The 8 Best Pizza Shops for a NY-Style Slice Outside New York
You’ve reached Outta Sight when you smell the toasty, yeasty aroma of cooked dough and the acidic tang of tomato sauce. The thin, crispy pies served here are on par with the ones served at the best New York pizzerias, cut into large slices whose tips flop a bit when you fold them in half. Except this isn’t New York. Outta Sight is in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, and it’s part of a rising movement of zhuzhed-up slice shops that are bringing their take on New York pizza to cities across the US
Since the middle of the 20th century, shops serving pizza by the individual, triangular slice have been essential to the fabric of New York City food culture. That’s thanks to the invention of the gas deck oven by an Italian immigrant named Frank Mastro in 1934, which enabled pizzaiolos formerly using coal ovens to bake at lower temperatures for longer, resulting in a sturdier pizza that could hold up in a box. As these ovens became more widely available, the slice joint—a place to stop in for a large, foldable slice of thin-crust pizza—became a fixture in New York. Though the quality of slice spots vary, over the past decade there’s been an explosion of chef-driven, fancied-up New York slice shops—thanks in part to pizza makers like Frank Pinello of Brooklyn’s Best Pizza and Scarr Pimentel of Scarr’s Pizza on the Lower East Side using seasonal and heirloom ingredients.
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Now, this artisanal approach to the humble slice is spreading, thanks in part to Instagram. At Chicago’s Zazas Pizzeria, there’s a crisp cheese slice topped with cold, creamy blobs of burrata that resembles another that’s served at L’Industrie in Brooklyn. And spots like Pizza Jeans in Atlanta and Miami’s aptly named Miami Slice are putting their own spin on the quintessential slice shop. They pay homage to New York by serving pizza designed to be eaten on-the-go, but these aren’t strictly classic New York slice joints: They take inspiration from their own surroundings, too, utilizing fresh produce, sourdough fermentation, and regional pizza styles.
In cities without built-in foot traffic, social media is also helping to drive customers to pizzerias that otherwise don’t receive enough business to stay busy and sell by the slice. This mainstream cultural interest in the New York slice was already underway when the pandemic hit, but the closure of dine-in restaurants acted as a sort of supercharge. People needed take-out options, and New York–style pies, which are easily reheated, suddenly made perfect sense outside of New York.
From Asheville to Miami, here are eight New York–inspired pizzerias that exemplify why there’s never been a better time to grab a slice—or a few.
Outta Sight Pizza
Chef Eric Ehler and his business partner, Peter Dorrance, met while working at the contemporary Chinese restaurant Mister Jiu’s, before switching gears to pizza. Their brick-and-mortar slice shop opened last September, sandwiched between San Francisco’s Tenderloin and Civic Center neighborhoods. The shop is on the way to and from work for construction workers, government employees, port laborers, bartenders, and line cooks, who often stop in for a cheesy slice with a flavorful golden brown crust. Outta Sight’s signature slice is the Madonna, a cross between a Margherita and a plain cheese pie, finished with grated dry Jack cheese and torn basil. The pizzeria itself is relatively bare-bones with white walls, grayish wood floors, and scattered artwork, allowing the pies to take the spotlight.
“I don’t want to call [the pizza] New York–style because I don’t want to offend anybody, but I want the pizza to be thin and crispy. We like a little flop over here,” says Ehler. He uses a poolish (a pre-ferment made with yeast) instead of sourdough but still treats his dough like an artisanal bread product. “We fold it, rest it, and shape it exactly how you would go about making a baguette,” he says. The end result is a crust that has similar characteristics to a rustic loaf: spongy and fluffy in the middle, with eggshell-crisp outsides. Ehler and his team also make their own mozzarella in-house. All of Outta Sight’s slices are excellent, but the mushroom slice—a white pie featuring crimini, oyster, shiitake, and king trumpet mushrooms—is not to be missed.
Miami Slice is not a slice shop so much as a slice bar. The space, which opened last year, is designed to look and feel like a cocktail bar with its marbled countertop, comfortable barstools, and front-row view of pizza makers working deck ovens and topping slices. One of Miami Slice’s owners, Alejandro Díaz, goes so far as to refer to the employees behind the bar as pizzatenders (get it?). “The concept of the slice bar allows you to have a slice right out of the oven and have a one-on-one experience with the person that’s serving you pizza while they’re decorating the slices,” he says. Those slices include one topped with vodka sauce and drizzled with pesto (La Salsera) and another with garlic confit cream, leeks, and bacon (Leeks on Bacon).
