If you’re an aficionado of Brooklyn pizza, you don’t need us to tell you about Grimaldi’s, Di Fara, or Totonno’s. But in what is arguably the pizza capital of the world, there are literally dozens of other places that are almost as good, occasionally even just as good, as those perennial survey winners. Many of them, however, have the handicap of being in less-well-known neighborhoods, or pockets of the borough that are hard for outsiders to get to — you can travel from north Brooklyn to Staten Island in less time than it would take to get to Mill Basin, for example. But this handicap can be a benefit for anyone who’s up for a little road trip. No matter where you might plunk yourself down in Brooklyn, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you can find a decent slice, or a great slice, less than a half mile away, and more often three blocks away. Here’s a sampling of the best pizza places in some of Brooklyn’s lower-profile neighborhoods, some of them nowhere near a subway station. Their locations may prevent them from making the best-of lists, but they all serve pizza that’s worth the bus or car ride.
La Villa Pizzeria, 6610 Avenue U, Mill Basin
La Villa, in a nondescript outdoor shopping center not far from the Kings Plaza mall, is related to the pizzeria of the same name in Park Slope. (The Slope branch opened in 2003; the Mill Basin one has been around since 1992.) Apart from Ramagi, which is a fraction of the size, La Villa is the only place on this list that can be called a full-blown restaurant. This means they have a huge menu, but while the pasta dishes here are nothing to sneeze at, the pizza, made in a wood-burning oven, is what stands out.
Original Pizza, 9514 Avenue L, Canarsie
When I went to Original Pizza with a friend, the first thing he noticed was how cavernous the place was. (The second thing was the ring of purple neon light around the perimeter of the ceiling.) Original is still basically a traditional Brooklyn pizzeria, but in a neighborhood where space comes a little cheaper than in, say, Williamsburg. The pizza served here is absolutely top-notch — the real Brooklyn deal. A pleasant surprise: The Original Pizza T-shirts for sale here are also very attractive, and a steal at 10 bucks.
Lenny’s Pizza, 1969 86th Street, Bensonhurst
Whether you know it or not there’s a good chance you’ve already seen Lenny’s, which made a now-famous cameo appearance in the opening sequence of Saturday Night Fever. Thirty-five years later, photos of John Travolta/Tony Manero (as well as a young Sylvester Stallone) still adorn its walls. After the recent influx of Chinese and Russian immigrants to this historically Italian enclave, Lenny’s is one of the few legendary Bensonhurst pizzerias of the ’60s and ’70s still standing — which is fitting because it was (and is) one of the best of them.
Victoria Pizzeria, 2716 Gerritsen Avenue, Gerritsen Beach
To be perfectly honest, one of the greatest things about Victoria Pizzeria is that, to my knowledge, there’s not another pizza place anywhere nearby. The first time I stumbled onto it, after an exhausting walk in Marine Park, I was thrilled just to find something in this seafood-heavy nabe that I (a strict vegetarian) could actually eat. But, situated at the edge of Gerritsen Beach, this refreshingly dark (i.e, largely fluorescent-light-free) pizza joint turned out to serve very solid Brooklyn slices. Bonus: The equally “unknown” Gerritsen Bagels, right next door, serves up some of the borough’s finest bagels.
Sal & Paul Pizzeria, 1686 Pitkin Avenue, Brownsville
With nearby Napoli Pizza, their only real competitor as far as I’m concerned, closed either temporarily or permanently, Sal & Paul now holds the Best Pizza in Brownsville crown. Their goods are, literally, a little on the cheesy side, but still excellent.
A&V Pizza, 957 Utica Avenue, East Flatbush
A&V is another welcome find in a largely pizzeria-free desert. Their slices may not change your life (I’d rate them an A- or B+), but they’re better than most, and ridiculously cheap at $2 apiece. (Note: Price isn’t everything! I know of a few places in Brooklyn that sell slices for a dollar, but they’re barely worth that.) A&V’s proprietor, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever come across in a pizzeria, insists on bringing customers’ pizza to their table rather than calling them over to get it when it’s ready.
Frank’s Pizza, 2134 Flatbush Avenue, Flatlands
Another physically tremendous pizzeria, in another neighborhood where storefront space is reasonably affordable. Frank’s is cozy, with plenty of cushioned bench seating, and their crispy slices are in Brooklyn’s top ranks. At $2.35, they also come in at 15 cents cheaper than most others. If you’re like me, that means an extra 60 cents in your pocket when you head home.
Ramagi, 594 Rogers Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens
One look at Ramagi’s shiny chrome facade, its too-perfect bare-brick interior, and its menu (fancy wines, lobster ravioli, a goat-cheese-and-arugula pizza option) and you may be tempted to utter the H-word. But despite all the above, and its location in rapidly gentrifying Prospect Lefferts Gardens, this joint is not in the least hipsterish. The employees are completely attitude-free, the delicious brick-oven pizza is $2 a slice — unheard-of in this part of Brooklyn — and when my friend and I each asked for some water we were brought two chilled (but mismatched) carafes full. Ramagi is near the subway, and the Brooklyn Museum is a mere ten-minute ride away on the 2 train, so lunch here can be a part of a high-culture afternoon out.
Johnny’s Pizza, 5806 5th Avenue, Sunset Park
Johnny’s Pizza feels like a real neighborhood place, with its cramped quarters, its scrolling LED signs shouting “PIZZA” and “CALZONES,” and the looming presence of Gino’s Italian Ices, a Brooklyn staple from time immemorial. Nothing about Johnny’s looks particularly special, but the pizza chefs here know their stuff, and their thick slices are the best in the neighborhood.
Pete’s Pizza, 7522 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Just a couple of R-train stops from Johnny’s is Pete’s Pizza, and if the photos of the Verrazano Bridge on Pete’s walls aren’t enough to alert you to the fact that you’re in Bay Ridge, a glimpse of the massive VZ itself just down Third Ave. should do it. At two and a quarter, Pete’s tasty slices are cheaper than most in the area, and packed as they are with gobs of mozzarella they’re never messy. If by some miracle you’re not stuffed when you leave here, Tanoreen, the neighborhood’s wildly popular Middle Eastern restaurant, is directly across the street.