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What is New York Style Pizza?

Pizza will always have its roots in Italian cuisine, yet some of the most famous pizza that you now hear about is famous for coming from New York. Pizza will always be Italian, but there’s no denying that New York style pizza is truly delicious. 

New York Style Pizza

It can be difficult to comprehend how something as simple in design as a pizza can be so different.

But, if you compare the popular Westernized, New York Style pizza, you will realize that it is actually incredibly different to the traditional pizzas that you will find sold in Italy. 

While New York Style pizza is spoken about a lot, there are actually quite a lot of different types of pizza within this one style. This can make finding your dream New York Style pizza very difficult.

That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide, packed with everything you need to know about New York Style Pizza. So keep on reading to find out more. 

What is New York Style Pizza?

If you have ever visited New York, then you have probably tried the pizza there. If you haven’t tried the pizza, then you should seriously ask yourself “why not?” because New York Style pizza is great. 

Variety of NYC pizzas in a shop display, street food. Kitchen workers arranging the pizzas.

While pizza will always be classed as a part of Italian cuisine, it has evolved a lot from its early beginnings back in Italy.

If you were to compare New York style pizza with traditional Italian pizza, you will see that there are actually very few similarities between the two. These pizzas are more like distant cousins than brother and sister. 

New York pizza tends to be designed to be large and wide, with a thin hand-thrown pizza crust. The crust of the pizza is generally very crisp, and easy to snap. But, the base of the pizza is flexible and easy to fold over to eat due to the thin crust.

You will get different toppings on your New York style pizza, but most stores will primarily sell plain or cheese pizza.

Some stores will sell pizzas by the pie, but in New York, it is a lot more common for places to sell pizza by the slice.

New York Style Pizza Ingredients

Like most pizzas, New York style is a combination of pizza dough, sauce, and cheese. What makes this type of pizza different from others, however, is the specific type of pizza crust, the sauce flavors and ingredients, the toppings, and how it’s cooked.

New York Pizza Crust

New York Style pizza is famous for its thin crust. The pizza dough is typically made from flour, water, yeast, olive oil, sugar, and salt

Although New York has a thin pizza crust, the dough still has to rise, thanks to the yeast, before you roll it out and bake it.

There are lots of New York pizza dough recipes if you want to try one yourself!

New York Pizza Sauce

While you can make a NY style pizza with different sauces, the classic New York slice is made with a red, tomato-based sauce.

Many different styles of pizza use red sauce, but for the traditional New York style slice you’ll expect a sweeter, very tomato-forward sauce. Every pizza shop has its own sauce recipe, but the basic ingredients include tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and basil. I’ve heard of some recipes using butter for a richer flavor as well.

The tomato sauce on a New York slice is often a bit sweeter than on other pizzas.

New York Pizza Cheese

The most popular cheese for pizza is mozzarella, and New York style sticks with that classic choice.

While more Italian pizzas like a margherita pizza will use fresh mozzarella, New York style pizza uses shredded mozzarella.

The shredded cheese is spread more evenly across the whole pie, so rather than pools of cheese, you get an even amount of cheesy goodness in every bite.

If you’re making a New York style pizza at home, and pre-shredded mozzarella cheese will work well!

New York Pizza Toppings

The most classic slice of New York pizza is a cheese pizza with no toppings. Still, pizza shops all over New York City offer plenty of topping options!

new york style pizza with olives and peppers

The most common toppings for this style of pizza are probably pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives, or peppers. Pizza shops tend to have these popular toppings available.

A recent poll showed that pepperoni is the most popular topping amongst New Yorkers.

An old school New York pizza shop will also have shakers of parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic powder for customers to add if they prefer.

How is New York Style Pizza Cooked?

Traditionally, pizzas will be cooked in a hearth or pizza oven, with coal as the fuel source. This is part of what gives pizza its crisp texture and smoky flavor. But, New York Style pizza does not use coal to cook this pizza. Instead, it uses gas ovens. 

pizza going into pizza oven

Cooking pizza in a gas oven is a lot easier than cooking pizza in a coal oven, and because of this, restaurants are able to produce more pizza more quickly.

The creation of this style of pizza was also a major turning point for New York Style pizza, as pizza now became cheaper, portable, and available almost immediately. 

