Ian Manheimer’s Slice Of New York

Westport Pizzeria offers the best slice Ian Manheimer has eaten anywhere — outside of New York and New Haven.

He should know. He wrote the book on pizza.


The New York Pizza Project is a fabulously photographed, intriguingly produced journey into the world of New York City slices. The subtitle is “Exploring a city through its quintessential food.”

But this is no Zagat’s for ‘za.

Manheimer — a 2001 Staples grad, who majored in communications and English at Tulane, but (most importantly for this project) lived in New York until age 12 — and 4 friends have produced an homage to pizza. As well as to the men who make it.

During intense discussions over another important question — which pizzeria produced the best slice — Manheimer and his 20-something buddies decided to conduct hands-on (and mouths-full) research.

Ian Manheimer, hard at work.

Ian Manheimer, hard at work.

With their commitment to social justice — Manheimer, for example, founded RFK Young Leaders, a program of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights that concentrates on groups like farm workers — the quintet quickly realized that the New York pizza story involves many kinds of dough.

Dough, as in dollars too.

“This book honors the guys struggling to perpetuate a tradition we all love,” Manheimer says.

“It’s mostly 2nd-generation Italians and 1st-generation Mexicans. After that, it’s Greeks and Albanians. They face threats of gentrifying neighborhoods, immigration, and how to make money on a $2.50 product. No one had documented their stories.”

Now, Manheimer has.

He and his friends set up an Instagram account. New Yorkers responded with photos and comments about their favorite neighborhood pizzerias.

Eventually the authors narrowed their focus to 120 shops, in all 5 boroughs. Over 5 years they took tens of thousands of shots, and conducted hundreds of interviews. They focused on local shops — no chains. And no “gourmet pizzerias” (an oxymoron, am I right?)

In addition to "The Makers," there are 3 other sections in The New York Pizza Project: "The Eaters," "The Shop" and "The Block."

In addition to “The Makers,” there are 3 other sections in The New York Pizza Project: “The Eaters,” “The Shop” and “The Block.”

Manheimer learned plenty. For one thing, during the entire project he did not encounter one black pizza maker. Fewer than 5 were females.

The authors were also surprised at how hard it is to make a living. “Slice joints are everywhere — but none of them are new,” Manheimer says.

“The economics are so difficult. You have to be on your feet, and open, all the time.”

Kids today, Manheimer notes, grow up amid (and being marketed by) the likes of Domino’s, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut. Their pizzas are “inferior, and worse for you” than the ones produced by the sole proprietor around the corner, Manheimer says. But, he warns, neighborhood places risk losing the younger generation that sees the chains everywhere.

His favorite picture in The New York Pizza Project shows Johnny’s — a New York pizzeria since 1973 — standing next to an 8-year-old Papa John’s. “That symbolizes the new New York,” Manheimer says. “And it asks the question: What will be the New York of the future?”

Johnny's Pizza, and Papa John's: Which would you choose?

Johnny’s Pizza, and Papa John’s: Which would you choose?

The book — which was favorably mentioned in the New York Times — has struck a chord with New York natives who no longer live there. “We transport the New York pizza experience to wherever they are,” he says.

The other day, Manheimer met a soldier just back from Iraq. Before he saw his family, he stopped off at his favorite slice shop. “That memory kept him going through months at war,” Manheimer says.

The book is being sold at many of the pizzerias featured in it. It’s also in 30 retailers, including all the city’s major museums.

You can buy "The New York Pizza Project" at many New York pizza joints.

You can buy “The New York Pizza Project” at many New York pizza joints.

So is The Westport Pizza Project next?


(For more information, or to buy The New York Pizza Project, click here. It’s $29.95. For $5 more you get a map too.)






14 responses to “Ian Manheimer’s Slice Of New York

  1. Westport Pizzeria offers the “best slice” Ian “has eaten anywhere — outside of New York and New Haven”? Oh, please … Their sauce is out of a can, the dough is barely beyond bread, and … Ian, I was going to buy your book until I read this. Westport Pizzeria barely makes the bottom of the pizza list, any list. Educate yourself and start with Old School Pizzeria at the Levee on Fairfield U. campus, run by CIA trained chef Derek Furino. Call him first, and maybe he will make something for you that is not on the menu.

    • I agree that WP is not my cup of tea- (used to be in 1974!) but no need to be so rude. Go Julian’s!!!

    • After talking to hundreds of New Yorkers, I came to find that most people’s favorite slice is the one they grew up eating. For me, that’s Westport Pizzeria. Ultimately, pizza is more emotional than it is quantitative.

      • Qualitative. Not quantitative.

      • I reached the same conclusion Ian, it’s the one you grew up with (just like mom’s spaghetti sauce is the best). I am a well-known Westport Pizzeria fan, probably in part due to my upbringing here. And yes, before this becomes a “best pizza” war, I’ve tried all of the famous pizza in the area.

  2. Karen Wambach

    Unless these guys graduated when they were 13, I would say they are 30 somethings….

  3. Michael Calise

    Few pizza’s are made with the right dough recipe – flour, yeast and olive oil and the right topping marina sauce or fresh tomatoes and minimal basic toppings. All I find is dough loaded with sugar covered with cheese cheese cheese and more toppings the classic example of JUNK FOOD!

  4. Jill Turner Odice

    I checked out this book on Amazon.com because it sounds so interesting. I wonder how many copies they will sell at the price of $99.45…That’s a lot of pizza! I wonder why it is so much more from Amazon then if you buy it direct?

    • The Amazon list price are resellers trying to fleece people. Check out http://www.nypizzaproject.com for the correctly priced book. Thanks!

      • Jill Turner Odice

        Thanks Ian, I saw that the direct price was much more reasonable.. As I moved away from Wspt many years ago I don’t know how the Westport Pizzaria Pizza tastes nowadays, but my memories of the hundreds of slices I consumed growing up there are of great greasy pizza 🙂 I remember folding my slice in 1/2 and draining off the grease before burning my mouth because I could not wait for it to cool down enough to eat 🙂

  5. How does a friend subscribe to you – do not see a place at the bottom of the page ?

    Love 06880 ! Your writing makes me Smile , Think , and “Connect ” Look forward to meeting you sometime.


    Angela Capone

    • Thanks, Angela. On a desktop computer, there should be a “Subscribe” link on the right side. On a mobile device, scroll down through the stories. After the final story, there should be a blue bar that says “Older posts.” Underneath that there is a subscribe button. Thanks for asking!

  6. Sharon Paulsen

    Looks like it’ll be a fun book to peruse through!

    It sounds as if it may an Anthony Bourdain ring to it (food/travel of under the radar places).

    Maybe a collab with the Bourdain team to do a show based on the book, aye?

    You’re welcome (LOL).