Last week, mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio took part in a Reddit AMA, and while it wasn’t the most illuminating of AMAs, there was one important piece of information revealed: De Blasio’s favorite slice in New York comes from Di Fara in Midwood. De Blasio then laid down the gauntlet saying, “To all the Manhattan foodies out there: it’s not even close. This is clearly the best.” Oh! Whoa. Way to take a stand there, Bill! Except, well, Di Fara is pretty much every Manhattan foodie’s favorite slice already. Any self-respecting foodie (and foodies have nothing if not self-respect…the respect of others? debatable) has made the pilgrimage out to Avenue J and waited patiently for Dom DeMarco to sprinkle freshly chopped basil and grated parmigiano on top of the fresh-out-of-the-oven pies. And, despite the $5-a-slice cost, a Di Fara slice is worth the wait and the slog on the Q train. It’s really that good.
See more great slices in 2016’s top-ten here.
But what about other Brooklyn slices? Brooklyn might get a lot of accolades for its pizza—after all this is the home-borough of not only Di Fara, but also Totonno’s, Grimaldi’s, Juliana’s, Motorino, Roberta’s, Paulie Gee’s, and PeteZaaz among others—but most of the acclaimed places only offer pies. And pies are great! But sometimes you just want a slice, you know? Sometimes, you just want to grab something for a few bucks (hopefully less than five!) and walk out eating it folded up in your hand. Well then, these ten places are for you. They offer some of the best slices in Brooklyn, and can all be had for three dollars or under within a few minutes of ordering. Di Fara is great, but these places are pretty damn great too. Oh, and in the interest of fairness, we only ordered plain slices. There was no fucking around with Buffalo chicken à la Joe Lhota. If you want Buffalo chicken, you’re on your own.
All photos by Kristin Iversen
Best Pizza; 33 Havemeyer Street, Williamsburg
It’s right there in the name, isn’t it? But also, this small pizza place on a mostly residential block not far from the thundering BQE makes a really solid slice. The crust is very thin and while at times it can maybe be a bit floppy, it still holds a fold well. The sauce is tangy, and the cheese isn’t put on with too heavy a hand, which is a rare but nice touch. Plus, each slice comes crowned with a fresh piece of basil, which adds a nice bit of sweetness, without being too heavy-handed. And even though we’re only dealing in plain slices here, I’d be remiss not to mention the pepperoni slice, which is topped with just three slices of extra-large pepperoni and is delicious and not too greasy. Totally worth a trip, borough-wide.
J&V Pizzeria; 6322 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst
I won’t lie. When I asked around about people’s favorite slices in the borough and my brother told me that I had to try J&V, I groaned at the prospect of dragging myself to Bensonhurst. But then I remembered how I made the mistake of not including an otherworldly sandwich from another Bensonhurst institution, Lioni’s Italian Heroes, in a list I made of great Brooklyn sandwiches, and I hauled ass over to 18th Avenue for a slice from J&V. And I was so glad I did! J&V has been in business since 1950, and it’s pretty clear why after just one slice. It’s very cheese-heavy, but the cheese isn’t rubbery or chewy, it just melts in your mouth. The sauce is really flavorful and sweet, the perfect counterpoint to all that cheese. And the crust is perfect…sturdy and cut in a generous triangle that’s perfect for folding. Get yourself out to Bensonhurst for one of these slices as soon as you can. It’s got loads of grease, but (shh!) that’s what makes it taste so good.
Ciccio’s; 207 Avenue U, Gravesend
I thought J&V was old-school Italian, but Ciccio’s is another slice joint that always tends to have at least four or five guys sitting out front, not doing much of anything, no matter the time of day. Step past those guys (who’ve always been very friendly in my experience) and order a plain slice, which might just have the best crust I’ve experienced. The crust is firm, but chewy, and full of air pockets, almost in the manner of a great baguette. The sauce is savory and spread liberally on the crust, while the cheese is not overdone. But the crowning touch is a smattering of sesame seeds which maybe shouldn’t make sense, but absolutely do. They add a nuttiness that I never knew was missing from my pizza, but is now all I want to have.
Layla Jones; 214 Court Street, Cobble Hill
So this might look like a square slice, and I guess it is technically square, but it is absolutely not a Sicilian slice, in that it doesn’t have a thick, puffy crust. Instead, this plain slice from Layla Jones has a regular, thin crust, but it’s one with a frankly delightful chewy and airy consistency that some people might find undercooked, but that I find to be a nice change from the too-charred crusts that are pretty common in many pizzerias. The sauce is sweet and mild, and the cheese is put on at a good ratio to the sauce and crust. Overall, this is the kind of slice that disappears in seconds, leaving you wanting more. And more. And more.
