New York City Style Pizza

IMG_4637-682x10241.jpgIf you truly love pizza, then you already know that there are only three places in the world to enjoy it in it’s purest form: Southen Italy, Chicago and New York City. I am partial to New York City Pizza whether it is from  John’s in the Village or Lombardi’s on Spring Street or Patsy’s in East Harlem.

New York-style pizza is pizza made with a characteristically large hand-tossed thin crust, often sold in wide slices to go. The crust is thick and crisp only along its edge, yet soft, thin, and pliable enough beneath its toppings to be folded in half to eat. Traditional toppings are simply tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

With the influx of Neapolitan immigrants in the 1890s, pizza arrived in American and was sold on the streets New York City. Unlike those from the old country of Italy, these super-size specimens  were baked in coal-fired (not wood-fired) ovens and evolved into the domainant style of pizza that is eaten in  the New York Metropolitan Area states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and  is variously popular throughout the United States. Regional variations exist throughout the Northeast and elsewhere in the U.S. In New Haven, Connecticut the best pizza houses are   Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, also known as “Pepe’s” and Sally’s Apizza.


In unraveing the culinary history or New York-style pizza, it really began with a man named Filippo Milone, an immigrant pizzaiolo (pizza maker) from Naples, who probably arrived in American in 1892. In about or around 1897, he opened a grocery store on 47 Union Street,  in Red Hook (Brooklyn).  By 1898, Filippo Milone was now going by  the Anglicized name, Phil Malone. Malone established another business at 53½ Spring Street,  in Manhattan. He applied for  permit for a coal-fired bake oven in the summer of 1898 and six years later, he was licensed to sell pizza by New York State establishing the first of many pizzerias.

In 1905 Gennaro Lombardi received a business license to operate a pizzeria restaurant, at 53½  Spring Street location in New York City’s Little Italy. It is unclear as to whether Lombardi’s was actually a franchise belonging to Phil Malone or if Malone sold the business he established to Lomadari.  At this location Lombardi also began selling tomato pies wrapped in butcher paper and tied with a string at lunchtime to workers from the area’s factories. Soon Lombardi had a clientele that included the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.



Anthony (Totonno) Pero came to America in 1903 and  began working  at Lombardi’s in tonnato.jpgLittle Italy. As an employee of Lomabardi’s, Pero also began making  tomato pies that closely resemble the NYC style pizza we know today. Pero sold  the pies for five cents each. Many people, however, could not afford a whole pie and instead would offer what they could in return for a corresponding sized slice. In 1924, Totonno left Lombardi’s  and followed the path of  the expanding New York City Subway lines to open his own pizzeria on Coney Island, called Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana. The pizzerias was not only famous for it’s pies, but was well known for it  unusual business hours, it only closed whenever the dough ran  out!

In 2009, Totonno’s was awarded one of the highest awards in the culinary industry….the James Beard Award– in the category of America’s Classics.


1450209408.pngBy 1929 John Sasso opened John’s Pizzeria on Sullivan Street, in the Heart of Greenwich Village. After losing his lease on Sullivan Street,  Sasso dismantled his original coal fired brick oven and moved it to 278 Bleecker Street where he continued to run and grow his business and refine his pizza recipe to perfection.

Sasso ran his business until 1954 when he sold the pizzeria to the Vesce Brothers. Augustine (Chubby) Vesce bought the business from his brothers and he continued to own and operate John’s pizzeria until he passed away in 1984, passing his legacy on.

John’s is still family owned and operated and we are honored to have the opportunity to continue serving our world famous Pizza. The “Hallmarks” of John’s of Bleecker St. are the coal fired brick ovens that churn out hundreds of crispy pizza’s daily. It’s a different world from what it was in 1929, but John’s is still making the same traditional coal fired pizza in the oven that started it all back on Sullivan Street. 

According to the Village Voice, “Beyond the salty, greasy cheese and heavily charcoal-kissed crust, it’s the piquancy of John’s sauce that remains the most remarkable thing about the offerings at this standard-bearer in the NYC pizza pantheon… With its faded murals and deeply worn wooden booths, the place is a museum.”

John’s doesn’t sell slices, but they will sell you a whole pie, which you will want to eat anyways.

In 1933 newlyweds Pasquale “Patsy’”  and Carmella Lancieri opened Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem at 2287-91 1st Avenue in 1933. Patsy’s  quickly established itself as a family style, old-fashioned neighborhood restaurant that catered to the growing population of Italian immigrants who longed for the cuisine of their homeland in a casual family style atmosphere. Also attracted were New Yorkers who wished to taste the new culinary expertise of the Italian immigrants. Almost immediately, the atmosphere, style and cuisine at Patsy’s Pizzeria began attracting many popular and famous personalities. Luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett became regulars. In addition, its prime uptown location made it a convenient stop for famous Yankees such as Phil Rizzutto, Joe Dimaggio and Yogi Berra. Patsy Lancieri had developed a huge following and East Harlem was now “the” place to go.


In the early 1970’s, Patsy’s Pizzeria became the late-night haunt of Francis Ford Coppola who used it’s ambiance to shape his actor’s performances in his blockbuster film “The Godfather”. As a result, the restaurant has been used numerous times as a period location and backdrop for many movies, employing many East Harlem residents in the process.

Both Lombardi’s and Totonno’s used coal-fired ovens, as did John’s and   Patsy’s. All  four resturants 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.

