18. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery
328 E. 14th St., nr. First Ave.; 212-228-2004
This is not dainty stuff, or pizza for the faint of tummy. The banter-happy pie guys here do not practice the art of minimal restraint. The word artisanal has never been spoken on these premises. Which is not to say the technique isn’t good. It is. Nor that the ingredients aren’t of a high quality. They are. And while the too-hard crust of both the Sicilian and the round Margherita pies could use some work, this robust style of pizza-making doesn’t exactly lend itself to delicate dough handling. What that style is is the kind of pizza old-timers claim you used to be able to find on practically every corner. Great New York slice-joint pizza. Nothing else like it in the world, and rare enough these days that, unless you’re a cop or an EMS worker with line-cutting privileges, you should be prepared to wait for it—even, as we discovered recently, in the rain at three o’clock in the morning on a Monday night.
1888 Eastchester Rd., nr. Morris Park Ave., Morris Park, the Bronx; 718-823-7002
A bit of an aesthetic oddity in its hospital-hub neck of the woods, Coals is a neighborhood pub with an inscrutable sea-shanty vibe and a happy hour that seems to attract off-duty interns. On top of that, it specializes in grilled pizza, the seldom-seen variant perfected and popularized by Providence’s Al Forno. Coals blends corn flour into its distinctive dough and, like other practitioners of its obscure art, cooks the thin planks over a grill to attain the characteristic char marks and delicately crunchy texture. The loosely oval pies come in two sizes and eight permutations. Of these, we recommend the Pure Bliss, which manages to support the weight not only of carefully distributed splotches of creamy ricotta, tangy tomato sauce, and pungent pesto, but also of grated Pecorino and melted fontinella, a domestic fontina-like product they’re very fond of here.
2287 First Ave., nr. 118th St.; 212-534-9783
This is where you’ll find the city’s only coal-oven pizza sold by the slice ($1.75), and for pizza scholars, that alone is reason enough to leg it up to the original Patsy’s in East Harlem. To make the most of the experience, the thing to do is to consider this genre-defining slab, with its cooked-in aged-mozz-and-tomato topping, as a sort of amuse-bouche. Enjoy it in the dimly lit takeout storefront by the ancient oven before repairing to the red-sauce dining room next door. (Like Ralph Lauren has acquired a sizable chunk of Madison Avenue, Patsy’s has, over the years, gobbled up a series of adjacent storefronts, bringing the Patsy’s lifestyle brand to a wider audience.) Here, under the incongruous gaze of a leaping marlin, you can tuck into an even better whole pie made with fresh mozzarella. It’s a well-cooked, exceptionally thin-crusted pizza, perfumed with the heady scent of 75 years of bituminous-coal-oven cookery. And with the original Totonno’s temporarily sidelined after a fire, it represents the best of the once-dominant pizza dynasties.