Pizza is a touchy topic when it comes to New Yorkers – we all have very strong opinions about what spot does it best. Throughout the past 6 years, I have been on a journey to understand what makes a great pie and why the famous spots in New York are so good. A history of food specifically catered to pizza.
In this journey, I have made my own list of the spots I think you should check out instead of blindly typing “pizza” into Seamless. At the top of my list is Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana, I’ll say it here with my chest: it’s the best pizza in New York.
From Naples to New York City: Pizza Comes to America
Totonno’s is located at 1524 Neptune Avenue, in Coney Island, Brooklyn just a few blocks from the ocean. It all started in 1903 when Anthony “Totonno” Pero came to America from Naples, Italy, and began working at Lombardi’s (another fantastic pizza spot) in Little Italy. Lombardi’s, previously a grocery store, became the first licensed pizzeria in America and Totonno became the first pizzaiolo. Totonno opened his pizzeria in 1924 and it has passed down through various generations – now run by his grandchildren.
Antoinette Balzano, one of Totonno’s granddaughter’s who runs Totonno’s with her siblings, has said that without her “grandfather, Lombardi’s would still be a grocery store. So you hear all this credit being given to Lombardi’s. Yes, they are the first pizzeria in America, but nobody ever gives credit that (my grandfather) Anthony is the pizzaiolo who brought pizza to America. And it kills me.” Despite this pizzeria not being number one on many lists – I’m constantly suggesting Totonno’s to friends and tourists because I know it’s underhyped and I have scoured the city for a better pie and can’t find it, and they always come back to me with rave reviews.
Sit and Have a Slice…or a Pie
The pizzeria has walls adorned with an amazing history in pictures, from tons of celebrities at Totonno’s to various Zagat reviews. It’s cash only in a nostalgic New York way, but the pizza is good enough you won’t resent going to that ATM to take out money. Totonno’s, just like Lombardi’s, specializes in coal-fired pizza.
When dining at Totonno’s, you wait in line outside for a table to open up. The pizzeria serves water in dixie cups and pizza on paper plates – in a no-nonsense fashion. Your server is definitely going to be Cookie – Totonno’s granddaughter. Pizzas are made to order and you have two options – small at 17.50 or a large pie at 23.00, each topping comes in at 2.50 each – from sausage to pepperoni, they have it all. The crust is thin, crispy, and charred in all the right places.
Pizza Street Cred
I had to get the opinion of locals to further prove my claim that this is the best pizza in New York. Marissa M. from Brooklyn said, “Hands down this is the best pizza in New York. I don’t usually eat crusts but I do every time I’m at Totonno’s. The tomato sauce is sweet, the bottom isn’t soggy. It’s worth the trip to Coney Island.” Aaron C. who grew up in Brooklyn said that the pizza is, “iconic Brooklyn pizza. Perfection at a high standard, although the trek to Coney Island is a hassle.” If a train ride is your biggest complaint about a pizzeria, I think they’re doing pretty good.
Everyone in New York, and even people outside of the area, have a lot to say about pizza – understandably. Food is an emotional and nostalgic experience that creates amazing memories, and when it comes to pizza the bar is very high. Tune in next time for number 2 on my list of the best pizza in New York, here’s a hint: it’s Beyonce’s favorite pizza spot.