Characteristically, New York-style pizza is traditionally hand-tossed, consisting in its basic form of a light layer of tomato sauce sprinkled with dry, grated, full-fat mozzarella cheese; additional toppings like sausage and pepperoni  can be  placed over the cheese. Pies are typically around 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter, and commonly cut into 8 slices. These large wide slices are often eaten as fast food while folded in half (like one would fold a cardboard box) from the crust, as their size and flexibility can make them unwieldy to eat flat. Folding the slice also collects the abundant oil in the crease, and allows the slice to be eaten with one hand.

What few people know is that it is the water of New York that makes all difference in the taste of the iconic NYC pizza crust.

We take our water for granted.

Did you know that New York City is the nation’s largest municipal water supplier. I am not a Native New Yorker, but due to graduate school and employment, I have lived in upstate New York and New York City on and off for more than two decades. And like  many locals, I happily choose tap water at restaurants and extol the virtues of New York’s wettest best tasting water in the World. Yes Virigina,  you can taste the difference, trust me, I am a chemist after all.  I am sure that some people might wonder how and where the magic happens–even more so recently, in light of some other cities’ far less stellar experiences with the local water supply.and how 9.5 million people (and growing, apparently) can keep the good stuff flowing.

The source of this  fantastsically natural exilier  is derived from upstate.More than 90 percent of the New York City’s water supply comes from the Catskill/Delaware Watershed, which is about 125 miles north of NYC; the other 10 percent comes from the Croton watershed. The watershed sits on over a million acres, both publicly and privately owned, but highly regulated to make sure contaminants stay out of the water.


So what really makes New York City water actually taste so good? Well, thanks in part to the geology of the Catskill Mountains, which have very little limestone rock, the city’s water contains low levels of bitter-tasting calcium. As a result, New York has delicious bagels and pizza crust.ideal pizza crust is thinner in the middle, with a rim that balloons slightly to give it that all important crunch. This is a basic “Big Apple” pizza dough that delivers that signature thin-crust, foldable slice New York is famous for.

For a New York Style pizza, 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.

We used the traditional tomato sauce and cheese toppings in this recipe, but please, feel free to use your favorite sauce and toppings and enjoy!

Makes Two 11-inch Pizzas


For the Dough:
1 cup warm water,  about 105º F to 115º F
1/4-ounce package instant active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 cups​ Caputo 00 flour , plus more  as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Sauce:
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic,finely minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon sugar

1 pound full-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

For serving:
Garlic powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Dried oregano
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the water, yeast, sugar, and a 1/2 cup of the flour in a medium bowl. Stir well and let sit for 20 minutes. It will get bubbly.

Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a loose dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, while adding more flour a little at a time, to produce a soft, elastic and slightly sticky dough. Do not add too much flour, just enough to keep it from sticking to the work surface as you knead.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Drizzle a few drops of oil and coat the top of dough to prevent the surface from becoming dry.

Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 balls and place in large zip lock plastic bags and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to use, remove from fridge, and let the dough come up to room temperature before using.

For the Sauce:
Feed tomatoes and their juices through a food mill or pulse in a food processor until pulverized into a chunky puree. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until butter is melted. Add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of oregano, 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, onion, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Add more salt if necessary. Remove and discard onion.

Let cool and store unused portion in a container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or pour into zip-top bags and freeze.

To make the pizzas:

Preheat the oven to 475 º F (245 º C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

You will need a 12-inch round pizza pan or a large baking sheet. Dark, heavy metal pans are the best to use because they absorb heat quickly and evenly and will produce a crisp, golden browned crust.

For each pizza, brush the pizza pan with a little olive oil. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, pat the dough into a 6-inch round. Stretch or roll the dough with a rolling pin into an 11-inch round. Lift the dough onto the prepared pan and press the dough to the edge of the pan.

Using a 6-ounce ladle, pour the sauce in the center of the prepared dough. Keeping the bottom of the ladle flat and without pushing down,  spread the sauce to the outside edge, using a spiral motion.leaving at least an 1/8 inch border while spreading the sauce consistently across the crust. There should be no large bare spots or heavy ridges of sauce.

Evenly distributed the cheeses on top of the sauce.

Bake pizzas one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted  bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.

Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Using a pizza cutter, slice each pizza in to 8 equal slices and serve with the desired condiments.

To eat a slice , place your forefinger of left or right hand in the center of the crust. Using the your thumb and remaing to make a solid fold. Turn the tip of hte pizza towards your mouth and take bite!

Cook’s Notes:
Caputo 00 flour is ideal for pizza dough for two reasons: one, it’s finely ground, and two, it has a lower gluten content than most flours. The “00” refers to the texture of the flour: Italian flours are classified by numbers according to how finely they are ground, from the roughest ground “tipo”1, to 0, and the finest 00. Gluten, the natural protein that remains when starch is removed from wheat grains, creates the elasticity you feel when you bite into a crunchy loaf of bread. The lower the protein content of the flour, the lower the gluten, and the lower the gluten, the less elasticity there will be in your dough (cake flour has the lowest gluten level). Gluten levels are controlled by selecting different strands of wheat for processing: high-gluten bread flour is made from wheat that has 14-15% gluten. Meanwhile, the Caputo 00 is made from a selection of the finest grains the Caputo family can find to give your dough just enough, but not too much, stretch at 12.5% gluten.

Bread flour is a suitable substitue if 00 flour is nor readliy available.

To make whole wheat pizza dough, substitute 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the bread flour and proceed as directed.

To make the pizza dough ahead, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in a zip-lock storage bag and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Use the dough directly from the refrigerator. To freeze, wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap, then put it into a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the dough at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until pliable.

If you want to make your pizza more crispy, bake your pizza in the oven at its maximum temperature, usually ranging from 500 to 550 º F (260 to 290 ºC). Bake the pizza for 9 to 12 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly.



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