Salvatore and Luigi Olivella of No. 28 on Carmine Street.
By Heather Paster
New York is renown for many things: Broadway, bagels, and pizza. In fact the first pizzeria offering pizza as we know it was opened in Soho. Since then, pizza parlors have been popping up regularly over Manhattan. In the village alone, there are over 90 restaurants serving pizzas. Some owners stick to the basic pizza while others will experiment with unusual toppings and combinations. But every pizzaola believes his creation is the best.
Why is New York pizza so much better than everywhere else in the country?
After meeting with several chefs, the consensus is the water. The mineral content of New York water, which comes from the Catskills has a unique effect on the rising and the flavor to the dough.
Ask any of these chefs why their particular pizza is the best, and theyll often praise the oven before their ingredients.
Founded in 1929 Johns of Bleecker Street, not to be confused with any other Johns Pizza, raves the coal burning oven is the best. It can get as high as 850 or 900 degrees, says Steve Smith, head chef and manager. After the Clean Air Act of 1972, there was a ban on creating new coal burning ovens, so there is a finite supply of restaurants baking in one. The law, however, does allow owners to restore existing ovens as Johns did recently; crumbled brick was not a popular topping. As the oldest continually operated pizzeria in New York, Johns still uses the original recipe and offers the same dozen toppings, but it has upgraded the ingredients. The restaurant has remained popular because of its loyal following. That celebrities are regulars and that it is regularly included in the Top Tens lists and referenced in movies and television shows like Seinfeld certainly helps.
Like Johns of Bleeker St, Joes Pizza has a following so loyal, other pizza restaurants try to cash in on the name. Everybody knows about us, says owner Joe Vino whose nearly fifty-year-old namesake restaurant is consistently included on Top Ten lists for Pizza. He attributes his success to constantly offering a reliable product.
Naples natives and brothers Salvatore and Luigi Olivella of No. 28 on Carmine Street credit their wood-burning oven for the unique flavor of their dough. We use three kinds of wood: cherry for the smell, oak for the flame, sawdust to dust on the flame to increase the fire, says Salvatore.
Striving for a niche market, places like No. 28 stray from the traditional pizza layout. Customers can chose between the Roman style that is long and narrow and a small round pie traditional to Naples. A hazelnut pear pizza is a popular desert choice. The Olivellas and their partners are also responsible for Pie, which sells pizza by the pound in the East Village.
The popular Brooklyn joint, DeMarcos recently opened up a Manhattan location in Soho. We use three types of cheese, says manager Joe Ferrante. No two bites are the same, he adds as he sprinkles freshly shredded Parmesan cheese on a slice.
With two locations in the East and West Village, the Mediterranean restaurant Moustache offers pizza with a twist. The trademark pizza resembles a traditional pie by including tomatoes and cheese, but once the roasted red peppers, onions, and chilies are added, it takes on a Middle Eastern flair. Toppings like chicken, shrimp, scallops, and leeks will not be found among the Italian counterparts.
As far as pizzas go, there are a plethora of options available on just about every corner of Manhattan. Aficionados will continue to debate what crust, oven or topping is most authentic as diners continue to expand their palate.