What is New York pizza?

What is New York pizza and how is it different?

New York pizza is one of the most popular styles of pizza around the world. As with any style of food, it has it’s own characteristics that make it unique.

New York style pizza

But what are these characteristics exactly? What defines the New York pizza? In this article I’ll go over everything you need to know, from it’s history to the modern methods of production.

I think the best place to start is with the origins of the New York pizza. Excuse the pun!

Where is New York pizza from?

Pizza was brought over to New York by Italian immigrants. In fact, initially, the pizzas were cooked in a traditional Italian wood fired oven. The difference, however, was that the New Yorkers used coal as fuel, instead of wood.

Naples, the home of New York pizza
New York pizza has it’s origins in Naples, the birthplace of pizza. That’s why the New York pizza shares a lot of similarities with the Neapolitan pizza.

The New York pizzas of today are very different from the early New York Pizzas, with different ingredients and methods being used. However, some New York pizzareias still try to stay true to the earlier style of pizza.

What makes New York pizza different?

New York pizza isn’t actually that different to any other pizza. As with any style of pizza, it’s the small differences in each step that produce a different result in the end.

New York pizza sign
New York pizza isn’t actually that different from other types of pizza

The main differences are in the toppings, the shaping, and the way in which the pizzas are cooked. Other than that, New York pizza is really very similar to most other types of pizza.

In my view, the biggest difference is the oven used for cooking. New York pizzas are generally made with a gas oven which is similar to an industrial bread oven. In contrast, Italian pizza typically uses a traditional wood fired oven.

New York pizza oven
New York pizza cooking in a “deck” gas oven

In terms of the end result, the New York pizza tends to be a bit crispier since it cooks for longer. The cheese also tends to cook more on an NYC pizza, producing a sweeter flavour. Of course, the addition of sugar to the dough and sauce also accentuates the sweetness of the pizza.

When compared to regular takeaway pizza or frozen pizza, I think it’s fair to say that both NYC pizza and Neapolitan pizza are in a different league. This is largely due to the quality ingredients, including freshly made dough, and the skills of the pizza maker.

Homemade pizza
Incredible homemade pizza!

Making great pizza takes practice, and in my opinion, love! They aren’t thrown together, they are made with care and attention at every step, and they demand quality ingredients.

New York pizza vs Italian pizza

In general, New York Style pizza tends to be larger, often up to 16 inches in size. It is also often served by the slice, whereas Italian pizza is served whole, and is usually around 10 – 12 inches in size. Although you can get regular size New York pizzas too.

In terms of flavour and texture, New York style pizza tends to be a bit sweeter and crispier when compared to the classic Italian, Neapolitan style pizza. This is due to the differences in the dough, the sauce, and the cooking methods.

New York pizza vs Italian pizza

Another significant difference is in the cheese. Although mozzarella is commonly used on both styles of pizza, the outcomes are very different. With New York pizza, dried mozzarella is commonly used instead of the fresh mozzarella typically used on Italian pizzas. This produces a very different taste and texture.

In fact, there are many differences between Neapolitan pizza and New York style pizza. These include:

  • The dough
  • The sauce
  • The toppings
  • The shaping
  • The cooking

As you can see, there are differences in every step of the pizza making process. The differences in each step are actually quite small but when they are all combined, the outcomes are very different.

New York pepperoni pizza slice
A New York style pizza with pepperoni

Probably the main difference between NYC and Italian pizza is the way in which the pizzas are cooked.

How is New York pizza cooked?

New York pizza is cooked at a lower temperature than Italian pizza. Typically, this is around 300C/570F for NYC, compared to 450C/850F for Neapolitan pizza, which is the most popular Italian pizza. Also, New York pizza is usually cooked in a commercial gas pizza oven, as opposed to a traditional Italian wood fired oven.

However, New York style pizza was originally cooked in a coal oven, and some places in New York still preserve this tradition.

New York pizza in traditional oven
New York pizza was traditionally cooked in a similar way to Italian pizza, but with coal for fuel instead of wood

However, the number of pizzareias in New York that still cook in coal fired ovens is very low. This is largely due to smoke regulations within the city. No new coal oven can be installed, only existing ones are allowed to operate.

One of the benefits of a coal oven is the natural smoke flavour that it imparts. Unfortunately, this flavour cannot be easily replicated in a gas oven. Although, a gas oven does offer more consistency and ease of use.

New York pizza oven
New York pizza is usually cooked in a “deck” gas oven, similar to this

With Neapolitan pizza, there are strict regulations on it’s production, and a wood fired oven must be used in order for it to be considered “authentic”.

But with New York pizza, there are no such regulations. Therefore, a gas oven is perfectly acceptable, and is now considered by most to be the way it “should” be cooked.

