If you consider yourself a New York pizza lover, there are a couple dozen pizzerias you must try before you can even pretend to know of what you speak. You may have heard that Patsy’s of East Harlem serves a floppy, lifeless slice. But throngs of loyal fans have lived and died by Patsy’s for decades, so if you want to talk intelligently about the pizza in this town, you have to go and decide for yourself. Some critics claim that John’s is just a shell of its former self. Yet there is a line (of tourists) out the door almost every night. So you’ve got to get in line and taste it for yourself before you make any judgments.
Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano of Coney Island is one of those places. Some contend that Totonno's is nothing special. Then there are people who make pilgrimages to Neptune Avenue from every corner of the globe for Totonno. I count myself amongst those who consider Totonno's one of the quintessential New York thin crust pies in all the five boroughs.
Even though they’ve opened a couple of locations in Manhattan, I always eat my Totonno's pie down in Coney Island. I love the smell of the pizza wafting out the door as it mixes with the smell of the Atlantic in the air and the grease and exhaust from the auto body shops on the block. It is a beautiful, uniquely Brooklyn experience. Also, I always get a kick out of watching Cookie shouting un-pleasantries at her staff and customers in her thick outer borough accent.
Totonno’s pizza is delectable. Usually, pizzerias have one thing they do particularly well. The sausage is what’s perfect at Louie and Ernie’s. The sauce is the key component of a slice at New Park. But at Totonno's, everything is absolutely great. The cheese, the crust, the sauce, even the olive oil are all remarkable. The entire pie is a perfect balance of simple, fresh ingredients. It is everything New York pizza should, and could, be.
Pizza, especially in this city of 8 million people with 8 million tastes, is an intensely personal thing. I happen to think Totonno's is one of the best. But you should know, I’ve tried Grimaldi’s and DiFara a few times each, and I wasn’t really impressed. However, I can see why people put those pizzerias on their top ten lists. I suggest heading down to Coney to see why Totonno's is on mine.
Totonno Pizzeria Napolitano, 1524 Neptune Avenue, 718-372-8606