It's the day of Xmas eve and my friend and I decide that today is just as good as any to partake in our "NYC metrocard fun-pass Pizza Tour." The idea being to get an unlimited metrocard and hit a few of the best pizza places in NY, getting a slice at each of them so that we could compare various aspects of them. I had been to each of the stops on the tour before, but my friend (also a die hard pizza fanatic) was virgin to all of them. The stops were: DiFara's (Bklyn), L&B Spumoni Gardens (Bklyn), and Sac's Pizza (Astoria). Unintentionally, it's my belief that each of these places excel in their "square" slice.
We lucked out at each location, as we arrived just when fresh pies were coming out of the oven (actually waited outside of L&B for a few scraggly slices to get sold before we went in, just so we could get some fresh slices), so i feel that we tried each location when they were at their best.
Let the reviews begin:
DiFara's - my third time here, but i left with even more respect for his pie than on my prior trips (even though my prior trips left me with high accolades for his product). When we arrived the place was empty (i'd never seen it like that) but there were no square slices when we arrived. After Dom looked in the oven we were told the proverbial "5 minutes"... but knowing Dom's speed i questioned how long it would really take! It didn't matter as i knew the wait would be worth it, and it gave my friend time to read some of the articles on the wall about the place. It also gave my friend opportunity to point out the fire extinguisher on the wall that, as he put it, was growing hair! This thing has dirt on it that is likely older than the building itself; so much so that my friend commented that if there was a fire, he may consider getting burned alive before he grabbed that thing in an attempt to save himself. Later in the day we refered to it as the fire extinguisher's mustache, but shortly thereafter dubbed it the fire extinguisher's DUSTache (which still makes me laugh).
Anways, back to the pizza... better than i remember! As usual the pie came out of the oven with cheese and oil litteraly bubbling on top of the pie. The crust had a nice flavor and was quite crunchy, the cheese slopping on top, and the tomato sauce BURSTING with flavor, with just a touch of sweetness noticed. I inhaled my slice quickly, but my friend had to wait for it to cool down. After he finished, i contemplated another slice but knew i had to pace myself, although my friend opted to try their 'regular' slice as well. He said it was just as flavorful at the square (which from a prior visit, i knew it would be).
L&B Spumoni Gardens - i had been to this location once before, and left not paricularly impressed at all. Unfortunately, this time was a similar experience (the journey only 'saved' by the great spumoni). For those not familiar with this place, they're known for their square pizza, which is of the cheese on the bottom variety. The crust was crunchy and buttery, the cheese barely noticable, and the sauce on top piping hot! I really don't have much to say about the pizza here, except that it's unique... almost like a crunchy foccacia(?) with a lot of sauce on it. Regardless, i'm afraid to say it's not worthy of being a "destination pizza place." Although the place has A LOT of character and would be best enjoyed on a spring/summer/fall evening when one could eat and people watch at the picnic tables out front, I don't think i'll be returning to for the food. If i was in the area i MIGHT stop by again, but i'll reserve this place for a fun and inexpensive child's birthday party served at a picnic table out front where the kids could be as noisy and messy as they want. I've heard many people say this is the best square slice they've had, but these comments come from those that haven't been there in many years, so i'm thinking it used to be better in the "old days."
This stop was not a total loss, as the Spumoni is EXCELLENT. My friend wasn't going to have any for dessert, but i twisted his arm and he agreed it was sublime. We both had chocolate, it was bursting with flavor, and the finely ground nuts mixed in were like little surprises and provided a nice texture. If you like spumoni (i never knew i liked it until i tried it here) then this is a MUST visit.
Sac's Pizza - this is my wife's favorite pizza shop, and i believe her only regret in marrying me (so far) is that she no longer lives across the street from this place! The 'regular' slice here is pretty good in it's own right, but i think their square is at the top of the heap. Their square slice is not cruchy at all (except for the edges) and it's flavorful but "doughy". The best way i can explain it is that you could just about fold this square slice in half (as you would a triangle slice) without cracking/splitting the bottom of the crust. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but expect a little bit more of a bread-like crust than something particularly crunchy. The sauce, drizzled onto the pie rather than spread, has good flavor and is sweet, but the cheese is what makes this slice noteworthy. They use a variety of cheeses which results in a cross between a pie with high quality pizza mozzarella and a pie with 'fresh buffalo mozzarella.' I'm not quite sure how they do it, but the bottom line is they do it well. Although this was our last stop of the pizza tour and we were somewhat full at this point, we both managed to consume two slices apiece here! I hadn't been to this location since my wife and i moved in together, and i had forgotten just how good it is.
CONCLUSION: It was a close match for the best slice between DiFara's and Sac's, with L&B being a distant third, but my friend gave the slight edge to DiFara's. However, they are fairly different slices... i think that if you like a crunchy, buttery, crust not overflowing with cheese, then DiFara's is the slice for you; but if you like more of a bready crust, not too buttery, with a lot of cheese coming thru in each bite, you might favor Sac's. Either way, i think they're both slices that are worthy of making a short trip out of your way for, and certainly each is MUCH better than the local neighborhood place. Incidentally, each is within 2 blocks of their closest subway stations, so easy to get to each if you don't have a car (or don't want to drive in NY).