Is NYC or Italy pizza better?

Neither NYC or Italy pizza is better, it comes down to personal preference. If you tend to prefer a sweeter, crispier pizza, with generous toppings, then NYC pizza may be your favourite. But if you tend to prefer a lighter, and less sweet pizza with more subtle flavours, then Italy pizza might be your favourite.

Eating NYC pizza
The best pizza is purely down to your personal taste!

In my view, when made well, all pizza is delicious. I certainly wouldn’t disregard one type, even though I may have a personal favourite.

Why is NY pizza thin?

The reason NY pizza is thin is probably mostly due to it’s heritage. It evolved from Italian pizza which is mostly thin in the middle, with risen crusts around the edge. This traditional Italian pizza is known as Neapolitan pizza.

Some Italian pizza is thin all around, as it is rolled out, this is known as Romana pizza. But NY pizza in general more closely resembles the more famous Neapolitan pizza from Naples.

Thin pizza slice
The NY pizza is thin like it’s mother – the Neapolitan pizza (this particular pizza is a Marinara – garlic & oregano)

But there are some places in New York which make a pizza more similar to the Romana stlye, with thin and crispy crusts. Regardless of the crusts, almost all Italian pizza is thin, and so is NY pizza.

It’s worth noting that pizza made in the Romana style is not typically considered to be “NY pizza”. It’s generally though of as a different type of pizza.

Does the water make New York pizza better?

Many people claim that New York water makes the pizzas in the city better, but is this true? Well, certainly the water used will have some impact on the flavour and texture of the dough. However, it’s difficult to say how much of a difference this makes.

New York pizza water
Does the New York water really make a difference?

In fact, in my view, the quality of New York pizza probably has more to do with the processes used. New York has a rich pizza history, with some of the most skilled pizza chefs around. I think it would be doing them a disservice to claim that it is the water that makes the pizzas taste better.

New York pizza maker
The pizza maker arguably makes a much bigger difference than the water

Having said that, I’d love to see in-depth experiments carried out to see just how much difference the water makes.

What does a New York pizza have on it?

A New York pizza is typically topped with the following ingredients:

  • Tomato sauce
  • Dried mozzarella
  • Sometimes basil
  • Sometimes other toppings such as pepperoni
  • Sometimes a drizzle of olive oil

As well as the tomato sauce, the New York pizza also stands apart due to the cheese it uses.

New York cheese pizza slice
Classic New York cheese pizza slice

As with almost all great pizza, the toppings start with the sauce.

Does New York pizza have sauce?

One of the keys to the New York pizza is the rich tomato sauce it has under the cheese. Italian pizza sauce is usually only very simply seasoned with salt and pepper. But the New York pizza sauce typically contains a few more ingredients.

New York pizza sauce
New York pizza typically has a tomato sauce base

In addition to salt and pepper, some of the most common ingredients in New York pizza sauce include garlic, basil, oregano, and sugar. The sugar is a key ingredient, as a sweet sauce is characteristic of the NY pizza.

Also, the best quality tinned tomatoes are used, just as with Neapolitan pizza. And the sauce is not typically cooked, with either New York pizza or Italian pizza. The sauce cooks with the pizza, in the oven. This typically helps to retain more of the flavour of the tomatoes, and also saves time!

New York pizza with cheese
Delicious New York pizza I made with this recipe!

Of course, much of this is down to personal preference, with each pizzareia having a different sauce recipe. The good thing about making homemade pizza is that you can experiment and find your own pizza sauce!

What kind of cheese is on New York pizza?

The single cheese that is used on practically every New York pizza is mozzarella. This is an Italian cheese which has been used on pizza for centuries. It’s known for it’s excellent melting characteristics, as well as it’s mild and creamy flavour.

Mozzarella for pizza
Mozzarella is the classic cheese used for New York pizza

But on New York pizza, dried mozzarella is commonly used, instead of the fresh variety. The dired mozzarella melts and cooks evenly across the pizza, caremalising and becoming stretchy, producing a wonderful texture and a sweet flavour.

The classic New York pizza is undoubtably the cheese pizza, with dried mozzarella being a key ingredient. It is readily available in most supermarkets, in grated form. The good news about using this type of mozzarella is that it’s ready to go on the pizza from the bag. No preperation needed, unlike with fresh mozzarella.

Grated mozzarella on New York pizza
Grated & dried mozzarella on a New York style pizza

Fresh mozzarella is used on classic Italian Neapolitan pizza. On this style of pizza, the mozzarella simply melts instead of cooking, and provides more of a creamy flavour and texture.

What is the most popular pizza topping in New York?

