173 Orchard St.
Lower East Side
Sal Bartolomeo, an upbeat showman in a cap and white apron, still clocks in long hours at the Lower East Side pizzeria his uncle Rosario opened in 1963, when Sal was a teen. The warm reception, late-night hours, and cheap slices spawned a cult following and an eventual fansite, rosariospizzanyc.com. Locals were enraged when, 35 years later, a Famous Ray’s took over the original East Houston location. Rosario’s reopened just south on a plum corner and has outlasted successive waves of gentrification while staying true to its no-frills roots. (Sal, however, moved out of the nabe years ago). The menu tops out at $8, with a specialty pie at $24. Cheese pies are greasy and serviceable. The knockout Sophia has a crisp thin crust that bear ruby-red tomato slices, fresh basil leaves, and homemade mozzarella. The rigatoni, which requires 20 minutes, turns out al dente and surprisingly tasty thanks to a sweet pulpy tomato sauce, pungent parmesan shavings, and a sprinkling of pepper. Pastas aside, you can be in and out in 10 minutes, but the steady traffic and communal tables, with green faux-marbleized countertops, encourage lingering.