When you think of iconic New York foods, the choices are plentiful. You’ve got bagels and hot dogs, doubles and bacon-egg-and-cheese (on a roll, preferably). Halal chicken over rice. Pastrami on rye. But we’d argue that pizza is one of the most iconic — if not the most — of them all.
In New York, the question is less about what pizza means to you. It’s really: What pizza defines you? Ask any New Yorker for their opinions on pizza and they can probably serve you an entire dissertation on the subject.
And that’s essentially what we’ve done here. We sought the insights of our fellow New Yorkers from all over the city to ask them for their pizza opinions on where to grab a slice; where to go for a proper sit-down meal; and where they go when they want to feel right at home.
Our first question for them: What makes pizza in New York so special?
Welcome to All Things Pizza Week at Resy.
Born in Manila, in the Philippines, Pilar Valdes’ oldest memories are dotted with square slices from Magoo’s and Shakey’s cracker-thin crusts with cheese, garlic, and anchovies. She’s now the chef-in-residence for The Drew Barrymore Show.
“I pretty much only eat pizza in New York. I am sure there is phenomenal pizza out there that I’m missing out on, but I think after 20-plus years in the city, New York and the act of eating pizza is very much intertwined in my brain. I’m in a fairly monogamous relationship with New York pizza. And I’ll eat it all: corner greasy slice, the local joint, the fancy place with market ingredients — I really just love eating pizza. But always with one pretty strict condition: always with my hands, and more often than not, folded. No utensils, please.”
Nantasha Williams is a homegrown New York City Council Member for District 27 in Southeast Queens. She’s a community leader, social justice advocate, and political organizer, affecting real change in her neighborhoods.
“It’s one of those New York City things: hot dogs, pizza, pretzels. Like bodegas and corner stores, you can find a pizza shop anywhere. It may not be the greatest, but they’re really quick, and extremely accessible. It also speaks to the New York minute: eat really quick and continue on with your life. I didn’t realize until I studied abroad in Italy, in Milan, that we had so many types of pizza here. A New York slice can stand up to Italy!”
This is a walking city; pizza is a product of the way the city was built.— Serhan Ayhan
Accompanied by nearly 1 million Instagram followers, Jeremy Jacobowitz (née Brunch Boys) goes on food adventures around the globe in search of hidden culinary gems.
“To me, it’s still the slice shop. Yeah, you can go back deeper in New York City to what defines it here, but I travel all over the world, and I’ve had pizza, and no one’s been able to replicate a New York slice.”
A former creative director and Scott’s Pizza Tours guide, Miriam Weiskind started making and selling pizzas out of her one-bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn in 2020. Thus began what she calls “The Za Report.” She’s now working on opening her own brick-and-mortar pizzeria in New York.
“Communities are continuing to support the slice shops — it reminds us why we love pizza so much — walk in, walk out, and go where you need to go. Call it dinner, lunch, or in some cases, breakfast!”
Serhan Ayhan is son to Kurdish and Turkish immigrants who opened Boston Pizza (now closed) in Astoria, Queens, in the ’90s, serving New England-style pie. Ayhan is now an Ooni pizza oven ambassador promoting pizza’s past, present, and future @nextlevelpizza.
“It’s a cultural thing. This is a walking city; pizza is a product of the way the city was built. Grab and go. [It’s the] legacy of Naples’ porto folio (pizza). You don’t see that in other parts of the country where you have to drive everywhere.”
Jenny Mollen is a New York Times bestselling author and social media personality whose next book, Dictator Lunches, will be out on Sept 13th. She’s also married to that Jason Biggs guy whose second favorite pie is pizza.
“The fact that it’s not just about the slice itself anymore — you can still get your single slice on a greasy paper plate, but now, you can sit down and have an incredible wine with a Neapolitan pie that could fool you into thinking you were sitting on the coast of Napoli. Also, the creativity that is going into toppings (OG example: the Bee Sting at Roberta’s with hot honey and soppressata).”
Artist Arkadiy Ryabin was born in Ukraine and grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Ryabin is a pizza lover, pursuing pizza exploration in pockets of the tri-state area.
“There’s just a lot of history in it, be it through recipes, approach, or physical location. If you pay attention, you can start to distinguish the differences. It’s not just around, it’s everywhere. Pizza will never die.”
Anoop Desai, aka Totem
Anoop Desai is an actor currently cast as The Djinn in What We Do in the Shadows on FX. Since 2012, he’s also written and recorded music under the pseudonym Totem. Desai loves eating, discussing, and writing about food, and was recently published in the Journal of American Folklore discussing barbecue in the South.
“I feel like the thing now is Neapolitan and Roman-style pizza, but I definitely prefer a New York slice; I think it has to do with the fact it’s not Italy. I was just in Naples and Rome and it’s one thing to taste Da Michele and all these venerated places in Naples — it’s great they’re keeping their purity, but it’s more of less the same thing. In New York City, you can get any style! It’s not this region where there’s no room for riffing. It’s not ‘typical Ray’s,’ or something you would have gotten here 20 to 30 years ago anymore.”
It’s not just around, it’s everywhere. Pizza will never die.— Arkadiy Ryabin
Des Rocs has racked up more than 200 million streams for his 2022 self-recorded (in his bedroom), critically acclaimed debut album, “A Real Good Person In A Real Bad Place.” He’s also opened for the likes of The Rollings Stones and Muse.
“I think Di Fara embodies it perfectly. It’s an emphasis on quality, and for me, I’m a very impatience person, but am so inspired by it because it’s worth the wait. A city that’s defined by on-demand culture. It’s taking time out of the day for yourself.
“We did all-acoustic virtual hangouts with fans during COVID, and to get into it, to get into the pizza party, you had to donate or buy a pie during the pandemic and show proof that you did. It was then a ‘free’ acoustic show. It drove a lot of fans to pizza.”
Jackson Heights, Queens-based DJ Rekha is a producer, curator, activist, and founder of the acclaimed Basement Bhangra (1997-2017), one of New York’s longest-running club nights. They have curated events for Celebrate Brooklyn and Central Park Summerstage.
“Growing up in New York City of my age, pizza slices and subway fares were pretty much on par, but now, pizza is a little more expensive. It’s just really comforting … cheese, sauce, bread — it makes me want to go get a slice right now!”
Tamron Hall is a two-time Emmy Award winning talk show host for her work as executive producer, host, and creator of the Tamron Hall Show. She is also a critically acclaimed author and philanthropist but didn’t know a New York slice until she met her husband, Steve.
“In general, after everything we’ve been through, food reminds us of what makes cities different. For many people, it somehow begins and ends with pizza. There’s an appreciation for those things we just can’t get elsewhere. There’s something so cultural about the pizza experience too, and let’s face it, right now, it’s economic with the inflation of everything, and the price of the slice is demographic, racial … but most of all: it’s identifiable as a human thing in New York City.”
Michael Harlan Turkell is a photographer, writer, and cookbook author. He’s also host of the Modernist Pizza Podcast, which explores the art, history, and science of pizza. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.