New York City is well known for putting its own twist on some of the most delicious food: cheesecake, bagels and “dirty water dogs”, to name a few. It’s indisputable, however, that the one iconic New York bite is pizza. The Big Apple can’t take credit for inventing the pizza pie, though. Both the ancient Greeks and Egyptians came up with putting oil and herbs on a flatbread, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the pizza as we know it came into existence in Naples. Soon, pizzerias were springing up all over central and southern Italy, each developing its own variation on the original pizza design. When waves of Italian immigrants began moving into New York City neighborhoods in the 1860s, they brought with them the blueprints for what would later become a staple on NYC streets.
The birth of New York pizza as we know it happened when Italian immigrants Gennaro Lombardi and Antonio Totonno Pero began to sell Neapolitan-style pizzas in their small Little Italy grocery store. People loved their pizza so much that in 1905 the pair opened up America’s very first pizzeria, right on Spring Street. Lombardi’s is still open to this day, just down the block from their original location, serving their smoky-crust coal oven baked pizza with pure tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella pieces. Not long after, other pizzerias began to spring up, becoming pizza legends in their own right. Nowadays, you can find a pizza shop in almost every corner of NYC serving the giant, foldable Brooklyn-style pizzas that the whole world has come to love.
But what makes New York pizza so delicious? Although there’s no exact answer to this question, there are a lot of different factors at play. For one, many of the City’s oldest pizzerias have been using the same brick ovens since their inception. Just like steel pans, these older ovens capture the flavor of the thousands of pizzas that have been baked in them and pass it onto every new pizza they make. Others believe that the amazing flavor comes from many pizzerias importing their ingredients straight from Italy. It’s also been a long-held belief that it’s the unique combination of minerals in New York water that give its pizza it’s unreplicable flavor, texture and mouth-feel. This has even led to hundreds of chefs across the country shipping NYC water to their pizzerias in an attempt to make “authentic” New York pizza. But as any New Yorker will tell you, there’s no pizza like New York pizza.