Hi, my name is Adrienne Cooper, and I am a New York City Slice Snob. Phew. That feels good to get off my chest! Look, everyone knows that New Yorkers are very particular about their hometown eats. Whether we’re discussing bagels, hot dogs, falafel, or pizza, it’s gonna get heated very quickly.
These foods are staples of our childhood because they’re fast, cheap, and can be found all over the place. So they have a sentimental attachment in addition to everything else.
I think the reason that the pizza debate becomes even more animated than the rest is because of the various different styles of pizza that there are. But for this native UWSer, who spent days and nights at the old Ray Bari’s on 69th and Amsterdam, I’m rather strict in what I consider to be New York-style pizza:
- 1st: You have to be able to order it by the slice.
- 2nd: You must be able to order a “plain slice” that is from a round pie that consists of a flour crust, tomato sauce, and shredded mozzarella cheese (even if it’s actually fior di latte) on top. Other variations in addition to this are fine, and more than welcome. But this is standard for an NYC slice shop.
- 3rd debatable rule, according to a fellow native: “If they don’t sell beef patties and garlic knots I AIN’T IN IT”
That said. These are MY top picks for Best NYC Slices on the Upper West Side:
2640 Broadway (corner of 100th)
This very unassuming corner slice shop stays true to its name by delivering, by far, the cheesiest plain slice around. The lighting is definitely too bright, the whole place is not too clean, but it’s also not too unclean, and when I was there last the TV was playing something with pandas and laughing children. It’s not a special occasion spot, and it won’t impress a date–unless that date is me and you’ve offered to give me a taste of my childhood. Because that is what it does.
This gooey slice brings me right back to those Ray Bari’s days–with an even better crust than my youthful fave could give you. The price is right and the service is fine, but the showstopper is that melty mozz on top of the well-balanced and well-seasoned sauce and dough. This, to me, is exactly what I want from a New York slice and an Upper West Side pizza place.
Sal & Carmine’s
2671 Broadway (between 101st and 102nd Streets)
I’ve written about Sal & Carmine’s before because, in addition to serving some damn fine NYC pizza, they have been doing it longer than any other on this list–since 1959! This shop is regularly featured on best-of lists because despite their changes they’ve maintained a dedication to a quality product since those early days. The balance of textures and flavors here is always on point. When you’re talking pizza it’s all about ratios. A proper slice should be crispy enough to contrast the sauce and cheese with enough heft that it can withstand a bending eater without snapping. That’s what you get here. A great tasting well-made slice of pizza that’s been that way for 60 years!
La Traviata Pizzeria
101 West 68th Street (between Broadway and Columbus)
Live in New York long enough and you will see your favorite hangouts disappear. This is just a fact. It’s always been this way (despite the popular opinion that this is a new phenomenon). Many of the slice shops from my childhood have disappeared over the last few decades. From that formative Ray Bari’s to City Pie to Big Nick’s, they’ve all shriveled up and gone the way of the payphone.
La Traviata is one of the exceptions. This is another humble shop that’s perfect for a school kid cutting class to see a matinee show in the next door movie theater that was once ahead of its time. Not that I’m advocating for anyone to skip school, but I certainly did. And this shop has stayed pretty much the same since then. It’s a great spot to grab a quick and cheap bite before heading into an overpriced movie. The staff has always been friendly even if the rest of the ambiance is not.
483 Amsterdam Ave (between 83rd and 84th Streets)
One of the newer Upper West Side pizza spots, Marinara has gotten some press for their marriage of the classic with the non-traditional. As most new restaurants have to do, they’ve crafted a couple of slices that make great Instagram bait, like their MVP (marinara, vodka, pesto) slice. And compared to some of the other shops on the list, the decor is quite a refreshing change with white & pale colors that take advantage of the natural light that comes into their large windows rather than the glow of fluorescents and hideous oranges and reds that are supposed to make you want to eat, when they often also make you want to run.
But a pizza place can’t get by on looks alone–at least not a pizza place on the Upper West Side. And their offerings are certainly worth consuming with more than just your eyes. I was definitely more impressed with the unique flavor combinations of some of their specialty pizzas, but I have to say that their plain slice was pretty solid. It’s thinner than most standard slice shops, and definitely less cheese–but it was still a good balance. My biggest complaint was more that it lacked a little in seasoning when compared to their other options.
Made in New York Pizza
421 Amsterdam Ave (corner of 80th)
Another recent addition to the neighborhood is Made in New York Pizza, which comes with a slice of controversy. According to the famed Prince Street Pizza downtown, their former employee stole their proprietary pepperoni recipe. Made in NY claims to have upgraded it, and this pizza lover doesn’t really care either way. What I do know is that the vibe is very chill and familiar despite its newness, and the slices hit all the marks. If you’re into those infamous curled up meat cups then you should dig into one of those spicy pepperoni squares. If you’re more like me though, then you’ll appreciate their plain slice as well.
Honorable Mention: Mama’s Too!
2750 Broadway (between 105th and 106th Streets)
Since its opening in 2017, this place has gotten a lot of attention. Many people hailing it as some of the best pizza in the city–even The New York Times has featured our Upper West Side shop. But, as a skeptic who doesn’t get the hype over places like Absolute Bagels, I was nervous this would be just another disappointment.
However, I recently made my first trip to the small counter shop and ordered their House Slice, which is as close as they get to a plain slice there and I have to say, as a spin on the classic NY slice, this was VERY good. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s a game-changer. The flavor on this pie is bumped up with the aged mozzarella which adds a whole other depth, and it’s topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s definitely not the place I’m going to when I want to be transported to my UWS youth through pizza, but it’s certainly on the list of places I’d be happy to eat some excellent food. I’d also recommend their Cacio e Pepe slice.
Whatever you’re in the mood for–here’s to pizza! And to being in New York City–where you can ALWAYS find a good slice, no matter what your definition of a good slice is!Get more food + drink tips delivered to your inbox: