Arts and Entertainment

Cheap *ss Lunch #6: The Best Pizza Place Near Stuyvesant (Yes, For Pizza)

Pizza, the New York staple, isn’t in high supply near Stuyvesant, and it’s a race to the bottom for high price and low quality among the only choices.

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Pizza is probably one of the most New York things possible. Even snooty Italian tourists partake in our greasy yellow triangles on their forays into the Big Apple. The sheer quantity of slice joints gives any New Yorker in any part of the city a few options for their pizza fix, even if one were to be sandwiched between the sticky rollers and weak heat lamp of a 7/11. So how about a special group called Stuyvesant students, starved for both time and cash?

There are only two viable options for slices near Stuyvesant, the close and relatively cavernous Cafe Amore (as seen in the previous CAL) and Little Italy Pizza down near the Chambers Street ACE station. Cafe Amore, of which I spoke so highly previously for its great sandwiches, won’t fare as well in this issue. It boasts a respectable variety of slice options, but is pretty (if not prohibitively) expensive—$3 without tax (so closer to $3.50 with) for the classic cheese, and the prices only climb from there. So is the slice reasonably worth the extortionate price? Not really. Beneath all the grease, there’s flimsy (but not horrible) bland dough, which is okay as the crust but generally indistinguishable. The sauce is slightly sweet and just as boring as its depressed fire-engine-red color. The cheese also has nothing to say for itself, just begging for lots of red pepper and garlic. The pepperoni is standard corner-pizzeria fare if a little tasteless. Surprisingly (or not, considering the quality of its sandwiches), the sausage roll with onions and peppers is actually decent but probably too expensive for most people's tastes. The service isn't too hot either, with plenty of lag time and a fair chance of a mess up or misunderstanding in your order.

In terms of decor, Little Italy Pizza is the polar opposite of Cafe Amore. Known to most as the one that straddles the Chambers Street subway, the pizzeria trades a serious awning for wrap-around glass, putting its steaming pies in full view. Instead of gloom and faux-wood tables, bright lights and cheery red plastic furniture make for a much nicer atmosphere. It does get a tad crowded, and you may be in need of seats in the thick of the lunch rush, but it's much more efficient in moving everyone along, so the wait is less of an issue than the traffic would imply. There's pretty much only pizza here, the main exception being an oily stack of greasy cheese-sprinkled garlic knots ready to be paired with a cup of steaming, sweet tomato sauce. The building itself is quite imposing, but any grandeur is tempered by staring into the gaping maw of the subway as you munch on your slice.

There are numerous choices for pizza at this fine establishment, but the cheese, pepperoni, and sausage are probably the safest bet as they have the greatest turnover (c’mon, how long do you think that cheese and broccoli pizza have sat there?). The slices are true New York creations: so thin they look as if they could collapse at any moment, but still crisp. Inescapably, there is a lot of grease over the vaguely tough cheese, which isn’t so vibrant but not really bland either, which is as good as can be expected. Their pepperoni is savory but not overly so, the firm circles liberally scattered over their slices. The tomato sauce is largely forgettable, merging seamlessly into the carpet of chewy cheese. The dough is sturdy and has a pleasant chew, with a calming, neutral taste, a counterpoint to the more exciting toppings.

Little Italy Pizza has quite a few options beyond what I’d recommend, but which I tried just in case anyone would be interested. Its buffalo chicken slice is disappointing but still moderately tasty, not very unique, and generally forgettable. For a classic topping, the sausage is dense, chewy, and not well-spiced. The Hawaiian, considered by many an abomination, is sadly underwhelming, and I wouldn't recommend its sad yellow chunks. Don't get fooled by the sign outside—drinks aren't free no matter how much pizza you order. The normal prices are $3 for a plain, $3.50 for a square, and $4 for a sausage and pepperoni (the same price for most specialty options). I’m not sure if they still have their $6 for two plains and a drink special, but if they did, it would be greatly appreciated by any penny-pinching lunch goer, Stuyvesant student or not.

So, which comes out on top in this pizza-slice skirmish? Well, if you’ve read this far or just skipped to the end, I have to tell you it's pretty close. But (drumroll please) I have to say Little Italy Pizza is just barely the best option. It’s minutely cheaper, much faster, well lit, and the pizza itself simply tastes better. The only major drawbacls are its longer distance, lack of good fresh sandwiches (which most wouldn’t miss anyway), and of course, the unavoidable lower Manhattan price. But what Stuyvesant student can go out and get a $12+ Just Salad every day anyway? You need to give up a certain amount of money to get a decent meal, but it shouldn’t be horrendous. And who wouldn't get tired after eating the same Halal or school lunch week after week? If anything, both of the slice joints will provide you with the steaming slice of New York pizza that you know (and possibly) love (or tolerate, but it’s still fresh and hot either way).


Cafe Amore: Down the bridge and past the McDonald’s, on the left side of the street. On Chambers between Greenwich and West Broadway.

Little Italy: Same walk, but another block and a half down, on the corner of Chambers and Church Street, near the subway.