Our on-going Manhattan pizza slice crawl continued recently with Phase 5, visiting 13 venues primarily on the Upper West Side. Most places had been previously rec'd by at least one CHowhound poster.
We're happy to report that the state of the slice on the UWS is very alive and well, and honestly outshines alot of other parts of the city. 5 of the 13 venues we consider good enough to continue into the tasteoffs, a high ratio.
All tasting is of the "plain slice".
The following notes are from order of TASTING, not order of preference.
RIGOLETTO. Columbus btw 69/70. Great looking slice. Low grease run-off. FOlds soft. Bit of cornmeal on bottom. Generous amt of well-adhered cheese. Delicious flavor. Medium-zesty flavor. Nice & chewy, non-curdly cheese. Cute place too with good window view. A finalist for sure.
CITY PIE. 72nd st. btw Columbus & Amsterdam. Low grease. Very pretty, good looking slice. SLightly less cheese & thinner than Rigoletto nearby. Folds soft. Undeniably tasty & pleasant. More to the delicate end of the flavor spectrum. Plain vanilla "linoleum" venue. Will move on in the tasteoffs.
Wow, first two venues and they're both great. Good omen for the UWS!
VINNIES 285 Amsterdam, north of 72nd. Zagat Rated "Best Pizza of the West Side". This should be interesting. Generous ingredients. Delicate flavor with very pronounced garlic. Medium+ grease runoff. VERY soft, almost "weak" dough. This slice could collapse if not held right. It's not bad but right off we prefer Rigoletto or City Pie. Garlic was too overpowering the otherwise delicate flavor. Too soggy crust. Not bad at all for a local slice jones.
FREDDIE & PEPPERS. Amsterdam near 75th. Good looking, folds soft w/ low to medium grease. This is the 4th good slice in a row! That doesn't happen very often. Chewy cheese... delicate flavor style. Very little discernable sauce. Just too bland in final analysis. CLose but no cigar.
FAMOUS ORIGINAL RAYS 462 Columbus N. of 82nd. Folds w/ medium crack. Somewhat thicker "cracker" type crust. Pasty but zesty & tangy sauce. Low-med grease. Pronounced garlic. Zest/Tasty/Tangy style, will move on.
CESAR's 493 Amst. n. of 83rd. Somewhat yellow appearance. Thin. Meager amt. of cheese. Mild-to-medium pleasant, somewhat pasty sauce. Cheddary notes not particularly pleasant. More interesting as you move away from the middle of the pie.
IL FORNO. Broadway btw. 79/80. Very pleasant place w/ Sinatra playing. Pretty slice. folds soft. Low grease. Very very bland flavor.
RAY'S. 2351 Broadway. Walked by this place, saw it packed so why not try. The slices are cooked in what looks like a large personal toaster oven. Comedic flavor of profoundly sweet tomato paste and a big garlic blast. Very thin cheese veneer. Soft "doughy" crust. No cigar.
HOT & CRUSTY. Broadway near 87th. Interesting place. A combo bakery and semi-artisanal pizza. Sign outside advertises "Stone Hearth" baking, Pizza Rustica, etc. Plain slice is very thin with an "uneven" "rough artistic" appearance. Lotsa very white mozzarella splotches. Folds w/ light crack. Distinctive zippy flavor. Just not sure I really like this somewhat "unusual" taste which means I'm probably not crazy about it in the final analysis. Nice chewy cheese. Very good for a local slice jones. Interestingly, asked for a slice of their premises-baked cheesecake which was a MEGA HIT (see upcoming Cheesecake safari notes).
PIZZA BOLLA. Amsterdam at 92nd. Maybe the thinnest slice yet encountered on the Safari. Mixed cheese blend. Tastes like a "delicate grilled cheese sand". It's Time to head to next venue.
CHEESY PIZZA 2640 Broadway at 100th. Big yellowish slice. Folds soft. Has that "burnt" taste of cheddar blends. Medium-mild style. Not bad if you like this style. We've tasted worse on the UWS....
SAL'S & CARMINE'S Broadway btw 101/102. Hmmm... yumm... a very tad bit salty but otherwise very itneresting. Medium-zingy flavor. Thin baked. Folds soft. Slight crunch to the dough. AN interesting combo of sparse ingredients on a thin crust but with an overall zippy flavor. Saltiness remains annoying. Overhear a crowd of local students yapping about how it's the best slice in NYC. Will move on in the tasteoffs.
KORONET'S 110 & Broadway. The size of this "jumbo" slice is remarkable. About the size of a football.... Chewy, folds soft, low grease, pasty sauce. Medium-zingy flavor. Will "squeak by" into the tasteoffs.
Also tried V&T, highly rec'd by this board, but it has whole pies only.
We're very impressed with the overall quality of UWS slices. It's always great to escape to this very human-scale, "non-touristy" section of the city where I first lived over 20 years ago. Hard to believe.
Of these venues, Rigoletto, City Pie, Famous Original Rays, Sal & Carmines, and Koronet's will all move on in the tasteoffs. Honorable mention to Vinnie's and Hot & Crusty which seem like interesting local slices also.