New York Challenged: Two Slice-Snobs on a Quest for the Best Piece of Pizza Near FCLC


This week I was on a quest to find a decent $2.50 (or cheaper) plain slice of pizza near school. I’ve been looking for a good slice for a while with my friend Tom, who might be even more of jerk than I am about pizza, since he’s from Brooklyn. We decided that price, crust, sauce and cheese are really all you can complain about when it comes to pizza, which really wasn’t that hard to figure out. There are a few important things to consider when putting pizza in your mouth.

Is it worth what you paid?

The answer is always going to be no, because this isn’t a Utopian society. But if you can get over that, then find a mediocre slice for $2.50 and compare it to other slices that you try. The other thing to do is imagine paying more or less for the slice you bought, and then gauge your imagined satisfaction or disappointment. Isn’t that stupid? This review is already flawed.

How saucy is the sauce?

I like a lot of sauce on my pizza, and prefer that it taste herbaceous. I didn’t think that was a word but spell check likes it. Tom likes sweeter sauces. I think both are fine as long as you can really taste the tomato.

How does the crust taste and feel?

Personally, I like my crust crispy on the bottom, but soft enough in the middle to allow me to still taste the bread.

Is the cheese pleasing? Does it smell and taste like cheese?

For me, cheese is not as easy to mess up, so usually it’s not terribly different between restaurants, and rarely a deal-breaker. That being said, if it tastes like butter or smells like feet, I don’t like it.

99 Cent Fresh Pizza
1723 Broadway (between 54th   and 55th Streets)

I tried 99 Cent Fresh Pizza late on a weeknight. They’re currently involved in a price war with a Ray’s Pizza across the street, who has banners advertising 75 cent slices. The 99 Cent slice had an interesting mix of flavors: there was a distinct buttery taste from the cheese, peculiar hints of tree bark in the crust and… a subtle hint of Mexican food. It must have been the lard. Not impressed. I didn’t even bother with Ray’s across the street. If they can drop two dollars off the usual price on a whim, it’s definitely nothing special.

Cafe Saint Honoré
189 Columbus Ave. (between 68th and 69th Streets)

In terms of cheap pizza, however, I was pleasantly surprised by Café Saint Honoré. There was a sign advertising $1.50 Margherita slices, so we stopped by. We were greeted by two small, croaky, aging Italian women who seemed to know a thing or two about potion making and spells. The pizza was good. The crust was thin and crispy. Tom made an orgasmic noise of satisfaction when he ate it. The sauce tasted like real tomatoes, and the fresh mozzarella didn’t remind me of chewing gum. It could have used some more basil, but for the price, it was a good deal.

Francesco Pizza
186 Columbus Ave. (between 68th and 69th Streets)

I really enjoyed Francesco’s slice. I actually don’t have much to say about it because it tasted like pizza should taste. It didn’t blow my mind or anything, but it was a solid slice (in a way, that is mind-blowing, because options are limited around school). They also had soccer on TV. The seating area was spacious and the employees didn’t talk to us when we ordered. That’s the sign of a pizzeria that knows what it’s doing. I recommend it.

Casabianca Pizzeria
503 West 57th St. (between 10th and 11th Avenues)

This pizza was boring. The crust was too soft and not very well-heated. The cheese was just cheese, so I guess that’s a good thing. There wasn’t much sauce, and it didn’t really taste like anything anyway. I guess I would go here on a Monday, order a slice and just think about other bland Mondays that have passed me by.

Big Nick’s Pizza Joint
70 West 71st S (between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West)

For me, the only problem with Big Nick’s is that it’s a bit of a walk from school. Regardless, I think the slices here are the best around school, and it’s open 24 hours. The slices are big. You could use the crust as a diving board, but still taste the bread. The sauce is applied very liberally, and the cheese is not too greasy. Tom isn’t crazy about the sauce; it’s too herbalicious for him (not a word). I also really like talking to the employees, strangely enough. Everyone is quirky enough to give it a neighborhood-favorite charm, and not make me regret starting a conversation.

Final Verdict: Tom and I agreed that Francesco and Big Nick’s tied for the best slices around school. Francesco is a great place to hang out and relax. Big Nick’s tends to have stranger customers, but is wonderful for a late night craving.

Justino’s and Mariella’s are two notable pizzerias missing from the list. Simply put, I’ve never thought they were anything special, and sort of fall into the category of bland Monday pizza, though not as severe.  Those who love Justino’s will not be swayed (and I respect that), and those who love Mariella’s probably watch too much Oprah (it’s her favorite pizzeria).