On our most recent trip to New York, we enjoyed some delicious food. Most notably, we enjoyed a few slices of classic, New York pizza. We got around to wondering, why is New York pizza so famous? Call us cheesy, but we did a bit of research to find out more about the history, science and art behind the New York icon. Here’s everything you knead to know!
As you probably guessed, pizza originated in Italy. Often sold as a street food, these rustic flat breads were prevalent in Mediterranean and all along the Silk Road. The people of Naples will proudly remind you that they created the first Margherita Pizza in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy. Using tomato, mozzarella and basil to represent the colors on Italy’s flag, the Neapolitan classic was born.
So how did this regional specialty make it big in the US? As the story goes, Gennaro Lombardi, a grocery store owner in New York, began selling tomato pies during lunch. By 1905, Lombardi acquired a business license to operate the first official pizzeria and the rest is history. Although his original location closed, you can still enjoy a slice at Lombardi’s Pizzeria on Spring St. in Little Italy.
So how did Lombardi’s Pizzeria and all subsequent NY pizzeria’s become the zenith of pizza quality?
The theories behind New York’s superior slices are boundless. Some believe that decade old pizza ovens have absorbed the flavor molecules of each ingredient, infusing new pizzas with a classic taste. Although that theory is poetic, it’s most likely not the secret behind an incredible slice. Most agree that New York’s mineral driven water supply makes the dough in both pizza and bagels superior to the dough made elsewhere.
Others attribute the famous flavor to long pizzeria lines.
Sound crazy? Scientifically this theory actually holds up. When the gluten in dough is over-kneaded it becomes dense. Pizza makers in New York work quickly, trying to keep up with the pace of business and therefore simply don’t have time to overwork the dough. The speed of business also means the dough is less likely to sit out and rest. If you’ve ever baked, you know that unrested dough doesn’t rise as much. The resulting product is thinner, crispy, and perfectly delicate.
So now that you have the history and science behind New York style pizza, it’s time to learn about the art form of eating it!
First, avoid pizza by the slice in overly crowded areas. Although this option is cheap and convenient, quality can be hit and miss. Head out of Times Square and find a better slice off the beaten path at somewhere like Bleeker Street Pizza. You can also avoid slice houses altogether and enjoy a whole pie somewhere like John’s of Bleeker St.
Next, order correctly. Asking for “New York Style” Pizza in New York is like asking for French Onion Soup in France. No need to be redundant! Be polite, but be concise when you order. As mentioned above, things move quickly so holding up line is frowned upon.
So what should you order? Plain is best. When it comes to enjoying a classic, you don’t have to load on the toppings. Cheese and pepperoni is popular for a reason. You can leave the crazy topping combos to California. (Yes, California Pizza is a real style!)
The last step? Enjoy! We recommend the hold and fold approach to keep the cheese and grease from sliding off.
Like with everything in life, it’s all about savoring the piece in front of you, so get out there and make the most of your travels!