Liam Quigley would wager the average New Yorker eats a slice of pizza a week. But average Quigley is not. For the past eight years, Quigley ate 464 slices — roughly 58 a year — in and around the New York City metropolitan area (Jersey included). And after all’s been said, eaten, and done, he’s got a few bones to pick with NYC’s pizza scene.
“The overall quality of slices seemed to go down,” Quigley said.
Like one collects vintage coins or Jordans, Quigley collected pizzas. In 2013, Quigley started uploading photos of single pizza slices on to his Instagram account, aptly titled NYC Slices.
“I thought, ‘Well, I should put all these slices I’m eating in one place,’” Quigley said. “If I’m in a neighborhood I haven’t been in in a while, I can look back on a slice from a year or two years ago and say, ‘Oh, that place had a really good slice of pizza.’”
What began as a casual hobby soon turned into a bona fide data journalism project. Quigley logged all his pizza data — name, address, price — onto a spreadsheet, which he crafted into a map. He tracked pizza slice prices from 2014 to 2022 (the average price of a plain slice has gone up by 58 cents), and extrapolated some conclusions from his venture.
On his website, he wrote: “The biggest thing I have noticed is the decline in the amount of sauce put on slices. I’m sure this is a cost-saving measure, but the overall quality of your average slice in the city has definitely suffered.”
Quigley didn’t always set out for pizza — though he often found himself at a pizza joint for lunch anyway — and popped in to any of the ubiquitous pizzerias he passed, primarily on his bike, on the way to work, out in the field as a freelance journalist, or while visiting his grandma on Staten Island.
“These are all organic encounters with New York City slices,” Quigley said.
As for the best slices, per Quigley? The best pizza slices are in Queens, with the Bronx taking the silver medal, and Manhattan and Brooklyn tied for third. One pizza spot in Staten Island made Quigley’s list.
In no particular order — Quigley emphasized, as to avoid controversy — Quigley listed the below locations that serve the best pizza slices:
- Margherita Pizza, 163-04 Jamaica Avenue
- Ozone Pizzeria, 9615 Liberty Avenue
- Ciro Pizza Cafe, 862 Huguenot Avenue
- Pizza D’Amore, 208 Beach 116th St
- Sam’s Pizza, 232 W 231st Street
- PG Pizza, 904 Morris Avenue
- Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine St
- Bleecker Street Pizza, 69 7th Avenue South
- Pizza Place, 4024 White Plains Road
- Big John’s Pizza, 219-11 Jamaica Avenue
- Mario’s Pizzeria, 224 Dekalb Avenue
- Sunnyside Pizza, 4001 Queens Blvd
- New Park Pizza, 156-71 Cross Bay Blvd
Quigley did make repeat visits to a couple pizza spots during his saga, which are “places that happen to be really good pizzerias where the quality stayed consistent.” Regardless, those pizzerias were not immune to price hikes. So which pizzas did Quigley go back for?
“Margherita Pizza on Jamaica Ave. I probably went there four or five times,” Quigley said. “And Joe’s in the city. I went three or four times.”
If they’re so good, why stop at 464 slices?
“I was getting a little bit tired of going to a pizza place and knowing that the slice was not going to be very good,” Quigley said. “It was just kind of upsetting to keep eating a lot of bad pizza.”
Quigley noted several characteristics that made for what he deemed a “bad” pizza slice. If it looks like its been sitting out for 10 hours, don’t even bother: Just throw in the garbage. Or if the spot serves single slices only as an afterthought, save yourself the pain.
There was but a weak correlation between cost and quality. While a pricier, slice could be slathered with sauce or dripping with cheese, it didn’t always make for a good time. Said Quigley: “A lot of gross slices had plenty of bad sauce and plenty of bad cheese.”
“It’s so upsetting because over the years I got this knowledge of where the good slices are,” Quigley said. “But I’m sitting here, like near the Port Authority eating a plain slice for almost four bucks.”
The average price of a NYC pizza slice is around $3, and they can be found in all five boroughs and if you have $6.53, you can splurge on a very-expensive pepperoni slice at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza in Times Square.
Pizza is everywhere, said Quigley, and there’s no stopping them, which the native New Yorker noted bounced back quickly after the pandemic.
“Pizza is utilitarian,” Quigley quipped. “I don’t romanticize it that much. Good pizza is good pizza.”