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New York Restaurants: History of New York Pizza

This NYC Travel Blog article discusses, ‘New York Restaurants: History of New York Pizza’ and Oldest Pizza Restaurants in New York.

February 12, 2020

No visit to New York would be complete without enjoying a piece (or 2, or 3) of fantastic New York Pizza! Perhaps no other topic is more hotly debated than New York Pizza and which Pizza Restaurant serves up the ‘Best New York Pizza.’ 

In this NYC Travel Blog article; ‘New York Restaurants: History of New York Pizza’ we discuss how this tasty dish became so identifiable and closely associated with the city of New York. We also discuss the list of the ‘Oldest Pizza Restaurants in New York.’

So, let’s get to it!

History of New York Pizza:

If you have visited New York, and even if you have not, you most likely know that ‘Pizza’ and ‘New York’ are very closely associated together. New York City is home to thousands of Pizza Restaurants, the exact number is up for debate, but rest assured you will not have a problem finding a Pizza Restaurant during your next visit to New York. There are many varieties of Pizza Restaurants, old, new, big, small and everything in between, but that was not always the case. 

If you visit New York now it is almost impossible to imagine the city without a Pizza Restaurant on every corner, but the first Pizza Restaurant to open in New York was Lombardi’s which opened in 1905, and it is still open today, just down the street from its original location on Spring Street.

Lombardi’s was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in Little Italy on Spring Street. Lombardi’s noted employee, Antonio Totonno Pero, helped build and open the Pizzeria. They created a large wide Pizza pie that sold their slices for $.05 each and became so popular, they opened a second location in 1924 called ‘Totonno’s’ in Coney Island.  They opened a third location in 1933 called, ‘Patsy’s’ in Harlem.

One of the features that established why Lombardi’s and Totonno’s Pizza became so popular is the way the pies were cooked with authentic coal-fired ovens.  These coal-fired ovens were extremely efficient for establishing and holding the perfect temperature to bake a pie with the very best results – consistently.

Since the opening of Lombardi’s there have been a near countless number of Pizza Restaurants that have opened and closed across the 5 boroughs. Some restaurants have gained award-winning status and others sell, $.99 slices that may not be the best examples of the best New York Pizza. 

In 1964, Di Fara Pizza opened to offer both Neapolitan and New York style pies and this location is still open today. As a visitor to New York, you will see a long list of Pizzeria’s with ‘Ray’s’ in the name, ‘Ray’s Pizza.’ ‘Ray’s Original Pizza,’ ‘Famous Ray’s Pizza’ among others. But for the record Ralph Cuomo opened the very first ‘Ray’s Pizza’ in 1959 and closed in October 2011.

New York Pizza Wars:

There are several things that are hotly debated regarding New York Pizza, including; Ingredients, How to Eat New York Pizza, Which Type of New York Pizza is best?

There are two general types of Pizza’s; New York Pizza and Neapolitan Pizza. Neapolitan Pizza has a very thin crust that tends to puff up on the edges and the crust cooks to a thin crust. The crust tends to become charred in spots which (we believe) add to the special taste of the Neapolitan Pizza. The crust on the Neapolitan Pizza is thin throughout, on top and bottom which is one of the reasons why you can not pick up a slice of the pie with your hands.

A New York Pizza also features a thin crust but this crust will be thicker than the Neapolitan-style pie so it is much easier to pick up a slice, like a ‘New Yorker’ and fold the slice and drain the grease and eat…like a New Yorker.

New York Pizza Ingredients:

Why does New York Pizza taste so good?’ Great question, and the answer is the ingredients. But simply using all the ingredients will not guarantee that you will be able to duplicate the taste and presentation of a genuine New York Pizza. A New York-style Pizza has different ingredients than the also popular Neapolitan Pizza. The final hand-tossed dough is made from yeast, Olive oil, sugar, high-gluten bread flour and perhaps the secret or not so secret ingredient is water – or ‘New York Water.’

The other ingredients include, homemade (of course) Tomato sauce made from canned or cooked off Tomatoes, oregano Basil, crushed red pepper, garlic, sugar and salt for New York-style Pizza. For Neapolitan Pizza, the sauce is made with uncooked crushed Tomatoes, salt and other herbs.  New York-style Pizza can also include a variety of toppings like sausage, pepperoni, onions, vegetables and other toppings, including (the nearly illegal) pineapple and ham toppings.

If you visit New York now it is almost impossible to imagine the city without a Pizza Restaurant on every corner, but the first Pizza Restaurant to open in New York was Lombardi’s which opened in 1905, and it is still open today, just down the street from its original location on Spring Street.

How to Eat New York Pizza:

Neapolitan Pizza almost always must be eaten with a fork due to its light, thin and crunchy crust. A New York-style Pizza, (must) be eaten by holding the slice by the crust, folded in half and tilted so that the tasty grease can be drained off and then the slice can be enjoyed properly.

5 Oldest New York Pizza Restaurants:

1. Lombardi’s
Opened: 1905
Location: 32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
Distance from Hotel Mela: 3.7 Miles

2. Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitano
Opened: 1924
Location: 1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224
Distance from Hotel Mela: 18 Miles

3. John’s of Bleecker Street
Opened: 1929
Location: 278 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
Distance from our Times Square Hotel: 2.8 Miles

4. Eddie’s Pizza
Opened:
1929 (est.)
Location: 2048 Hillside Avenue, New Hyde Park, NY 11040
Distance from Hotel Mela: 21 Miles

5. Patsy’s Pizzeria
Opened: 1933
Location: 2287 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10035
Distance from our Times Square Hotel: 5.8 Miles


Well, if you aren’t craving a tasty slice, or 2, of authentic New York-style Pizza or Neapolitan Pizza now, you may need to check your pulse. There are few things more ‘New York’ than a genuine slice of Pizza, in a decade’s old pizzeria with generations old recipes for making Pizza.

We hope our latest NYC Travel Blog article; ‘New York Restaurants: History of New York Pizza’ has given you some interesting insight on how Pizza has become such a staple of the New York experience. 

Visit our New York Visitor’s Guide for more recommendations for all there is to do, see and experience when visiting New York.

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