OCD sometimes comes over me. And when I took the trek to compare the Armando’s (see Armondo’s v. Armando’s), I saw Napoli Pizza and left it alone. And in the next few days, it’s image was hanging on my thoughts relentlessly. I felt like someone was holding my arms back and wouldn’t let go until I had a slice. The old paintwork on the sign outside the 10-foot wide storefront had to be good, right? A week later, I planned a trip from Margherita Pizza in Jamaica to Napoli in Brownsville. And I stumbled on Tommy’s in Richmond Hill along the way.
After my first 2010 Bronx exploratory pizza tour, I was feeling down. Everything seemed to taste the same. I wondered if I’d lost my passion for pizza. Was every slice the same and in my times of lust was I just a fool in love? Was the grease soaked wool pulled over my eyes by pizzaiolos of coal-fired ovens? Luckily, it was only that I hit a rough patch. This mini-tour took me out of it. 3 outstanding pizzerias. 2 tour-worthy.
16304 Jamaica Avenue
Jamaica, NY 11432
I can usually tell if a place is going to be remarkable within 10 seconds of walking in. A few steps and already the smells were knocking me on my ass. The counter was packed with workers and pizzaphiles, which made ordering chaotic. But I had my $2.75 ready (I’d heard it was surprisingly expensive).
It’s a cheesy slice – cheddar-esque, but maybe that’s just salt. Lots of sauce too, not unketchuplike with plenty of grease atop which only adds to the wetness of the slice. It’s got a soft, chewy shell with character, which reminded me of Gaby’s in Hollis, Queens; Perhaps they are on the same water line. And looking at the coastline, it’s hit hard with burned cheese.
Many times when someone says that so-and-so is their favorite place, I think maybe they just haven’t been to enough places to know what truly is good. But here, no, when someone tells me this is their favorite, for now on I stop and shake their hand. It’s up there.
Neighborhood: Ozone Park
11711 Liberty Avenue
South Richmond Hill, NY 11419
I crossed Tommy’s months ago on my trip to the super-fun Phagwah festival. The old signage had me at hello. It had me at Hello. And coincidentally, it happened to be on the way from Margherita to Napoli. I couldn’t pass it up a second time. Hesitantly, I walked in. A random walk-in is rarely superb. I was initially wooed by the bricks on the walls and the ceiling reminiscent of a German beer hall. The slice looked legit and the serving pie was fresh from the oven so I got one.
At $2.25, it’s a large slice. Does size ever correspond to pricing for a pizza? It seems arbitrary, but mostly it corresponds to the date the pizzeria opened and the degree of clean of the floor tiles.
The pizza’s got a good, tough crust. Chewy. Real cheesy, real greasy. Among all of the intoxicating smells of Richmond Hill, I am surprised to be glad I stopped in here. It was good to the last bite.
One of the members of the family who owns it was there. He said they’ve owned it since 1967 and they built the place this way. He also remarked that lots of people come there specifically for the pizza. I cannot blame them, it was excellent.
1712 Pitkin Ave
(between Rockaway Ave & Thatford Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11212
Napoli Pizza is another counter place, similar to Margherita and many of the huge slice places of the Bronx. There are 4 tables in the back, but they seemed heavily underutilized at the moment I was there. They plate the pizza on wax paper. Have you ever had a less than decent slice on wax paper? I haven’t. It means business. It means they have zero frills. Frills are shallow anyway.
And this was a real good slice. The strong, salty cheese made it taste cheddar-like. The cheese layer was appreciably as thick as the dough. But only negative was the end crust, which was leftover on my tray. Perhaps knowing that their dough isn’t the best, they were smart to make it so thin.