Aside from mozzarella cheese, pepperoni is almost certainly the most popular pizza topping in New York. The Pepperoni pizza is right up there with the cheese pizza in terms of popularity.

New York pepperoni pizza in box
The famous pepperoni pizza!

This New York classic is essentially a cheese pizza with slices of spicy salami added on top. Pepperoni is typically made from cured pork or a combination of cured pork and beef. It is also seasoned with paprika and/or other spices, such as chilli.

The pepperoni provides a meaty, smokey, and spicy flavour to the pizza. For the meat lovers out there, this is certainly a pizza to try!

Why is New York pizza so greasy?

A good New York pizza shouldn’t be overly greasy, but there will almost always be some grease. This is produced mostly from the cheese on top of the pizza, but also from the olive oil and pepperoni, if they are used.

The cheese itself produces some oil as it cooks, this is pretty much inavoidable. This is becuase the fat (oil) in cheese seperates as it is cooked. But if quality dried mozzarella is used, the oil produced during cooking should be minimal.

New York pizza is not greasy
New York pizza shouldn’t be overly greasy – I made this pizza using this recipe

Adding too much cheese is probably the biggest cause of a greasy pizza. The best New York pizzarias typically only use a modest coating of cheese so that the pizza isn’t too greasy.

Some pizzarias use olive oil in the tomato sauce, but this can lead to a greasy pizza also. If you want to make New York pizza at home with almost no grease, it’s probably a good idea to skip the addition of oil altogether.

This is especially true if you are using meat such as pepperoni on the pizza. Grease is naturally produced during cooking due to the fat content in the meat.

New York Pepperoni pizza slices
Even a Pepperoni pizza shouldn’t be too greasy

For a pepperoni pizza, I would highly recommend avoiding adding olive oil, in order to prevent a greasy pizza.

Is New York Pizza floppy?

New York pizza is normally floppy, especially with a large pizza, such as when served by the slice. It’s probably a good idea to fold the pizza so it’s easier to eat!

Floppy New York pizza
Delicious New York floppy pizza!

The main reason for the floppiness is the thinness of the pizza. This is due to the way the dough is made and in particular, the way in which the pizza is stretched by hand.

The NYC pizza is quite similar to the classic Italian Neapolitan pizza, which is also floppy. But New York pizza tends to have more crispiness than it’s Italian mother, due to being cooked for longer at lower temperatures.

Pizza slice being folded
Neapolitan style pizza – the mother of New York style pizza

Also, because New York pizza tends to be very large, at around 16″, the floppinness is often increased. The combination of being very thin and very large, usually makes New York pizza quite floppy, even though it is still crispy.

A good New York pizza is both floppy and crispy at the same time. The best of both worlds!

Final thoughts on New York pizza…

Hopefully this article has helped to clear up for you exactly what New York pizza is. Like most regional food styles, it has deep cultural roots and it has evolved over time.

When I fist started making pizza, I was obsessed with Neapolitan pizza. Maybe that’s because I’m from Europe?!

Pizza in Ooni Karu 16
Neapolitan pizza was my first love!

But eventually, I wanted to try making New York style pizza. And actually, I was surprised at how similar it is to Neapolitan pizza.

Although the two types of pizza do taste quite different, there are a lot similarities in their production. The great thing is that once you can make one, I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble making the other.

Sliced New York pizza
New York pizza may have been my second love, but I love it just as much!

So why not learn to make both Neapolitan and New York style pizza?!

Thank you for reading. And as usual, if you have any questions, feel free to leve them in the comments below. I’ll try to answer as quickly as I can.

Now let’s get making some delicious pizza!

Tom Rothwell from My Pizza Corner eating homemade pizza

About Me

I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!

Tom Rothwell's Ooni pizza oven

My Pizza Oven

I often get asked what type of oven I use for my pizzas. Well, I use a pizza oven made by a company called Ooni.

The range of pizza ovens that Ooni offers is just brilliant. They cover all bases, and all price points. There's affordable and portable models such as the Fyra 12 Pizza Oven and then there's state-of-the-art models such as the Karu 16 Pizza Oven pictured below.

In all honesty, I would say that the oven makes a huge difference. If you're looking to make authentic Italian pizza, a pizza oven is a must.

Pizza cooked in Ooni pizza oven

By clicking the link below and purchasing from Ooni, you would be supporting this website. I've been using their ovens for a long time now and I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't believe in their products.

Time to make some amazing pizza!

K16 - US
Tom Rothwell from My Pizza Corner eating homemade pizza

About Me

I’m Tom Rothwell and I’m super passionate about all kinds of homemade pizza! In the last few years I've been on a quest to find the perfect pizza. Now I'm sharing what I've found out with the world!

Ooni Karu