Step Into the Alluring World of New York’s Old-School Pizza Joints
John’s Pizzeria in Elmhurst, Queens.
Nick Johnson and Gabe Zimmer
Though it sometimes seems like New Yorkers are quick to chase after whatever’s shiny and new, there’s a lot to be said for the city’s longstanding spots, especially when they happen to be serving up that quintessential New York food: pizza. There's a lot of talk about farm-to-table dining and Michelin-starred restaurants, but a visit to New York is truly incomplete without a greasy slice. It's why we're such fans of The New York Pizza Project, a new photography book by a team of five native New Yorkers. With 190 pages of vivid photographs and quotes from the makers, the book is a love letter to the city’s humble by-the-slice pizzerias.
Over the past five years, Ian Manheimer, Gabe Zimmer, Nick Johnson, Corey Mintz, and Tim Reitzes have visited over 100 pizzerias in all five boroughs, interviewed the owners, and taken candid photographs that elevate these no-frills places to works of art. They’ve focused exclusively on the independent, family-owned spots that supply their communities with cheesy and delicious slices. Along the way, they met some fascinating characters both behind and in front of the counter.
Part of the project’s mission is to document the effects of gentrification on these small shops. As neighborhoods change, some pizzerias go out of business, while others thrive thanks to the influx of new inhabitants and tourists who now venture out to some of the city’s more far-flung areas. While pizzerias may seem ubiquitous in New York, this book can guide you to some of the most authentic ones around. It’s available at independent bookshops and museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cooper Hewitt Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum.
The authors explain it best in the book’s introduction, “As the rise of chain stores, condos, and banks threaten to dominate the urban landscape, these pizza shops serve as the guardians of authenticity in the face of homogenization. This book is an homage to them and to the other small businesses that keep New York real.” Ahead, a selection of images from the book.
For more pizza inspiration, follow their eating adventures on Instagram at @nypizzaproject.