In Eater LA’s new series, Highly Opinionated, Eater editors delve into one specific, oft-debated food obsession in Los Angeles. This month brings the hot takes to New York City-style pizza slices, a format that has long been popular in Los Angeles, but has only recently risen to heights that would begin to approach the city from which it originated. Here now, the top three places to get New York City pizza in the City of Angels.
Los Angeles isn’t known for its pizza, though, surprisingly, there’s a wide array of places to get well-crafted pizzas here. From the growing Neapolitan influence of Pizzana to the iconic smoked salmon pizza topped with caviar and creme fraiche at Spago, Angelenos have loved thin-crust pizza for generations. While longtime pizzerias have imported New York City’s classic pizza to Los Angeles, from Mulberry Street to Lamonica’s, a recent crop of restaurants has helped bring a special touch to the simple round pie topped with canned tomato sauce, cheese, and sliced meats. We’re breaking this down Wirecutter-style, like we did with Korean barbecue, with the top recommendation, one alternate selection, and one old-school pick to honor the work of a classic pizzeria.
Why you should trust me: Simply put, I love pizza. I once nearly ate two whole pizzas by myself on a one-day trek to eat the coal-fired pies in New Haven, Connecticut. I’ve made pilgrimages to some of the top pizzerias in New York City, from Di Fara to Best Pizza to John’s of Bleecker Street, though I still have many slices I need to try there. And I’ve been to well over 20 thin-crust pizzerias in Los Angeles over the years, eating upwards of six slices a day just to find the best. I also make pizza regularly at home, from square grandma-style and Sicilian to classic round New York style. I’m also famously willing to debate the topic — I’ve almost even gotten thrown into a bar fight while debating pizza.
The overall favorite: Pizzeria Bianco
One could say it’s difficult to crown this place as the best overall New York City-style slice in Los Angeles when chef Chris Bianco’s restaurant is a mere three weeks old. But if Bianco’s reputation and consistency is of any concern, look to his decades-old tenure in Phoenix. Pizzeria Bianco in LA only serves three New York-style slices right now: a red slice with tomato sauce and house blend cheese; thinly-sliced salami, and “green” with caciocavallo, spinach-cream sauce, and parmigiano reggiano. The wide slices here are masterfully assembled, with splotches of creamy mozzarella blended with parmigiano for a nutty, salty touch. Bianco uses his Bianco DiNapoli canned tomatoes, easily among the best on the market, featuring a rounded savory flavor finished with gentle sweetness. And the blistered crust is almost mochi-levels of tender near the cornicione, just barely singed by the oven on the bottom.
The higher hydration makes this crust, made with organic flour, the best possible base for the balance of cheese and toppings. The green slice feels like the perfect complement to the tomato sauce versions, with an oily vegetal sauce that counters the nuttier, richer caciocavallo cheese. These slices beg to be talked about, to be swooned over, to be remembered long after chewing on the last piece of crust. Pizzeria Bianco will soon open for dinner and the chef will serve his classic wood-fired Neo-Neapolitan pizzas. Right now, the slices are lunch only, and come dinner service, large 18-inch New York-style whole pies will only be available for takeout. 1320 E 7th St #100, Los Angeles, CA
The solid alternate for classic NYC slices: Apollonia’s
With a split lunch and dinner service operating for just five-and-a-half hours each day they’re open (Wednesday to Sunday), Mid-Wilshire’s Apollonia’s Pizza feels inaccessible, with a cash-only approach and just two slices available at the shop: cheese and pepperoni. But these slices are absolutely glorious, prime examples of the best kind of New York City pizza where the cheese and sauce become amalgamated into a magical interplay of stretchy, savory goodness. The cheese pizza is stunning, and the pepperoni, with its slightly curved cups of spicy mini-salami, might be even better.
These are traditional slices that feel less artisanal but still offer a highly developed, flavorful crust. The sauce is more robust here than Bianco’s, more reduced and tinted with herbs and black pepper, giving it the aggressive seasoning of the likes of Di Fara in Brooklyn. However, with no basil-topped margherita on the menu at Apollonia’s, the slices cannot reach heights of the late Dom DeMarco’s pizza. For West Coast pizza fans, Apollonia’s is a fantastic consolation, and the whole pie menu ranges over two dozen topping combinations. Note: They do accept online orders, and one could pay with a credit card when ordered this way. Oh, and they make gluten-free pizza in whole pie form. 5176 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
The old-school sentimental pick: Vito’s
Originally located in East Hollywood, and now in a plain strip mall along La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood, Vito di Donato’s enduring New York City/New Jersey-style pizza has been one of the most consistent slice shops in town. With wide, thin crusts topped modestly with often whimsical combinations, like the Garibaldi, covered with jalapeno, tomato, meatball, and red sauce, di Donato’s tiny establishment is best experienced when the jovial pizzaiolo is roaming around the shop. Classic cheese slices meld the sauce and mozzarella into a two-millimeter plane while the paper-thin crust requires a fold to be eaten properly. Served on ribbed paper plates and fired within minutes, the formula has been successful enough for an expansion to Santa Monica. While that’s nice for di Donato’s brand, the West Hollywood original is still the one to visit. 846 N. La Cienega Blvd.West Hollywood, CA