8.23.19 / Montauk / New York

Best Pizza’s Frank Pinello on the Best Slices From Montauk to Seoul

Still finding new ideas in a life lived around pizza

“I grew up in pizza,” recalls Frank Pinello, founder of Williamsburg slice haven Best Pizza. In the decade since it opened, Best Pizza has lived up to its name, joining the ranks of New York’s most cherished pizza shops, but Pinello’s journey with pizza extends much further. “I was born in Bensonhurst, I was a block away from 18th avenue, the first Sbarro’s is a block away from me. L&B Spumoni Gardens was our neighborhood pizza. Pizza was always a thing.”

Though Pinello was primarily interested in fine dining after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he found himself working Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria before joining the now-iconic Roberta’s during its early days. “Robertas to me was the coolest restaurant in the world at that time,” and he was right. That passion resonated with original founders Brandon Hoy, Carlo Mirarchi, and Chris Parachini, who were still making the pies themselves at the time. Over a year into his tenure at Roberta’s, Parachini clued Pinello in about a space opening up in Williamsburg at Brooklyn Star (Joaquin “Quino” Baco’s restaurant which had to close due to a fire). Pinello grabbed a backpack full of ingredients from his local Bensonhurst market and went to the space to make pizza for Quino and the Roberta’s crew; the first pie out of the oven was a hit, and just like that Best Pizza was born.

[Best Pizza Dive Bar, Montauk]

Now Williamsburg can’t be a better neighborhood for business, Best Pizza has expanded with a new location in Montauk, and Pinello hosts a show on Vice called—wait for it—The Pizza Show. “The Pizza Show was a masterclass in pizza for me, and I got to meet the owners of some of the best pizzerias in the world, undoubtedly.” Pinello has traveled across the globe for the show, and while New Yorkers are more protective over their pizza than anyone else, it’s opened his eyes to a world of people as passionate about pizza as himself. “Chicago pizza for instance, I thought it was a joke. How could anyone ever compare Chicago to New York? We have the best pizza, we have the best culture, we have the best everything. I still believe that, but I love going to California and trying a place like The Cheese Board. I thought it was so cool, it wasn’t playing by the rules. These places go outside the box and really make great stuff. Same thing with Chicago. I didn’t expect that I would like it, and I was totally wrong.”

As fellow New Yorkers who always find ourselves in far-off destinations that always seem to have a slice shop no matter where we go, we’re guilty of a little pizza skepticism. That’s why we asked Pinello to share his recommendations for some of his favorite pizza places around the world, so you can find a great slice wherever you end up.

Northern California: “There’s a place right across the street from Chez Panisse, it’s called The Cheese Board and they only make one [type of] pizza a day, and the place is like a commune. Every employee is also an owner,
and they shift around, and it was always this California pizza, like heirloom plums on it, crazy dips that you would put on it afterwards, and they would sell like over 1000 pies a day everyday. People just line up, it’s not even a pizzeria it’s a place you go to buy really nice cheese, but they have a pizza
oven inside.”

Rome: “The one that hit me and changed the way I look at pizza was Rome. There’s a place called Antico Forno Roscioli. They have one bakery that’s been there forever. The bakery was doing these Roman style pizzas that were just really simple and minimal, and that’s kind of what I love, the minimalist style of pizza. The pizza that they were doing were these pizza biancas with the mortadella on top, and just like a really basic marinara pizza with a little bit of tomato sauce on a long, six foot long thin crispy bread. The way that people were just pouring into that place, buying everything from little roman bread, to sweets, to pizza for lunch, it was like being in a pizza heaven.”


Lyon: “In Lyon there’s a pizza truck called Seneca, and it was actually a French kid that came and started with us for six months, and he went back to France and opened his truck in Lyon. His name is Max; one day he sent an email, he said I’ll come work for you for free, I’ll work as long as you want, I’ll find my own housing, and he was the perfect employee—we all loved him. He followed through with what he said he was going to do, and now he’s out in Lyon running this really dope pizza truck making really awesome pizza.”

[Mr. Pizza]

Seoul: “There is a pizza chain called Mr. Pizza, and I went out there and they wanted to do a New York style pizza, so I worked with them to develop a pizza for their company. But before I got there, they had the wackiest pizzas, stuff I’ve never seen before in my life, they pipe sweet potato into the crust, they put all these crazy toppings on top. It doesn’t’ resemble anything of we would think a pizza is, but they were really cool, and really different.”

London: “London has a really awesome emerging pizza scene right now, they have three or four different groups of guys that are opening awesome pizzerias. This place called Yard Sale, there’s a place called Homeslice which is kind of similar to best pizza in a way, it’s like by the slice, it’s hip hop, and then there’s a place called Pizza Pilgrim. Those three places stand out to me as being really special places, independently owned. Yard Sale is probably my favorite, they’re a great group of guys.”

Chicago: “By far [the best Chicago pizza] was at this place, Pequod’s. Burt [Katz, the original founder] passed away and it’s not run by him but it’s still his recipe. It’s like this really awesome deep dish pizza with crusty mozzarella on the top, a crown of mozerella, and he was a special guy and the place is really special.”

[Best Pizza Dive Bar, Montauk]

Montauk: “[Best Pizza Dive Bar] is definitely a bigger space, it has a full bar, people come in and hang out at the bar, play pool and have a drink, but also we have a huge kitchen with the capacity to do a lot of pizzas. The regular pizza is a little different, now that I’ve been around so much I kind of used some of the tricks I picked up, we changed around the regular pie and people loved it. We really tried to embrace Montauk and the place to get great produce and fish, we have an awesome fish sandwich that people are really flipping out over.”

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