Dan-Meyers
Dan Myers

Dan Myers is Goldbelly’s Senior Content Manager and Senior Editor of the Goldbelly Blog. He joined Goldbelly in 2020, and as the company’s primary copywriter he also writes copy for all brand marketing initiatives including marketing emails as well as on-page descriptions for all new merchants and products.

Before joining Goldbelly, Dan spent seven years as Deputy Editor for The Daily Meal, a food and drink website. During his time there, he wrote everything from news briefs to major tentpoles including the 101 Best Restaurants in America and the 50 Best Burgers in America, forming a base of knowledge that has served him well at Goldbelly.

Prior to joining The Daily Meal, Dan founded and spent several years running a neighborhood blog called Here’s Park Slope, based out of the neighborhood in Brooklyn. Its primary focus was on the opening and closing of local businesses (especially restaurants), and it was named Brooklyn’s Best Neighborhood Blog by The L Magazine.

Dan graduated from NYU with a degree in Communication & Mass Media, and still lives in Brooklyn with his wife Janie and French Bulldog, Nugget.