Classic NYC pizza
On the list of 'easiest ways to start an argument with a New Yorker', saying something like "yeah, obviously the best pizza place is XX" has got to be in the top five.
(Others, to be explored at later dates: best bagel, most annoying NYC celeb, quickest way to spot a tourist, most underrated cupcake).
The great pizza debate reveals things like how frou frou you are, and whether you actually know your way around the outer boroughs.
It's also the kind of 'discussion' that easily leads to comments like "you're an idiot", "you don't know what you're talking about", or "go back to Kansas"!
So here's my list of the best pizza places in the city, not in any particular order.
If you don't see your favorite listed, it's either because I haven't tried it yet; or because you don't know what you're talking about.
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn; Ave J stop on Q line
This is one of the rare cases where the facts actually match the legend. Yes, there really is a place in the hinterlands of Brooklyn where an old man slowly makes every pie fresh by hand while hungry hipsters wait humbly in an hour-long line to chomp into a slice that will forever redefine the way you measure pizza excellence.
The funny thing is owner Dom DeMarco has a son who's apparently on some sort of extended apprenticeship program--the times I've been there he hasn't been allowed to help make pizzas, just answer phones and fold pizza boxes.
Denino's Pizzeria Taverna
524 Port Richmond Ave, Staten Island; Bus from ferry terminal
After hearing for years about the fabled SI pizza joints, I went here for the first time this past weekend as part of our latest Tabloid Tours excursion. It's the kind of family-friendly place where you run into people in the bathroom who say they've been coming here for 24 years.
I recommend just getting a plain pie, the better to savor the thin, crispy pizza crust that's just about the best I've had. Although come today, an SI native tells us we should've ordered their trademark clam pizza.
And, if it's your thing, Ralph's Ices across the street reportedly has the coolest shaved ices ever.
278 Bleecker Street, West Village; West 4th Street stop on A/C/E/F lines
You can't go wrong with John's if you're looking for an easy-to-get-to restaurant with quintessentially great NYC pizza--or if you're looking to study the uneasy interaction between tourists and locals.
And I think it's West Village law that after John's, you have to stop by next-door Cones for the gelato.
19 Old Fulton Street under the Brooklyn Bridge; A/C to High Street
Ah, the line... I've never seen this place without a huge line, probably because it's right on a major tour bus line and gets all the hype in travel guides for Europeans/Asians. The line does move quickly, and generally your coal oven pizza will be on your table 20 minutes after you sit down.
And I think it's Brooklyn waterfront law that after Grimaldi's, you have to stop by the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
32 Spring Street, Little Italy; Spring Street on the 6 or Bowery on the J/M/Z
The 'first pizzeria in America' opened in 1905, and they're still packing them into the cramped restaurant. I've only gone once, but I remember an unusually fresh pie, with a good crust--they're on this list mainly because of the testimony of trustworthy fellow pizza-lovers. And all that history....
108-26 Ascan Ave, Forest Hills, Queens; E/F/V/R to Continental Ave
The first time I walked into this place I thought I might've had the address wrong--there's nothing to suggest that the shiny, almost-fancy restaurant was anything more than your standard overpriced/overproduced pizza rip-off.
But then, you get the pizza--and it's good, and fresh, and chewy, and definitely worth telling your friends about. Be warned: they don't deliver, so you either have to go there or do carry-out.
Photo of a Grimaldi's pizza by Karen Wiles Stabile for Newsday