Whenever talk turns to New York, folks inevitably start arguing. It’s almost instinctual, really. Whether you are talking about the city’s favorite sports teams, politics, or entertainment – it seems like nobody can agree about anything. Fortunately, there is one item that unifies all: pizza.
The first pizzeria in the U.S. was opened in NYC in 1905. Now – nearly 110 years later – there are more that 9,000 pizzerias in New York alone. So how do you weed out the places that are not worth your time? If you’re on your own, it can be pretty difficult. Luckily, New York foodie Dean Cutler, Scarsdale, NY native, has decided to step in and offer some advice.
To find the perfect slice, Cutler says it’s crucial to realize that “everyone is different.”
“Almost everyone is looking for something different in their slice of pizza,” he insists. “Second thing is, you have to know where to look. Because every single deli is starting to put out a pie, you have to ensure that you’re going to the places in town that have been making pies for a long time. These are the places that have stood the test of time and can make you the best slice you’ve ever had.”
Dean Cutler notes that there are specific characteristics to judge a pizza by – including, but not limited to: the crust, sauce, cheese, and balance.
The rules are specific and detailed – the crust should be checked to see if it is “too pale, overcooked, charred, or just right.” The sauce should be made by San Marzano tomatoes. Beyond that, one should consider how fresh the tomatoes are and how well they are seasoned. Cutler says that it's also important to “understand the difference between fresh mozzarella and processed” as “the fat content will also make a difference.” He reminds one and all to look at the greasiness after the cheese is melted.
“In a great pizza, all elements should work well together,” he says. “The cheese, sauce, and dough should all complement each other. Consider if anything stands out from the rest, or overpowers the other components.”
After it is put together, the cooking method is just as important. Coal fired and wood fired stoves both produce good pizza – preference relies on taste. And after that? Presentation is the bow around the basket.
“The look of a slice can make all the difference,” Cutler said. “A square cut or wedge shape, or spots of color, can affect the aesthetics of the slice, as well.”
For those who indulge in the dollar slice craze, he warns that it’s a double edged sword:
“If slices are being made even cheaper, restaurants are going to be forced to start using cheaper ingredients, which often presents difficulties when trying to put out a good product. Good food costs more money than mediocre food. But I think it's a good thing for people who are looking to pop in, grab a slice, and keep it moving. Buck a slice, for the most part, is a great thing.”
For those visiting or new to New York, Dean Cutler made it a point to mention a few of his favorites: South Brooklyn Pizza, Di Fara Pizza, Best Pizza in Brooklyn and Joe's Pizza, Posto, and Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza in Manhattan.
We all know and love the Big Apple. It has beautiful art. Great diversity. A certain funky smell that no one can quite place. But while New York is famous for all those things, it is only legendary for one. The next time you visit, apply everything you learned today and get yourself a pie you’ll be able to brag to all your friends about.