Oldest pizza parlors in New York City

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Tasting your way through New York pizza history

One of the top questions I get from visitors to New York City is where to find the best pizza in town. With an estimated 1,600 pizzerias throughout the city, many of them claiming to be the best and half of them belonging to some dude named Ray (seriously, how many Ray’s Pizzas does one city need?), it’s difficult to nail down where to start your tasting.

Among the masses, there are those pizza parlors that have stood the test of time. Here are the oldest and some of my absolute musts.

Lombardi’s, established in 1905, is the oldest and first pizza parlor in the United States. It inspired all other pizza parlors that followed. Give it a visit and see where all the magic started. However, expect lines of tourists, a main reason most locals stay away.

Coal oven still working hard.

Coal oven still working hard.

Totonno’s in Coney Island is one of my personal favorites. Established in 1924, this place still feels like old-school Brooklyn. Aside from a few T-shirts and a sign letting tourists know it’s been honored as no. 1 by the Food Network, Totonno’s just keeps doing what it always has and remains a favorite local hangout.

Viewfinder Tip: Though these guys are the original, it’s easier to find newer pizzerias that boast having coal-ovens. New technology helps them adhere to environmental standards.

There’s nothing fancy about John’s Pizza, established in 1929, but tourists often line up outside the doors of this Bleecker Street pizza shop waiting for a taste of the Neopolitan-style pizza pies.  Though you might find a few other John’s Pizzas in town, don’t be fooled. This is the original.

Another absolute favorite is Patsy’s, established  in 1933 by Pasquale Lancieri. It’s no longer owned by the Lancieri family, but the tradition of pizza making remains the same. The new ownership opened several other Patsy’s around town, but this location remains my favorite and is totally worth heading up to Spanish Harlem for.

Not only do I think the pizza tastes better here, but I also really love the community feel and laid-back atmosphere. I am always left craving the thin, cracker-like slices covered in melted cheeses and homemade tomato sauce.

For those who are fans of Grimaldi’s, (original is located by the Brooklyn Bridge) would find it interesting to know that Grimaldi was trained by his uncle Lancieri in the 1940s before launching the now popular, and often difficult to get into, pizza shop.

Patsy's thin crust with melted cheese goodness gets to my heart strings.

These are the oldest, and in my opinion, the best places to start your New York pizza experience. Of course, there are a few newcomers that I also love, such as Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the clam pizzas at Pizzeteria Brunetti, in the West Village, and the artichoke pies from Artichoke Pizza in the East Village.

Prices vary for most of these places, as does the décor and hype. But what’s most important to note is that the best New York pizza doesn’t have to be expensive, isn’t always served in a trendy locale, and is never, ever, eaten with a fork and knife.

What are your favorite pizza spots?

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Carol Cain

Carol Cain has always been fascinated with the way people from different backgrounds and experiences interact and take in the world around them and how it influences the way in which they share their stories. Now she gets to share those stories, as well as her own travel adventures and photography on her award-winning travel blog, Girl Gone Travel, and through various brand partnerships and publications from around the world. Stop by on Twitter and say hello!

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