Miami Slice calls its pizza “artisan NY-style.” Díaz, who previously owned pizza restaurants in his home country of Venezuela and also spent time in New York, says the crust is “airy and almost flaky-crunchy.” One customer described the crust to Díaz as a love child between a pizza and a croissant. The pro move is to order your pizza—ideally, a pepperoni slice—with “all kicks” and receive a shower of extra toppings: stracciatella, olive oil, hot honey, basil, salt, and pepper.
115 E Girard Ave #3907, Philadelphia
When Pizza Shackamaxon opened in 2018, it was simply called PIZZA. “That’s all we serve,” manager Josh Phillips explains. “The idea was we sell four things: plain, pepperoni, tomato pie, and a special. It hasn’t changed much.” Ultimately, the shop added on Shackamaxon (the street it’s on) to make it easier for customers to find it—but the operation hasn’t gotten any more complicated. A Pizza Shackamaxon slice is distinguished by its dough, which is fermented for 24 to 36 hours for a slight funk and a finished crust that’s golden with big bubbles and a nice char. The slices are large, cut into six sections from 20-inch pies. “Two slices is a whole meal, easily, for ten bucks,” Phillips says. There is no sit-down experience here, and all of the blistered, oversized triangle slices and bright, squishy tomato pies are served out of a to-go window.
Like Ehler, Phillips is wary of calling the pizza at Pizza Shackamaxon New York–style. (“No one in Philadelphia will ever say they make New York–style pizza, so we’ve always called ourselves New American pizza.”) As is the case with most slice shops, the plain cheese slice is the best seller. Only once did a special—buffalo chicken—outsell it. Yet the slice that encapsulates what Pizza Shackamaxon is all about is its tomato pie, a Philly staple that departs from the New York approach. It’s a thick, focaccia-style dough topped with nothing other than tomato sauce made with crushed tomatoes grown nearby in Kingston, New Jersey, finished with extra-virgin olive oil and house-dried oregano, and served at room temperature in square slices. “It’s the least frills of our no-frills pizza,” Phillips says.
2610 NW Vaughn St, Portland, OR
Darby Aldaco describes his pizza at Pizza Thief as “New York–style only in size and look, but very Portland as far as ingredients and dough.” The dough in question is naturally leavened and made using local whole grains, and he incorporates all sorts of farmers market produce on his pies—including a seasonal special that rotates every few weeks. Right now, the seasonal special is topped with braised rainbow chard, leeks, garlic, and béchamel.
Pizza Thief is a slice shop, but also a bar. On one side of the space is Bandit Bar, which serves cocktails and local beer and cider on draft. On the other side, there’s the more family-friendly pizzeria, which features a couple arcade games and a colorful mural of a raccoon eating a slice by the artist Eric Yunker. Monday nights are Pizza Thief’s “Maker Mondays,” when a local brewer or winemaker stops by to do a tasting and design their own Sicilian square that stays on the menu for just that night.
Many customers come to Pizza Thief and buy a whole pie’s worth of different slices, to try as many flavors as possible. The mushroom pie features caciotta al tartufo, a truffle-laced semisoft cheese, rosemary, and a blend of roasted mushrooms that includes chanterelles in the fall. The Highway #99, an already popular new addition to the menu is topped with chile verde, braised pork shoulder, Monterey Jack, and jalapeños. Pizza Thief also offers its entire lineup of pies as gluten-free pan-style pizza. Save room for Aldaco’s cannolis, seasonal ice creams, and triple-chocolate hazelnut cookies.
140, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE 1st Floor, Suite n, Atlanta
What was once a pizza pop-up inside the James Beard–nominated baker Chris Wilkins' Root Baking Co. is now a full-fledged pizzeria housed in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. Wilkins is known for his use of heirloom grains and natural leavening, so it makes sense that his pizza is made with an excellent sourdough base. And where most New York–style slice shops use low-moisture shredded mozzarella on their classic plain slice, Pizza Jeans uses slices of fresh mozzarella for a Margherita-style pie. The shop has become known for its “mall slices,” which are Wilkins’ play on the giant slices served at the Sbarro chain of pizzerias in malls across the country. Pizza Jean is, after all, a mall pizzeria, although Ponce City Market features local food vendors in lieu of chains like Sbarro and Panda Express.
The inspiration for the interior of the pizzeria is Stromboli Pizza, an East Village restaurant that the Beastie Boys once took a photo in front of. The restaurant’s GM, Stephanie Luke, used to be the drummer of the punk rock band The Coathangers, and loud punk and hip-hop plays in the space. There’s a sketch of Frank Sinatra and another of Notorious B.I.G. on the wall. Pizza Jeans also has a seven-seat bar with repurposed leather swivel chairs and a full cocktail program, including five different types of spritzes.