Pino’s La Forchetta; 181 7th Avenue, Park Slope
Well, so. You really need to like cheese to like a Pino’s slice. But if you like cheese? If you really, really like cheese? Then you’ll love a Pino’s slice. This is a no-frills Brooklyn pizzeria, and the slices are simple, but delicious and filling. I don’t know if it’s just the nostalgia factor kicking in, but I love everything about Pino’s, from the late hours it keeps, to the orange benches and tables in the restaurant itself, to the fact that infused in each slice is some magical and mighty powerful hangover cure power. It’s miraculous how much better a slice or two of Pino’s and a root beer can make you feel after a night of drinking.
Pizza Time; 1324 Avenue J, Midwood
Pizza Time bears the mixed blessing of being one block away from De Blasio’s (and everyone’s) favorite slice place, Di Fara. And while it might be true that no pizzeria would want to go head-to-head with Di Fara, there are some benefits with being so close to the maestro’s shop…especially when that shop is frequently closed, and always has long lines when it’s open. Pizza Time definitely gets some run-off from Di Fara but also attracts its own followers, due in no small part to the fact that it’s a kosher pizzeria in this heavily Jewish section of Brooklyn. But I wouldn’t have put it on the list if it didn’t also provide a solid slice. Unlike many kosher pizzerias, the crust isn’t doughy at all. Rather it’s thin and crunchy (really, there was an audible snap when I folded it) and cooked long enough that the cheese blisters and bubbles and melds perfectly with the sauce. Look, Dom DeMarco didn’t make this, but it’s a fine alternative if you’re in Midwood and Di Fara is closed or crowded or if you don’t want to spend five bucks on a slice.
Not Ray’s; 690 Fulton Street, Fort Greene
Eat a plain slice at Not Ray’s and be prepared for that old-school pizza experience of orange grease rivers running through your fingers and down your forearms. This slice is good for both cheese-lovers and sauce-lovers because it’s liberally covered in both. The sauce is heavy on the oregano, and that herbal flavor really complements the unctuous cheese. The crust can feel a little heavy (on an off-slice it’s even a bit soggy) but that just adds to the gut-bomb aspect that you sometimes really crave in a slice. This isn’t one of those Layla Jones slices, where you can easily polish off three or four. One slice of Not Ray’s will satisfy you for a long time to come. Just ask a trusted friend if you’ve got oregano stuck in your teeth when you’re done. Pro-tip: You probably do.
L&B Spumoni Gardens; 2725 86th Street, Gravesend
So, I cheated a little bit with L&B. This list has only been comprised of plain slices so far. But the plain slice at L&B? Is only average. It’s not terrible, but it’s kind of bland. You can see it in the image above, photo-bombing the real star of the show, the square slice. The L&B square slice is everything you want in a piece of pizza. Every bite is both a flavor punch and a study in textural contrasts. The pies are made fresh all day long, and business is always hopping, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a piping hot square, right out of the oven. Ask for a corner slice, or at the very least a side, so that you can enjoy the ultra-crunchy crust edges, along with the pillowy center. L&B is a sauce-based operation, which is fine, because the sauce here is intense—tangy but sweet, garlicky yet not too pungent. The sprinkling of parmigiano on top makes for the perfect final layer of umami goodness. This is pizza perfection.
Front Street; 80 Front Street, DUMBO
Not unlike Pizza Time, Front Street has some pretty well known pizzeria contenders in the neighborhood to do battle with. But because those neighbors are Grimaldi’s and Julianna’s and because they only serve pies, Front Street wins the battle of the DUMBO slices, hands down. But also? The slices are really great! They’re huge, first of all, not quite as big as the Koronet slices of my youth, but still a really decent size. And the crust is decent and stands up to the size of the slice. But what I really love is the sauce. It’s just a solid, savory and sweet marinara, that’s also used to great effect on the chicken parm heroes and as a dipping sauce for Front Street’s incredible chicken rolls. Sometimes it’s best to forget the lines at Grimaldi’s and the high prices of Juliana’s, Front Street has you covered.
Smiling Pizza; 323 7th Avenue, Park Slope
So, here’s the thing. If something’s good enough for Patrick Stewart, it’s good enough for me. And last spring, Park Slope resident and all around amazing actor, Sir Patrick Stewart went to Smiling Pizza for his first ever pizza slice. He ate it using the tried-and-true fold technique and he liked it. So, because it is always my dream to be more and more like Patrick Stewart, I went to Smiling Pizza and ate a slice. And it was good. It’s greasy, sure, but I like a
little lot of grease on my pizza. It’s cheesy, sure, but I like a little lot of cheese on my pizza. It’s cheap and satisfying and perfect when you’re hungover. Which Patrick Stewart was when he ate it! As was I! If this is the closest I’ll ever feel to Sir Patrick, I’ll take it.
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