A Little Slice of History: 10 Oldest and Best Pizzerias in NYC

It's no small surprise that the food has a deep rooted history in a city that is synonymous with excellent pizza. 

Anywhere else in the country, a self-proclaimed "New York Pizzeria" better damn well have good pizza because that's exactly what people expect. Usually, when it comes to thin crusted pies, everyone else falls a bit short to New Yorkers' standards. 

Sure, the composition of the water may have something to do with the reason why our pizza is just so much better than elsewhere, but we also have something else that others don't: decades of experience. 

We're home to some of the nation's oldest pizzerias still in existence, including our nation's first.

New York City's pizzerias have paved the way for our nation's pizza obsession, and these successful, delicious pizzerias have a lot to do with it. 

We've put together a list of some of the oldest pizzerias in NYC that are still in existence today.


1. Lombardi's Pizza (32 Spring Street) Established: 1905

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Lombardi's was originally opened by Gennaro Lombardi in 1897 as a grocery store. It was located at 53 Spring Street. 

In 1905, Lombardi received a business license to operate as a pizzeria. It soon amassed a following of devoted lunchtime customers. 

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Though Lombardi's was the first pizzeria in the nation, it's not the longest running. In 1984, Lombardi's original location was closed. Though they reopened at their current location ten years later, they lost their ability to claim that they are the longest running pizzeria (which is now in Trenton, NJ). 

Regardless, Lombardi's Pizza will forever be recognized as the nation's first pizzeria, located in NYC's Little Italy. 


2. Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitana (1524 Neptune Avenue - Brooklyn) Established: 1924

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Anthony (Totonno) Pero emigrated to the U.S. from Italy and found employment as a pizzaiolo (or pizza maker) at Lombardi's Pizza in 1903. In 1924, Totonno had a large family of his own to help run their own pizzeria, which they opened on Coney Island. 

Totonno's suffered two fires in their history (the most recent in 2009 which closed the restaurant for 11 months), it was also hit by Hurricane Sandy, and shutdown for 5 months. 

However, they've recovered, and are still pumping out some of the city's best pizza using handmade mozzarella, dough that is never refrigerated, and only the finest ingredients imported from Italy. It also helps that their business and craft has been passed down from generation to generation.


3. John's of Bleecker Street (278 Bleecker Street) Established: 1929

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New York City's third oldest pizzeria was founded on Sullivan Street by John Sasso in 1929. When he moved to their current location, John moved his original coal fired brick oven to Bleecker Street. 

In 1954, John sold his pizzeria to the Vesce brothers, though Augustine Vesce bought out his brother and ran John's until his passing in 1984. Despite his death, John's is still family-owned. 

John's still operates using the original coal fired brick oven that John moved from Sullivan Street that give the pizzas their crispy crust and smokey flavor. 


4. Sam's Restaurant (238 Court Street - Brooklyn) Established: 1930

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Opened in 1930, Sam's Restaurant is owned and run by the Migliaccio family. For 60 years, Mario Migliaccio was responsible for making pizza that has been known to rival Di Fara's in quality and flavor. 

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Sam's is now run by Mario's son, Louis. Though Mario is no longer responsible for making the pies at Sam's, the pizza remains as delicious as ever. 


5. Patsy's (various locations) Established: 1933

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Pasquale Lancieri opened Patsy's Pizzeria in Harlem in 1933. Though they now have four locations in NYC, they are still cranking out their authentic, Sicilian style, coal oven pizza in their original Harlem spot to this very day. 

Patsy's, apart from making incredible pizza, is the pizzeria credited with first selling pizza by the slice, changing the pizza business forever. 

While most of the city's original pizzerias only sell pizza by the pie, it's impossible to overlook that Patsy's is responsible for creating the pizza-by-the-slice culture that New York City is known and loved for. 

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6. Nunzio's Pizzeria (2155 Hylan Blvd - Staten Island) Established: 1942

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Though originally opened in South Beach by Nunzio Trivoluzzo, Nunzio's moved to its current location in 1960. In 1960, Nunzio sold Nunzio's to Jimmy Coppolla and his son, Vincent, and his son-in-law, Al Bruno. 

Since 1960, Nunzio's was passed down within the family to Robert Whiteaker (Jimmy's grandson). 

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It was nearly destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, which flooded the kitchen and ripped off part of the roof. After replacing most of their destroyed equipment and infrastructure, Nunzio's reopened to the delight of many of their faithful customers. 


7. J&V Pizzeria (6322 18th Avenue - Brooklyn) Established: 1950

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Johnny Mortillaro and Vincent DeGrezia opened J&V Pizzeria in 1950. They are credited with being the first pizzeria in Bensonhurst (an area with one of the oldest Italian neighborhoods in Brooklyn) for selling pizza by the slice. 

Though they both came from different regions in Italy (Johnny from Sicily and Vincent from Naples), the two created both square and circular pies to appeal to both regional cultures. 

J&V Pizzeria is also unique in the fact that they use a rotating deck oven to cook their pies, instead of a coal fired oven or traditional deck oven. Their oven has multiple "steps" that rotate in a large oven to cook their pizzas evenly. 


8. Denino's Pizzeria & Tavern (524 Port Richmond Avenue - Staten Island) Established: 1951*

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Ok, so Denino's was actually established in 1937 when John Denino and his family opened a tavern in their current location. 

They didn't actually serve pizza until John passed away and his son, Carlo, became responsible for the spot. He introduced pizza to Denino's in 1951, and it was an immediate hit. 

In 2000, Carlo passed away, but his wife, Palma, and their children continue to run Denino's. In 2010, the Denino family expanded to another location on the Jersey shore. 


9. L&B Spumoni Gardens (2725 86th Street - Brooklyn) Established: Mid 1950s

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In 1938, Ludovico Barbati made pizzas in a garage in Brooklyn and sold them using a horse (named Babe) and wagon in Bensonhurst. In 1939, he purchased a vacant lot to sell Spumoni and Ices, which took away from his horse and wagon business. 

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In the mid 1950s, he built one of the three buildings that became the current pizzeria. To this day, L&B Spumoni Gardens is run by the Barbati family, spanning to their fourth generation. 


10. Arturo's Coal-Oven Pizza (106 West Houston Street) Established: 1957

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Arthur (Arturo) Giunta opened Arturo's in June of 1957 with his fiancee Betty. The couple borrowed money from family and got their equipment on trust to begin their restaurant. They even used string-bean baskets for lampshades in the beginning. 

Arthur ran Arturo's with Betty and their two children until his passing in 2006. Many of the pieces of art that decorate the walls of Arturo's was created by Arthur himself. 

Apart from excellent pizza, Arturo's is also a space for live music. Apart from their piano, they are a great spot for some nightly jazz. 

Check out 7 Best Places to Enjoy Latkes in NYC

[Feature Image Courtesy MissButtercup.com] 

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