What Is New York Style Pizza?
If you’ve ever been to New York City, you surely found the time to grab a slice of pizza. NYC is home to hundreds of slice joints, pizzerias, and pizza restaurants serving the city’s iconic and unique pizza. The New York style slice grew out of Neapolitan style pizza when Italian immigrants brought pizza to NYC—and America—in the early 1900s. New York style pizza has slices that are large and wide with a thin crust that is foldable yet crispy.
It is traditionally topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, with any extra toppings placed on top of the cheese. Pizza without additional toppings is called “plain,” “regular,” or “cheese.”
The pizza is usually sold by the slice or as a whole pie, which is quite large— typically 18 inches—and is cut into eight slices. Customers often purchase a slice that is eaten on the go by folding it in half vertically. New York style pizza was traditionally cooked in a coal fired-oven, and while a few places still use that method, most places nowadays use a regular gas oven.
History of New York Style Pizza
New York style pizza began with the opening of America’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, by Gennaro Lombardi in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan in 1905, which served large, wide pies. An employee, Antonio Totonno Pero, cooked the pizzas and slices were sold for 5¢. In 1924, he left the shop to open his own pizzeria, Totonno’s, in Coney Island.
Both Lombardi’s and Totonno’s used coal-fired ovens, as did Patsy’s in Harlem, which opened in 1933, and all three restaurants are still open today. Di Fara Pizza, which opened in 1964 and has been run by Domenico DeMarco since then, serves what many believe to be the best pizza in New York City, a combination of New York and Neapolitan styles.
Dozens of pizzerias in NYC go by the name Ray’s Pizza or its many iterations ("Famous Ray's Pizza," "Ray's Original Pizza," and "World-Famous Original Ray's Pizza") and are generally all independently owned, although a few have multiple locations. In 1959, Ralph Cuomo opened the first Ray's Pizza, in Little Italy, which closed in October 2011.
What Goes into a New York Style Pizza?
New York style pizza has more ingredients than a traditional Neapolitan pizza. Sugar and olive oil are usually added to high-gluten bread flour, yeast, and water to create the dough, which is hand-tossed. Some people say the unique flavor and texture of the crust occurs because of the minerals that are only found in NYC’s tap water.
The heavily-seasoned, cooked tomato sauce is typically made of olive oil, canned tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and herbs like oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper, as opposed to the simple Neapolitan sauce, made from uncooked crushed tomatoes and salt. The cheese is always grated low-moisture mozzarella, not the fresh slices you’ll find on Neapolitan style pizza.
Common condiments to put on top of a slice after it comes out of the oven include garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and grated Parmesan cheese.