16 mile intermediate route
Starts at Grand Army Plaza and ends in Cobble Hill.
A- Grand Army Plaza
B- Di Fara Pizza
C- J & V Pizza
D- Nino's Pizza
E- Luigi's Pizza
F- Bar Great Harry
Every New Yorker has their idea of the best slice. One of my friends abides by the doctrine that the best slice is the one closest to your apartment. Mel Brooks famously claimed that even bad pizza was good pizza. And while when hunger strikes or just a craving for some cheesy goodness the best slice might just be the one closest to you, there are definitely some slices worth going out of your way for. I brought together some of my most discerning bike riding friends to get to the bottom of the question- where is the ultimate NY slice? This ride had its limitations in finding the ultimate slice, mostly that we were constrained by our mileage, but ultimately the largest downfall was our stomachs. Turns out that even for the greatest pizza lover, eating 5 slices in close proximity to each other is not for the faint of stomach! Originally, this route featured 5 pizza shops, but our last location was mercifully closed to everyone's universal relief. So save yourself some carbs and only do 4 shops, because you'll need room for beer (and a government-mandated Cuomo sandwich) at the last location. Come with an empty stomach and full tires, because this route is gonna fill you up and burn some rubber!
Grand Army Plaza is the starting location for this route, and if you happen to come on a Saturday I recommend stashing your bike and checking out the farmer's market while you invariably wait for one of your friends to arrive. Once we had gathered our crew, it was off on the Prospect Park Loop where we got to enjoy the fall foliage and the car free streets. Whenever I ride the Prospect Park loop, I thank the activists before me who fought tirelessly to get cars out of our parks. It is because of their years of work we are now able to enjoy a truly public space. More about our other great and now car-free park here.
Di Fara Pizza is a New York staple, and commonly known as one of the best pizzerias in the city. This location is helmed by 'the master' Dom, a now 82 year old man from Italy still actively slinging the same pies he’s perfected over the past 53 years. We came to see if this place was up to snuff, and I will say not a single one of us turned away disappointed. Since we had a large enough group, we didn't go the slice route but got an entire pie.
There is always a wait at Di Fara, so unless you want to stand in line for an hour after you've arrived, you should call ahead and place an order. They do serve slices, which seem to be more efficient, but I still saw slice customers milling about for a while. When the piping pie finally arrived what stood out to me was the high quality of the ingredients and the deliciousness of the sauce. You can definitely tell that they put a lot of care into sourcing their ingredients, and their website states some are coming from Italy, so they aren’t messing around! The crust was thin and crispy, though some in my crew complained about the lack of char. I'm not going to offer any negative assessment of this New York institution, other than to say I wish I had gotten to wave at Dom.
With one slice down, time to hit the saddle and pedal off some space for your next slice. You don't have far to go to your next stop at J & V Pizzeria, just a quick jaunt down 19th Avenue and 18th Avenue. This was my first time biking over in this area of Bensonhurst, and I got the impression that the car drivers here aren't that used to seeing cyclists. There isn't a bike lane on 18th Avenue, but if you are biking with a group I'd suggest just taking a whole lane. When we arrived at J &V, our pizza was already ready. We had also called ahead to grab this pie, though we later realized the error in our ways since we could have used a little more digestion time. This extremely cheesy slice didn't hold up very well, and one person in my party may have suffered some cheese burns while coming to the rescue of another with a plate. (Don't worry J & V, we won't sue). The consensus on this slice was that it was nice and cheesy, low on the sauce, with a nice and fluffy crust. If this was my neighborhood slice I wouldn't complain!
Getting over to Nino's Pizza in Bay Ridge is a little harrowing because of the lack of cycling infrastructure, but it isn’t bad if you are biking in a group. We took Bay Ridge Parkway because Google had it marked as a cycling route, but we were disappointed that we didn’t see the bike lane after biking a few blocks. Unsure if we had taken this road by mistake, we were relieved when we hit the bike lane crossing 14th Avenue. As I was cycling with a bunch of transportation advocates we all immediately turned to each other and confirmed that we were all thinking the same thing- an invisible community board boundary most likely created this separation of critical cycling infrastructure. Using the NYC Boundaries Map created by Beta NYC, I was able to confirm that indeed, the split was correlated with the boundary lines of CB 10 and CB 11. Community boards are flawed, and all too often are the deciding factor on whether cycling infrastructure should be installed or not. This has been, and will continue to be a shame until a city-wide reform process. On a positive note, we did get to ride in the concrete barrier 2-way protected bike lane on Fort Hamilton Parkway, though unfortunately we were only on it for a few blocks, where it turns into 7th Avenue with no bike lane. A completely connected cycling network is still my number one advocacy goal.
While Bay Ridge might not be the most cyclist friendly neighborhood, cyclists are well received at Nino's Pizza. Overall, the group consensus was that Nino's slings a solid slice, with high quality ingredients with a good sauce to cheese ratio. The best part was invariably having the owner come out and have us make a video for his Instagram. Seemingly he was very surprised to see a group of cyclists visit his establishment and gave us a whole free grandma pie. Thankfully, the Bay Ridge resident in our group lived about a mile away and was readily equipped with a bike rack and bungee cords to haul his pizza prize home.
Once everyone was completely certain that they did not want to see another slice of pizza, we headed over to what ended up being our final location. We took 3rd Avenue over to 4th Avenue, mainly to check out the recently installed protected bike lane there. It is quite nice and in my opinion, far superior to the unprotected bike lane on 5th Avenue. We ended up turning early off 4th because we misdirected ourselves to a different pizza shop on 5th Avenue also named Luigi's, but we were pleasantly surprised with an Open Restaurant Street on that section of 5th. Once on 5th, we sauntered down the mostly car free street to Luigi's Pizza where some other friend's of ours had scored a table- the first location we went to that had taken advantage of the Open Restaurant program. We all happily waited for our Luigi's slice, while checking out their amazing Best Pizza belt and photos of Adam Sandler from when he filmed scenes from "Big Daddy" here. Luigi's seems to be in competition with Di Fara for the 'Best Pizza in NYC' title, and in my humble pizza connoisseur opinion, they were equally matched. I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the slice here, but it seemed like sacrilege not to once I took my first bite. Great ingredients, not too thick crust, and a nice layer of favorable sauce made this slice my ultimate.
A quick ride down 5th with a turn onto 9th Avenue will take you to your next location. We ended up over here in an attempt to eat the 5th slice that no one wanted, but our chosen location was closed. We took that as a sign that we should fill up on our allotted carbs in the form of beer and headed over to Bar Great Harry, where they have ample outdoor space and a great draft list (not to mention a Cuomo sandwich that only seems unappetizing for the first hour). Kick back, relax, and try to keep your pizza down.
Hi! I'm Rachel.
I'm creating curated bike routes in all 5 boroughs of NYC. Routes include downloadable route map, descriptions of the bicycle infrastructure, and suggestions on places to eat and things to see. Enjoy!