Time Out New York has published a list of their top 25 pies in the city. Though I usually go with the classic, traditional pies (be it margherita, “regular,” “plain,” etc.) I do love some specialty ones as well. Check this out for some great suggestions!
This weekend Scott & I went on our second Scott’s Pizza Tour, but this time we did the bus tour – 4.5 hours and 4 stops (the other option is a walking tour; 3 stops). Though the destinations change every time, we knew this one was headed to the Bronx. I’d never really go up there otherwise, so this was the perfect chance!
Like all of Scott’s Tours, we started out at Lombardi’s, the first licensed pizzeria in North America. Though this happened in 1905, I actually learned today that they were closed for a bit and only opened back up in the 90s. Cuuuuurious. I also took notes this time around in my handy SPT journal – so get ready for some detail!
Their pizza cooks in 3 minutes, and has an extremely thin but still chewy AND crunchy crust. The longer the pie cooks in the oven (and 3 minutes is on the longer end for coal-fired ovens), the firmer the crust is. I found that our pie had more sauce and less cheese than usual – I’m a cheese girl all the way, screw sauce if I have to choose one! Lombardi’s uses fresh mozzarella, and the sauce was sweet but slightly tart. Scott and I agreed there was less char than we remembered, but that can also be attributed to the heat of the oven at this particular time. Lombardi’s keeps their oven running at all times, and the temperature changes depending on time of day. I also learned that Lombardi’s doesn’t cook their sauce – a technique I think I might try!
Our second stop was Patsy’s in East Harlem. I’ve heard so many good things about Patsy’s and even though it’s technically in Manhattan, it’s always been too far for me to venture. But alas, not today – not on pizza bus tour day!
One of the best parts of Scott’s tours is that you more of an inside look at how the pizzerias are run. We literally went into the kitchen at half of the places. Above, you can see a dough machine at Patsy’s and the flour they use to make their pizzas. It was super fine; I had last seen “00” rated flour in Italy – so this is legit.
Here’s the oven at Patsy’s – their pizza cooks in 2 minutes and, like Lombardi’s, is coal-burning. The faster bake gives it a softer crust, but it was still crunchy in parts, especially around the edges.
The crust was very charred, and the cheese stringy – Patsy’s uses low-moisture mozzarella instead of fresh. It was more “wet” than Lombardi’s pie because of this, and also because there was a lot more sauce. The sauce was savory and rich.
Alright, so now we’ve moved out of Manhattan and into the Bronx. As soon as Scott mentioned Arthur Avenue, I know what was next: Zero Otto Nove. I’ve been to the one in Manhattan on 21st, but nothing’s like the original! They had such a cool setup – bar and lobby in the front, then a long, narrow hallway to a larger, open courtyard-esque area in the back. The name Zero Otto Nove – which translates to 089 in Italian – signifies the area code of the region of Italy where they’re from: Salerno. I LOVE TRIVIA.
We were seated up above in a separate area and could look down on the pizza-making. Scott and I were tasked with timing the pizza in the oven – our average was around 1 minute, 35 seconds. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? You can barely microwave anything decent in that time. But their oven is wood-burning, and dome-shaped so that it heats faster.
This is Neapolitan-style pizza, JUST like Italy. They put some olive oil on before it goes in the oven; and of course use fresh mozzarella. The wood-burning oven gives an excellent char to the chewy, fluffy crust and their sauce is a bit salty (good thing!). Because it cooked for so little time, the crust was definitely softer – which just makes me eat faster. They top it off with just a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano cheese once it’s out of the oven. I’m obsessed – I may have volunteered to take an extra slice that was left over…
Scott was very diligent in the pizza-timing. We caught on to their technique – put it in the oven for about 40 seconds, take it out to turn it around, back in for a bit. It seems that the tops were finishing first, so they would take them out of the oven for about 10 seconds, then put them back in. So interesting!
Here’s the oven at Zero Otto Nove. Thanks to Scott’s fancy tools, we were told that the inside was an average of 848 degrees Fahrenheit – which is actually lower than the temperature of Patsy’s and Lombardi’s, which were over 900.
Our last stop was at Louie & Ernie’s, where we finally got a good helping of traditional, New York-style pizza. The people inside were really confused by our large group, but didn’t hesitate to offer up suggestions and sing L&E’s praises!
Traditional New York-style pizzas like this one are cooked in deck ovens (probably what you’re most used to seeing in pizza joints) around 550 degrees Fahrenheit – therefore they cook for longer and have a crunchier crust. I loved this crust, the edges were basically cracking off it was so crunchy. As you can see, they’ve got some seasoning in there – oregano, black pepper. This was the only pie I had to blot since it was so oily – but what do you expect from a NY slice? It was super cheesy (low moisture!) making the sauce not so present, as it actually ends up blending with the cheese when it cooks. I will say this – it was really consistently cooked, and my fellow tour-mates agreed!
Now… I couldn’t just leave it be after 4.5 slices of pizza.. so when we were dropped back off in SoHo, I had to get a cupcake. I made Scott come with me and swung by Georgetown Cupcake on Mercer Street.
I chose the peanut butter fudge cupcake, and myyyyy god – creamy peanut butter icing, but it doesn’t overwhelm the moist chocolate cake. It did start falling apart a bit, but that was okay – I wanted to eat it more than I wanted it to stay together!
Siiiigh. A long weekend of eating, and I’m still hungry after looking at the pictures.
Victorious! Here’s me, Scott, and Scott (confusing) after the tour, with the stylish pizza tour bus. This man knows everything. Go on one of his tours; it will change your life.
Lombardi’s: 32 Spring Street; http://www.firstpizza.com
Patsy’s: 2287 1st Avenue (at 118th St); http://www.thepatsyspizza.com
Zero Otto Nove: 2357 Arthur Avenue, Bronx; http://roberto089.com
Louie & Ernie’s: 1300 Crosby Avenue, Bronx
Georgetown Cupcake: 111 Mercer Street; http://www.georgetowncupcake.com