New York City is a pizza destination, known around the world for both authentic, wood-fired pies and ubiquitous corner slices. But what defines New York-style pizza, and what makes it so special? Here, we study what makes New York pizza unique and get to the bottom of this mystery.
First, we must explore what makes a pizza New York-style. The hallmarks of a New York City slice are a thin, hand-tossed crust, both crisp and soft. Slices are often eaten folded in half. It is topped with light amounts of tomato sauce and cheese, not overwhelmed by toppings. Pizza has been served in the city for over a century, and today it is home to more than 400 pizza restaurants.
New York City bagels famously benefit from the city’s particular water —does New York pizza as well? According to many, yes! Some pizzerias outside of the city have even occasionally go so far as to transport water from the city in order to make the most authentic pies. That said, while the water doesn’t hurt, it’s a myth — it’s more about the length of the fermentation of the dough than actual water!
New York-style pizza uses flour with a very high protein content, resulting in high gluten development. The higher the protein content, the easier it is for gluten to develop when kneading and the lighter and chewier the structure of your crust will be. Therefore, New York pizza’s hallmark crust comes from the type of flour bakers most commonly use.
Because New York has been a pizza hub for so long, the ovens pizzerias use are often incredibly old. Much like a well-seasoned pan, the ovens have absorbed the flavor of decades-worth of pizzas, which imparts depth in the cooking process. Some pizzerias in the city use wood-fired ovens, and others coal-fired ovens, but both types cook the pizza at extremely high temperatures.
New York has several conic pizzerias that have been operation for decades, producing quality pizzas and refining their process. It’s only natural that these storied institutions produce special pizza. They have legacies and traditions that contribute to the quality of their product. Many other cities don’t have this history to draw upon. After all, not every restaurant in New York serves great pizza. It has its fair share, or more, of mediocre slices. But these are outweighed by the preponderance of legendary pizzerias.