Perhaps no food topic is as controversial in New York as where to find the best pizza. Everyone has an opinion, and mine is that Brooklyn is the go-to destination for pizza these days. It makes sense, given that borough's well-documented explosion in food sophistication, as well as its historic production of, and appreciation for, great pizza.
But a good list needs good criteria. Taste matters, of course. The only problem is that all pizza tastes pretty good. So while extra points are awarded for extra deliciousness, it's crust that separates the all-stars from the also-rans. Crust is the architecture of pizza, the structure holding up the whole enterprise, and the good ones can only come from having a superhot oven (whether it's wood-burning, coal-burning or otherwise). A picturesque blistering on the edges is great, but the middle is where the true test lies. Any pizzeria that can keep the middle of the pie crisp underneath all the gooeyness on top is doing something right. -- TED LOOS. Special to Newsday
DI FARA (1424 Ave. J, 718-258-1367, difara.com): Opened in 1964, the legendary Di Fara in Midwood occupies a cramped, unlovely space requiring a long wait. But the excellent pizza, with a slightly thicker crust than usual for New York, keeps people coming back. You can watch founder Domenic DeMarco hunched over the counter making every pie from scratch himself. The best offering is the square, Sicilian-style pie ($32), with its succulent, twice-baked crust. Insider tip: Call ahead during the day to order your pizza in advance, as pie ordering sometimes shuts down after 8 p.m. or so. (Nov. 6, 2013)
Dominic De Marco, owner and pizzaiolo, makes a traditional round pie at Di Fara Pizza. (Nov. 6, 2013)
Di Fara serves square Sicilian pizza as well. (Nov. 6, 2013)
Tom Cararo from Marine Park eats a slice of Sicilian at Di Fara. (Nov. 6, 2013)
LUCALI (575 Henry St., 718-858-4086): Lucali is for pizza purists. The tin-ceiling and low lighting make the interior of this friendly Carroll Gardens neighborhood place look like a scene from "The Godfather," and it's best to order a simple Margherita with basil here ($18), though the options are limited in any case. The mozzarella that owner Mark Iacono uses is heavenly, and the freshness of the ingredients comes through in every bite. Bring a bottle of wine for a small corkage fee, and remember that it's cash only.
The dining room at Lucali in Carroll Gardens.
Owner Mark Iacono with a Margherita pizza at Lucali, his restaurant in Carroll Gardens.
The Margherita pizza at Lucali in Carroll Gardens.
FRANNY'S (348 Flatbush Ave.,718-230-0221, frannysbrooklyn.com): Franny's now occupies a much bigger, but still jam-packed, space not far from its original home on Flatbush Avenue. Fantastic appetizers and pastas are offered on owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens' Italian menu, but it's the well-blistered pizzas you can smell from the street. The Franny's pie is inventive with toppings but doesn't overload them -- the signature clam, chili and parsley ($18) is not a chowdery mess, but a slightly salty evocation of the sea. Be sure to plunder the outstanding wine list.
The well-blistered pizzas at Franny's share menu space with fantastic appetizers and pastas.
MOTORINO (139 Broadway, 718-599-8899, motorinopizza.com): Motorino (with locations in Williamsburg and in Manhattan's East Village) has it all. The crust has integrity all the way through, remaining delightfully crisp, even in the middle for that very first bite. Brilliant toppings like Brussels sprouts and pancetta ($16) do not weigh this pizza down, or take it into fussy territory. As a bonus, the rest of the menu, like the octopus salad ($14), is also great.
The Brussels sprout pizza is a winner at Motorino in Williamsburg.
ROBERTA'S (261 Moore St., 718-417-1118, robertaspizza.com): The acclaimed Roberta's, tucked into a former garage in the hipster neighborhood of Bushwick, started out as a pizza joint. But it has evolved into a thoughtful restaurant where pizza is a featured player. Nontraditional pies rule: the sausage-and-broccoli-rabe Barely Legal ($16) finds a way to deliciously incorporate horseradish, of all things. But equally excellent are the sensitively cooked market vegetables and substantial meat and fish entrees. The perfect meal at Roberta's involves a shared pizza for one course -- the rest of the offerings are just too good to ignore.
The dining room is crowded at Roberta's, a restaurant housed in a former garage in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. Roberta's was initially a pizza joint, but now pizza is now a featured player on a larger menu.
The Margherita pie at Roberta's, a restaurant in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood.
SPEEDY ROMEO (376 Classon Ave., Brooklyn; 718-230-0061, speedyromeo.com): Less than 2 years old, Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill has rocketed to the top of the pizza hierarchy. Even under an egg -- the $16 Kind Brother features one with mozzarella and mushrooms -- the crust retains an admirable crisp-ness, almost a crunchiness. For meat lovers, The King Salami ($16) passes a similar test. Chatty waiters offer great recommendations, like the grilled beet appetizer ($14). Speedy's fun atmosphere with a lively bar makes it irresistible.
Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill serves pies with a crust that retains an admirable crisp-ness, almost a crunchiness.
The St. Louie pizza at Speedy Romeo in Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn is topped with Provel cheese, Italian sausage, pepperoni and pickled chilies.