Recently in meeting some twitter friends, I made my way to the east side. The day was snowy, but the air that greeted me as I exited the subway was filled with the warm beats of an ancient Salsero whose music I often heard played during my childhood, but whose name escaped me. This is East Harlem. Still signs of the old Puerto Rico left to enjoy, at least for now.
I walked over to 1st Ave, between 118th and 117 Street. There you will find a New York City favorite, Patsy’s Pizzeria. If you did a search, the websites listed for Patsy’s Pizzeria will list all other locations except this one. Not sure why that is, some sort of legal dispute or other…but in a way, it makes for the protection of a nice atmosphere.
Because you see, the atmosphere of this place is in part what adds to the entire experience. Small and older, there are no lines to get in and no hostess to seat you. Cash only for sure and the neon sign in the front held on by aged metal giving away even further age of this place.
As I met my friends I ordered a latte. Yes. For lunch. And it was wonderful. Then I moved on to the pizza. Now, my friend Ray, whose idea it was to meet here in the first place, stated that really the pizza of choice, especially if you are trying it for the first time, is The Original. I believe him of course, but I had ordered the spinach and ricotta.
It arrived quickly. A huge pie. The crust thin and slightly burnt from the brick oven in the back. The aroma took over our little corner of the restaurant. I couldn’t help but bring a slice to my nose. The scent so fresh and delicious. But the flavors…wow. I spoke to one of the pizza makers and he shared that they only enter two pies at a time and they are done in about 10-15 minutes. Perfection.
So, remember how I said the sounds of the Salsero’s beats in the air took me back? Well, the flavor of this pizza also took me back. To Sunset Park. Fifth Ave to be exact. A pizza joint not too far from my grandparent’s place. Amazing when a taste, smell, sound, can take you back to a happy memory in just a matter of seconds.
It’s the flavor of my New York, brought back by the surviving passion and pizza making tradition of Pascuale Lancieri’s family since 1933 (even though they no longer own the place, the tradition remains). It also reminded me of another famous, but impossible to get into, and for most New Yorkers, even a bit of an annoying, over crowded, tourist spot, Grimaldi’s. It tastes so similar because Grimaldi, Lancieri’s nephew, learned to make pizza from him in the 40s.
And the staff is nice. Local families sat around us as we chatted, children comfortable in their space, as any child would be when in their neighborhood pizza spot.
I loved it and can’t wait to bring my kids with me next time. I headed back to train after lunch, the sounds of Puerto Rican accents passing me by, and signs honoring the Italian neighbors before them who called this place home, my senses content and satisfied from all I tasted, saw, and heard. A tasty adventure right off the 6 train in Harlem.Patsy’s Pizzeria 2287 1st Ave (between 117th St & 118th St) New York, NY 10035