You will find some NY Style Pizza joints that sell pizzas whole, but it is a lot more common for pizza to be sold by the slice in these venues. After all, this is the reason this style of pizza was born.

With lots of cheese, a soft bottom, and a crunchy crust, there is nothing not to love about New York style pizza.

The History of New York Style Pizza

When it comes to New York Style pizza, the original is really an American spin on a Neapolitan pizza. New York pizza probably most closely resembles Neapolitan pizza, as opposed to thick crust options like Detroit or Chicago.

New York has a rich history when it comes to pizza, and this all begins back in the early 1900s, when Italian Gennaro Lombardi began to sell pizza in his grocery store.

The pizza that he sold was made using a family recipe that had been passed down through the generations, and it is this recipe that went on to form the base for New York style pizza. 

lombardi pizza sign

New York pizza has a striking similarity to the traditional Neapolitan pizza that can be found in Italy. Both pizzas are designed to have a very thin crust, a good amount of tomato sauce as a base, and a generous helping of mozzarella cheese on top.

However, despite these clear similarities, these pizzas are more different from similar to one another. These differences include size, texture, and cooking style. 

In Italy, Neapolitan pizzas are designed to be eaten by a single person, and they are not cut into slices. Instead, you will have to use a knife and fork to cut up your pizza. But New York pizzas are a great deal larger, measuring around 16-inches in diameter, so that they can be eaten by multiple people. 

Traditional Neapolitan pizzas will be cooked using wood, but New York pizzas are generally made in a gas oven, or coal fired in some cases.

Where To Get a Classic New York Slice

If you’re visiting New York City, there are New York style pizzas everywhere! It won’t be hard to find a good slice of classic New York pizza.

Grab a slice of pizza from some of our favorite New York pizza shops:

Joe’s Pizza

Joe’s Pizza is one of the most famous pizzerias in the city.

Established in 1975 by Joe Pozzuoli, Joe’s Pizza is locally known as a “Greenwich Village institution.” Greenwich Village is the heart of Manhattan’s artistic scene.

Since 1975, Joe’s Pizza has dealt up the quintessential “New York slice.” New Yorkers who moved away from the city come back for a bite of Joe’s iconic thin-crust, melt-in-your-mouth pies. You won’t find any frills here, just classic cheese, pepperoni, and build-your-own slices. 

John’s of Bleecker St.

John’s has been serving brick-oven pies in the West Village since 1929. The restaurant is still family-owned and hosts guests in a funky, colorful, tiny space with customers’ signatures etched into the wooden walls. 

John’s is very clear that they don’t do slices – they do whole pies, and it’s worth every bit. The pizza is classic NYC thin-crust, and whichever kind you get, you’ll love the taste of NYC history.

Lombardi’s Coal Oven Pizza

We have to mention Lombardi’s again! As stated above, Lombardi’s takes credit for being the first pizzeria in NYC, and is also often credited for inventing the now-classic New York style pizza.

Lombardi’s is still open today and serving their coal fired pizzas in Little Italy. It’s definitely worth a stop, both for the pizza and the history.

Other Great Pizzas You’ll Find in NYC

While New York style pizza reigns supreme, there are other pizzas to find in the Big Apple.

The Dollar Slice

First up we have the dollar slice. We have mentioned a couple of times that a lot of pizzerias in NYC sell pizza by the slice, and this is something that has only grown in popularity over the past couple of years.

Pizza restaurants saw the convenience that made hot dog stalls so popular, and set out to challenge this, and they did this by selling pizzas by the slice. For just $1, you can get a slice of decent quality pizza in most NYC pizza joints.

The perfect snack for people on the go, and a great way to tide you over until your evening meal.

Local Chains

In NYC, you will also find a number of local pizza chains that you will not find outside this city. While you might find yourself drawn to the larger pizza chains through their aggressive marketing campaigns, and how good their food looks in adverts, you can’t beat a smaller, local chain.

You may find yourself paying a little extra for your pizza in these smaller stores, but this is totally worth it for the quality that you get in return. It is these smaller chains that made pizza in New York popular, so they are definitely worth checking out. 

Deep Dish

Another style of pizza that you might encounter in New York is deep dish pizza. This isn’t a traditional New York style pizza, but it was only a matter of time before this style became popular in the Big Apple.

Delicious Chicago style deep dish pizza

Deep dish pizza originates in Chicago, and as you probably know, there is a big competition between New York and Chicago Style pizzas.

Despite this, you will still be able to get your hands on deep dish pizza in New York. But be warned, it might not be as good as the deep dish pizza that you can buy in Chicago. 

Food Trucks 

On your travels around New York, you will likely also notice one other type of pizza, and that is the pizza that is sold out of food trucks. There are a number of food trucks all over New York City which specialize in a variety of different cuisines, and pizza is definitely one of the most popular.

Some trucks will simply sell dollar slices of pizza, while others will sell the less-accessible Neapolitan-American pizza. Some of the earliest food trucks in NYC were actually pizza trucks, and these are still as popular today as they were in the late 1990s when they were first seen on the streets of New York. 

Grilled Pizza

Another style of pizza that you will find in NYC which doesn’t actually come from there is grilled pizza.

Grilled pizza was first produced in Rhode Island in the 1980s, and it is still primarily found in this area. But, there have been some New York based stores which have begun to explore the potential of this pizza. So, if you want to try grilled pizza, there are a few stores in New York which actually sell this style of pizza. 

Roman Pizza

Roman pizza is pretty different to what we would consider to be traditional New York style pizza, and this is because it is primarily cooked in wood fired ovens.

The style in which this pizza is cooked makes a massive difference to its preparation process, and has actually caused this pizza to almost solely be sold in sit down restaurants. This pizza is yummy, but again it is sold less often in New York than other styles of pizza. 

Sicilian Pizza

New York Style Pizza will always be sold in the classic round shape, but Sicilian pizza will not. In fact, Sicilian pizza is famous because it is always produced in a rectangular shape, and because of this you will end up with a square piece of pizza when you buy it by the slice.

Sicilian Pizza is always produced in a rectangular shape because of the way that it is cooked. Most pizzas are shaped to be round because they are cooked in an oven. But, Sicilian pizza is actually pan cooked, and because of this it can only be made rectangular.

As its name suggests, the Sicilian pizza that is now enjoyed in the heart of New York City, can be traced all the way back to Sicily. In Sicily, this pizza was first produced in the bakeries, rather than the pizzerias, and this can explain why there is such a difference in shape between the two. 

Neapolitan Pizza

We spoke about Neapolitan pizza earlier, and we also mentioned traditional Neapolitan pizza.

If you want to try an authentic Neapolitan pizza, then it is important that you visit a traditional Italian restaurant because this is the only way that you will be able to get the true taste of Italy. 

Cajun Pizza

For a traditional New York pizza creation, you should check out the Cajun pizza that you will find in multiple stores across the city. This style of pizza was first created in the late 1980s in New York’s East Village, and it has been popular ever since.

The best place to visit for Cajun pizza is New York’s Two Boots chain, where cuisines from New York and Louisiana are combined to create unique pizza toppings. But, the best thing about Cajun pizza is the spicy tomato sauce that is used for the base, it is truly delicious. 

Brooklyn Pizza

Brooklyn Pizza which you will find in New York City is similar to a classic New York slice, but the crust is stretched even thinner, and you’ll often find fresh, unique toppings on these pies.

Slices of Brooklyn style pizza in a box.

You can get Brooklyn style pizza in lots of places across New York, but the best places will be stores that use locally-sourced ingredients to produce their dishes. 

Flatbread

The final style of pizza that you may also find in New York actually comes from California, and this is flatbread pizza.

Flatbread pizza garnished with fresh arugula

This style of pizza uses fresh produce to create light and healthy pizzas that taste very different to regular New York style pizza.

In New York City, there are actually 2 stores that specialize in this style of pizza. So, if you want to try a flatbread pizza, you should visit the California Pizza Kitchen chain, who have 2 stores in the Big Apple, or seek out restaurants that advertise their flatbread pizza as a specialty.

What’s Your Favorite New York Pizza Slice?

In short, this has been an ultimate guide to the different styles of New York pizzas. From traditional New York style pizzas to other styles of pizza that you can buy in NYC, we have told you everything that you need to know. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.