When Brett Nemec was developing his pie at Zazas Pizzeria, he was intent on achieving a crust that his customers wouldn’t want to discard. “A lot of times, if you eat crust on its own, it just tastes like underseasoned bread, which is why a lot of people just leave their crust on the plate,” he says. Nemec’s solution? He infuses Sicilian olive oil with rosemary and garlic, lets it sit overnight, and then brushes it over the crust of every cooked pie, along with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. The toppings at Zazas are similarly exalted: whipped ricotta dollops on a white pie with a sesame seed crust; locally made soppressata paired with fennel oil and Mike’s Hot Honey; ’roni cups and basil. Nemec is a particular fan of Zazas’ chimichurri pie, which has a base of garlic cream and mozzarella, layered with fennel sausage, pepperoncini, charred shallots, feta, and drizzled with house-made chimichurri.
Nemec was born and raised in Illinois, working his way up the ranks from dishwasher to executive chef in the restaurant industry. After being tasked with improving the dough for the pizzettas (pizza-like wood-fired flatbreads) at Santo Cielo in Naperville, Illinois, he started to dive deep into pizza. It was Frank Pinello of Vice’s The Pizza Show that inspired him to try his hand at making New York–style pizza. And once he did, he was hooked.
Nemec and his business partner and brother, Chadd Nemec, opened their small, brick-walled pizzeria in Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood at the end of 2021. They serve slices on paper plates and play a mix of indie, funk, and hip-hop. The shop has been busy since day one, in part because of the preopening buzz they were able to drum up on social media. But Nemec also attributes their success to the fact that New York–style pizza is not as prevalent in this city. “People were looking for something different than the typical tavern-style or deep dish” which are the norms in Chicago, he says.
Before he founded Pie.Zaa, Tyler Kotch was a trauma surgery consultant in New York and then in Asheville, North Carolina. After many shifts in New York, he’d leave the hospital in the middle of the night starving and grab a slice of pizza. “Then I came to Asheville, which was this huge brewery town, with people going out and having a good time, but I couldn’t get any [late-night] food,” he says. So he took it upon himself to change that. Now, at Pie.Zaa (open until midnight during the week, and 1 a.m. on weekends), he serves massive slices in classic flavors like cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and a “garden” pie with vegetables. Plus, dipping sauces galore: marinara, ranch, and what he calls “zip,” a creamy dip that features cherry peppers and Parmesan.
The sheer size of Pie.Zaa’s 12-inch slices is a major draw. “It’s a statement piece right off the bat,” Kotch says. Also, it’s a lot of food for a good price. “You don’t have to buy a whole pie for your family or yourself. You can come get a slice for $6.00, and you’re going to be so full, you probably won’t want to shove another one in your mouth.” Like any well-oiled slice joint, Pie.Zaa will have you in and out in three to five minutes. Or, you can hang around and watch Bob Ross on the TV. Kotch and his team recently secured a lease in Charlotte and will be opening a second Pie.Zaa location later this year.
Allday Pizza opened in March of this year and is already slinging upward of 600 slices a day. The pies at this pizzeria in the Tarrytown neighborhood on the west side of Austin are inspired by the East Coast roots of its owners. Dan Sorg and Townsend Smith are from New Jersey and Connecticut, respectively, and moved from Brooklyn to Austin during the pandemic. “I feel like with the dispersion of New Yorkers and [other] people from coastal cities, there’s this demand for pizza in a new way,” says Sorg. Slices include the Sweet Sausage with soppressata, red onion, and Calabrian chile honey, and the Tomato Tomatoe, a cheeseless number with Sicilian oregano, fresh garlic, and lemon-pepper panko. Customers at Allday, which shares its sleek, minimalist space with a wine bar called Flo’s, can walk up to the pizza counter and order by the slice. There’s an outdoor patio as well, to enjoy a pie and a bottle of wine.
The dough for Allday’s pizza contains a blend of organic flours, including from local miller Barton Springs Mill, and gets cold-fermented for 48 hours. The sauce is made with Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes, and the stracciatella—their “house cheese”—is homemade. For dipping crusts, Allday also makes a buttermilk ranch with fennel, dill, and local honey, all blended with Calabrian chiles. “People down here love ranch dressing,” says Sorg, “and Texans like meat and heat.”
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit