The 11 oldest pizza places in New York City are where it all began for New York style pizza. New Yorkers are extremely proud (and a little bit possessive) of their beloved city’s pizza. And I don’t blame them. The dish that traveled from Italy to America first lay its foundation in the city of New York, from where it slowly dispersed to other states and cities of the US.
So why is the pizza “New York style” in New York but plain old pizza everywhere else in the country? That is a question I set out to answer and found that, ironically, New York style pizza is actually quite similar to the traditional Italian pizza, so it’s not something that is native to the Big Apple. A New York style pizza has two very distinct features. First, it is absolutely huge, mostly 18 inches. Passersby usually purchase pizza by the slice, which they fold in half to be able to eat with ease because of its size. This brings us to the second major characteristic: the crust of a New York-style pizza is super thin. It should be flexible enough to be able to double over but too doughy is definitely not acceptable. It should be sufficiently crispy, especially at the edges. As Goldilocks would say, it should be “just right!”
Most of the oldest pizza places in New York City use coal fired ovens, making the pizzas even more scrumptious, with an almost charred look and bubbling cheese over the top. Some say the taste in a New York style pizza comes from the water of New York. Obviously, that is not true, but as far as the citizens of New York are concerned, New York style pizza is available only in NYC. A person could cook up an exact replica of the pizza of the most famous pizzeria in New York, but if he is not in New York, the pizza in his oven is not New York-style pizza. Strange, but that’s how it goes.
Another pro of having pizza in NYC is that there are so many options that you end up with a wide array of prices available to you. From inexpensive to super pricey, it’s all available in New York. If you want to try a few of the latter ones, check out the Most Expensive Pizzas in New York City, and leave some comments below on whether they’re worth the price.
Getting back to the history of pizza, let me list the oldest pizza places in New York City, which I collected from a number of sources on the internet. However, since there was no one credible source, I picked up the founding year of each pizzeria from their respective websites or other sources where the website wasn’t available and ranked accordingly. Can you guess some of the places on our list?
11. Di Fara Pizza
Founded in: 1964
We kick off our list with the pizzeria that is often regarded as one of the best in the city. It’s impossible not to bring up Di Fara pizza when discussing the tastiest pizza in New York. The truly amazing thing about Di Fara is that its founder, Domenico DeMarco, is its only chef. He has been dishing out pizzas all day every day since 1964, and if he is not available, the pizzeria closes its doors to its customers, so as not to deprive them of the magic of his handmade pies.
9. Rizzo’s Fine Pizza
Founded in: 1959
Ever since Rizzo’s Fine Pizza started selling a topping-less yet mouth-watering pizza all those years ago, it has turned into a highly popular restaurant. Now, of course, it offers various toppings as well to go with its perfect slices of crust and has made a huge name for itself in the world of New York pizza.
9. Ray’s Pizza
Founded in: 1959
Ray’s Pizza’s is a tale that is wrought with controversy. How can something as innocent as pizza be controversial, you ask? Well, the original Ray’s Pizza came into being on 27 Prince Street in 1959. Since then, however, there have been so many Ray’s, it’s hard to keep track: Ray’s Original Pizza, Famous Ray’s Pizza, Famous Original Ray’s Pizza. The actual Ray’s Pizza was the one that needed no adjective next to its name. Sadly, after giving so many pizzerias its name, Ray’s Pizza that opened in 1959, closed down in 2011. However, we have kept its name on our list due to the huge amount of rip-offs that New Yorkers are none the wiser about. Many still have no idea which pizzeria was the first one in the series of Ray’s, causing the name to still be regarded as one of the oldest.
Founded in: 1957
We are continuing our list of oldest pizza places in New York City with Arturo’s that is not as well-known as the other pizzerias on our list, but it does accumulate reviews that can rival any other pizza place. Arturo’s is more than just a pizzeria, though. It offers other Italian cuisines too, that you can wolf up while listening to calming jazz music.
7. L & B Spumoni Gardens
Founded in: mid-1950s
Situated in Brooklyn, L & B Spumoni Gardens started in 1939 when the owner, Ludovico Barbati decided he wanted a place to spell spumoni, a traditional Italian ice cream. Later, he built another building alongside which is now the pizzeria we know today. Although to be more precise it is not just a pizzeria, it is known as the Dining Room, where along with great pizza a wide variety of food is sold.
6. Denino’s Pizzeria & Tavern
Founded in: 1951
John Denino first opened his doors as confectionery, which in the year 1937 developed into a tavern. It wasn’t until after his death in 1951 that his son Carlo Denino introduced pizza at the tavern. Denino’s pizza was not only a huge winner when it was first served but has also succeeded in retaining its good name through the years. So if you ever head out towards Staten Island, do give the pizzeria a visit!
5. J & V Pizzeria
Founded in: 1950
Next on our list of oldest pizza places in New York City is this tiny little place in Brooklyn that has its fair share of popularity. Unfortunately, J & V Pizzeria is often neglected to be mentioned around the web as one of the oldest pizza places in NYC. The reason for this completely escapes me since it invariably receives positive reviews for its taste and ambiance. The prices are reasonable too as it sets the price of a plain slice of pizza at merely $2.75.
4. Patsy’s Pizzeria
Founded in: 1933
For almost eighty-five years, Patsy’s Pizzeria has remained at the same little spot in East Harlem, working up an amazing reputation for a perfect New York style pizza. It is often said that Patsy’s was the first pizza place to have started selling pizza by the slice. This mode of sale caught on quite quickly, but some old pizzerias that take tremendous pride in their age still ignore the growing trend. You will see a couple of such examples in the top three spots on our list of the 11 oldest pizza places in New York City.
3. John’s of Bleecker Street
Founded in: 1929
Third place on our list of oldest pizza places in New York City goes to John’s of Bleecker Streey, the place to go if you like the old-school look. It is popular for its wooden booths where customers carve their names, giving the whole place a rather nostalgic feel. Furthermore, the restaurant still runs on a cash only policy, not accepting credit or debit cards. It does well in the taste department too with its pizza often being considered one of the best in New York. The most unusual feature of all is that John’s has still not succumbed to the trend of selling pizza by the slice, and only does so on a whole pie basis.
Founded in: 1924
The doors of Totonno’s first opened to the world in 1924. The founder was none other than Antonio “Totonno” Pero, a former employee of Lombardi’s. Totonno’s has seen some hard times; a fire wrecked the place in 2009 and Hurricane Sandy caused considerable damage in 2012 causing the owners to pull down the shutters for a while, but the pizzeria continues to impress, its loyal customers refusing to leave its side. With its black and white tiles and red tables presenting an iconic picture, the restaurant seems to be packed at all hours of the day, a testament to its popularity.
Founded in: 1905
Lombardi’s is not only one of the oldest pizza places in New York City, but is also the first-ever pizzeria in the United States of America. In fact, most of its fame comes from that very fact, something the owners take full advantage of. Not that the pizza is not absolutely delicious, but it comes with a hefty price. An original Margherita pizza of small size costs $18.50 but anything for a pizza, right? Like John’s of Bleecker Street, Lombardi’s refuses to sell individual slices.
Although it feels like Lombardi’s has been around forever, it actually closed down in 1984, opening again ten years later by the original founder Gennaro Lombardi’s grandson. Because of this long break, the famous pizza place lost the honor of being the longest continually operating pizzeria in the country.