There’s this thing about pizza. Everybody has their own idea of what the very best should feel like, smell like and of course, taste like. Usually, the ideal pizza goes back to the first slices we ever consumed. But every once in awhile, we’re surprised by a pie that soars right out of our fixed concept of what that best pizza should be. So whether you like it thin crusted and standing at attention or with a more doughy crust that has to be carefully folded to keep the sauce from dribbling on the bib, here’s a look at some of my newest favorites – pies that broke the boundaries of tradition. – Jay Lloyd
29 E. 29th Street
New York City, NY 10016
Marta is not your typical pizzeria. It’s in a boutique hotel on Madison Avenue. Think fashionable. But by noon, the dining room was filling up fast (so was the bar) and there were a pair of smiling servers ready to help us with a menu, dominated by pizza. The cavernous, blazing hot, wood burning ovens were already cranking out the thinnest crusted pies you can imagine. What I found was a pizza that not only had the flavor and texture of my youth, but one that had been refined in sweetness of tomato sauce and texture of cheese. I even found that hint of olive oil that made my childhood slices so irresistible. It was delicious. You’ll also find a fine selection of beers and wine.
411 Washington Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030
There’s a story here. For years, I’ve heard about the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn, right near the waterfront in DUMBO. But go there, and you witness a line out the door, which on weekends can signal an hour or more of waiting time. Recently, the brains behind this pizza wonder suddenly opened in Hoboken, a short ride on a PATH train from Manhattan. No lines outside and immediate seating! This is truly a family-friendly environment where the staff interacts comfortably with pizza seekers, most of them from the Hoboken area. The pie here lives up to reputation. It’s a thicker crusted slice with a generous swirl of sauce, several cheeses and an array of toppings. Then, take a stroll the riverfront, snap a picture of the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson, and go see the house where Frank was raised. Frank who? Sinatra, of course.
4 Water Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Now let’s talk about the gem I found around the Brooklyn corner from Grimaldi’s when we went into line avoidance mode. Like my old neighborhood pizzeria, Ignazio’s trumpets a Sicilian heritage. The pie was a mirror image in flavor, crust and heat. This was my quest for half-a-century until stumbling into this bright and airy room directly under the Brooklyn Bridge in a neighborhood with a history that includes Robert Fulton’s storied steamboat. Believe me, if you want a robust slice that almost rises to meet your hand and doesn’t require a fold, this is it. From Wall Street in Manhattan, take the East River Ferry. The first stop lands you at Ignazio’s.
4067 Skippack Pike
Skippack, PA 19475
Here’s a pizza you can gush about, and it’s served in an oven-warmed room that seems to have inspired the concept of comfort. Paired with a craft beer on tap, this Margherita pie has recently become one of my frequent flyer favorites. Keep in mind, the choice of a pie is very subjective, but the rich flavor of the Parc Bistro sauce, select cheese and shredded basil provides a familiar and fresh flavor that’s perfectly complemented by a moderately thin, firm crust. It’s a pie you’ll savor. The Bistro is focused primarily on fine dining in a setting that suggests you linger awhile over a good single malt or cognac. But for a bar treat, a hearty lunch or just a craving for great pizza, it does turn out a memorable pie. And this one is close to home!
MYSTERY SPOT; FIESOLE, ITALY
Finally, I can’t remember for the life me the name of the outdoor cafe in the hills of Tuscany, overlooking the City of Florence. The little village is called Fiesole, but the cafe isn’t hard to find. It’s the one with the view. Maybe it was the environment, maybe just the idea of having nothing to do but sit back in the Tuscan sun, sip an Italian beer and nibble on a pizza, baked with sauce you imagine came right from one of the farm fields in the distance. But whenever I think of that getaway, I have memories of the pizza. If you find yourself in Florence, grab the number 7 bus and get off at the single stop in Fiesole. You’ll talk about the village, but you’ll remember the pie.