There are a half dozen genuine Patsy’s pizzerias in Manhattan (and plenty of counterfeits everywhere). In his book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven, Ed Levine reported that all but one of the real Patsy’s cook with a coal oven. On the Upper West Side with time for a single, quick meal, and, as always, hungering for something unique to where I am, I realize I am only a couple of blocks away from the Patsy’s on 74th Street. My home town in South Carolina has one and only one pizzeria formally sanctioned by Italy’s Vera Pizza Napoletana, so Patsy’s is irresistible.
In fact, Patsy’s pizza is not VPN perfect. It is too large, the ingredients are too diverse, and the crust is too muscular to earn official approval from the Holy See of Italian pizza. But that’s just fine. To be honest, as much as I like genuine Neapolitan pies, I prefer the bastard versions that have evolved in eastern American cities that have significant Italian-ancestored populations.
All of which brings me to the fine pizza served at the 74th Street Patsy’s. The crust has a nice easy chew with crisp edges and a few spots of char. The cheese is rich and buttery. The pepperoni is extraordinarily peppery. The red and green roasted peppers are a significant vegetable presence. Large, whole leaves of fresh basil add a big green flavor note. The sum of the parts is a genuine taste of New York that outlasts and transcends all the fleeting culinary trends that constantly blow through town.
This is not the best pizza on earth (that honor would go to one of my beloved pizzerias in New Haven), and the point of the slice tends to droop from the weight of what’s on top, but still, to these hungry eyes, it’s a beauty. Anyone wanting a true taste of the American northeast (more than of Italy) needs to visit one of the region’s excellent Italian-American pizzerias. In Manhattan, Patsy’s is where it’s at.