You may have figured out by now that I just spent a week in Midtown, one of many more to come. I'm coming back to the land of my birth from Los Angeles which, while chock full of absolutely fantastic eats (and cheap eats at that), is woefully short on what I consider excellent pizza.
When I say "pizza" I mean a flat, bubbly-crusted piece of bread onto which normal tomato sauce, olibe oil and good mozzarella cheese have been added, and a short list of approved toppings (hint: if it contains a sauce other than red gravy or just garlic oil, it is not pizza as I know and love it).
So when I was walking down 57th St. toward Carnegie Hall one night I smelled the real deal. It's not hard to find good pizza in New York, but this smelled incredible -- unfortunately I'd just come back from dinner and had no room for more food.
So Friday at lunch I disappeared out of my office on 8th Ave. and walked over to Angelo's, where I sat at the bar and ordered a small pie and a Diet Coke. The pizza came out very, very quickly -- coal ovens are hot and don't take a lot of time to make a pizza, and this fits in very nicely with the come-ON-already nature of New York lunch hours -- and smelled fantastic. Garlic powder, Parmesan cheese (powder-in-a-green-plastic-tub type), red pepper flakes, oregano and pepper were set down, and I went to town.
It was very, very good. The only major beef I have is that the crust was over-oiled a bit and so the cheese slid around. I would have liked it to be cut in fourths instead of eighths, because it would have folded better, but that's really just a nit to pick there. The mozzarella was fresh and bubbly and appropriately burned (it really does need to have a couple of "brown spots"). The basil leaves were fresh. I added oregano and garlic and it really hit the spot.
They don't, by the way, refill drinks for free. While part of me is irritated about this, because it's not normal to be charged per soda in Los Angeles, the greater part of me thinks that this is a good idea because it will reduce the amount of soda I drink. In point of fact I lost four pounds in a week in New York despite eating like a king, because I didn't drink lots of soda (when it's humid out, all I ever want is water) and I walked most places.
So, while Angelo's has very good pizza, Lombardi's it ain't -- first of all, there's room to move, which is not the case at Lombardi's. The pizza is, in fact, better at Lombardi's, but Lombardi's stands out even in New York for excellent pizza. The pizza holds together better at Lombardi's; the gravy is tangier. The crust is about equal.
Service was surprisingly friendly given the speed at which they were moving. Prices were not unreasonable -- I think a large pizza is $17 and a small is $13 but I could be wrong, I wasn't paying a lot of attention.
So, this poses a question, though -- what other pizza is a "must try" within a reasonable (let's call it an hour to get there, eat and come back) distance of 50th and 8th? By the slice or whole pie. Walking distance would be preferable, since then I can justify eating two pieces instead of one. I know about Artichoke, which is on my list for a day when I can afford to take the time to get down to 14th St.
117 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019