What is New York-Style Pizza?

The New York-style pie is considered by many to be the gold standard of pizza. This round, thin-crust pie is the most commonly found pizza variant in the five boroughs and throughout the United States as a whole, and for good reason.

Looking to get the dish on this round, thin-crust pizza in a New York minute? You’ve come to the right place.

When was the New York-style pizza invented?

Although the exact origins of pizza in America have recently been complicated by new research, we do know a fair amount. One of America’s first pizzerias, Lombardi’s, began serving pies in New York’s Little Italy neighborhood in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Most of the great pizzaiolos trained at this shop, and they later went onto found other classic NYC pizzerias like Totonno’s and John’s.

Lombardi’s and the like quickly found a following among the city’s working class, who would often request a slice rather than a full pie. In Italy, Neapolitan pies were offered only as single-serving dishes, but Lombardi’s was willing to accommodate those who could not afford the expenditure. This launched a revolution in NYC and in the culinary world as a whole.

What defines a New York-style pizza?

The New York-style pizza is typically cooked in a gas-powered oven, although historically pizzerias used coal-fired ovens (Lombardi’s still does.) Gas ovens heat up to a lower temperature than the wood-fired ovens that produce Neapolitan pies. Because of the lower temperature, low-moisture mozzarella is used in place of fresh mozzarella.

NYC pies are also much, much cheesier than their Naples counterparts. Traditional pies in Italy are frequently dotted with gobs of fresh mozzarella and, sometimes, only sprinkled lightly with grated parmesan cheese — too much cheese and the pie becomes soggy. Here, you’ll find a much thicker layer of cheese that spans the entire pie up until the cornicione and is much more suited to the American palate.

Like its crust, the sauce of a New York-style pizza is on the thinner side and often includes a dash of sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Recipes vary, but the sauce usually calls for aromatics like basil, garlic, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

How big is a New York-style pizza?

New York-style pizzas are usually about 18 inches in diameter, which eclipses the standard Italian pie. They’re cut into eight slices; one makes for an ideal snack, two slices qualify as a solid nosh, and three or four make for a quality meal.

Of course, your mileage may vary, and there’s no shame in downing five or more slices in a sitting.

Do they only serve New York-style pizza in New York City?

No way! New York City’s food culture is defined by its diversity and its pizza game contains multitudes.

In NYC, you’ll find Neapolitan pies, Sicilian squares, bar pizzas, and just about any other style you can think of. The NYC style of pizza still reigns supreme, but New Yorkers have a great appreciation for pies of all shapes and sizes.

Does New York’s water make its pizza more delicious?

It may sound like an old wives’ tale, but many pizzaiolos swear that NYC’s H2O is the key to its flavorful and durable crust. There’s science to support this as well – New York’s tap water is said to be “softer” than water found elsewhere due to lower amounts of magnesium and calcium. It’s also mildly saltier than water found in other parts of the world due to an uptick in sodium ions.

Is this the difference maker between New York’s pizza and New York-style pizza served in other regions? It may be a factor, but it’s more likely that the pizza bakers of New York simply have more practice in churning out pies to a city that consumes them in record numbers.

Can I get good New York-style pizza outside of New York?

Absolutely! While New York is rightfully renowned for its pizza, there are equally strong NYC-style pizzas to be found in all different parts of the United States.

Pizza aficionados owe it to themselves to try New York-style pizza in its motherland, but fantastic pies can be found almost anywhere these days. For now, you can save yourself the schlep and order up a phenomenal pizza no matter where you live.

Zach Links is an L.A.-based sports journalist who is equally concerned with the outcome of the game and what he’ll be eating at halftime. In addition to serving as a staff writer for The Sauce, he’s also the lead writer and editor of ProFootballRumors.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZachLinks and on Instagram @FatZachLinks.