I’m @SexySlices, and my game is pizza.
A little over a year ago, I took a job in the Southtowns. My new coworkers told me the pizza scene was dynamite, so I asked friends and colleagues which pizzeria had the best slices. I got more suggestions than I could use in a month of lunches. That’s when I realized how ignorant I had been of the other great Buffalo contribution to everyday eating: the Western New York pizzeria.
On a whim I decided I would try the slices at a different Buffalo pizzeria every week for a year, tracking the journey on Instagram, Twitter, and an Imgur blog. I always loved pizza, but never considered myself obsessive about it. Well, that changed.
52 weeks passed, and I’ve just kept going. After visiting over 60, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on Buffalo pizza scene, and I’m here to tell you your favorite place sucks and you know nothing about good pizza.
Feel that anger bubbling? You might care about pizza a little more than you thought. Welcome to being a Buffalonian! Read on, and get your arguments ready.
First, terms and conditions. New York and Chicago deep-dish pizza are well recognized amongst casual pizza enthusiasts. Buffalo style pizza falls in to a second realm of pizza notoriety with the likes of L.A., St. Louis, and Detroit styles. Its defining characteristics are medium-thick dough with a bready yet chewy texture. A heavy layer of cheese with patches browned from the heat of the oven. A velvety sauce, thicker than most, with varying levels of sweetness.
Lastly, “cup-and-char” pepperoni, whose namesake is attributed to its edges that curl upward and blacken under the head of the oven, forming a perfect little grease cup you can sip like bourbon if you’re the adventurous type. (Just kidding. Don’t do that. That’s gross and will slowly kill you.)
Here’s my top 10 Buffalo slice pizzerias. These aren’t necessarily the best pizzerias for whole pies. I don’t call them the best of WNY, because I only hit places relatively close to the city. A few might violate some “Buffalo style” norms, but they are all damn good slices. If you haven’t tried them yet, turn in your slice-lover card in shame.
Carbone’s Pizza: 568 South Park Ave, Buffalo, NY 14204, (716) 855-1749
The first time I had Carbone’s I knew they’d make their way into heavy rotation. Like the neighborhood, located on the edge of the 1st ward, they’re not fancy.
These slices came out of a steamy old warming case, onto a plate, and into a brown paper bag like a 40 of Olde English. I haven’t seen a delivery system with that kind of character since. I don’t know if it’s their norm or I just went on a day when they were out of inventory. But part of me misses it every time I’m handed a box branded “Simply the Best,” a slogan whose rhetorical power is undercut somewhat by the fact that everyone uses them.
Carbone’s best assets are its heavy, well-caramelized cheese layer, thick spicy pepperoni that looks like it’s cut with a hacksaw, and a hefty ladle of rich sauce I’d like to order out in an IV bag. (Take me whenever, Lord. Just get me hooked up to the juice on my way out.) If you like Buffalo style and haven’t had Carbone’s yet, you need to reevaluate your life and make the pilgrimage.
Gino & Joe’s: Main Place Mall 400 Main St, 1st Fl Buffalo, NY 14202, (716) 856-3107
Unless you’re looking for a pair of sneakers or a slice of some of Buffalo’s best pizza, the Main Place Mall is an odd sort of mall. Visitors find Gino & Joe’s is holding it down and slinging the best NY style slices in the city. In true NY fashion, they’re taking orders fast and accurately. Unless you’re trying to establish dominance amongst your friends or coworkers, you can probably do with just one slice here. They’re huge.
Gino & Joe’s is a lunchtime staple for downtown workers, or Southtown guys like me who make the journey anyway because we live on the edge, man. Not to be confused with other NY style pizzerias in Buffalo such as “Joe’s” or “Gino’s” (which are both great in their own right), Gino & Joe’s, is serving up slices that are little thicker than the standard paper-thin NY style, giving it that distinctive crispy undercarriage, but lending it a pull and chew most NY style slices lack. The dough is about as good as it gets.
Gino & Joe’s cheese is also distinctively NY, in that it isn’t really browned. Warmed just to perfect melting temperature, the cheese maintains sweet and salty clean mozzarella flavors that are sometimes lost in the caramelized Buffalo style. But the floppy pepperoni that looks like it went straight from the bag to the slice, I’ll never understand though. Like those sickos that eat raw hot dogs. Yeah it’s fine, but you know you’re just impatient. Come on now.
Artone’s Pizza & Sub’s: 1882 Seneca St, Buffalo, NY 14210, (716) 822-2311
I stumbled upon Artone’s while cruising the area. I’d never heard of it, but everyone deserves their shot in the big leagues and this was their time at bat. They’re still slinging the classic “Two & a drink for $5” deal, which is not as common as you might think any more, and the slices really caught me off guard.
First off, the visual appeal on these is top notch. The greasy, browned cheese that peeks through the meat layer like the magma you learned about on National Geographic has just the right amount of pull, crisp, and chew. Surprisingly, the dough wasn’t burned or even a little overdone, which is a common fault on slices that are this well browned on top. Also, not as thick as your typical Buffalo style slices, which I dig.
These are easily in my top three favorite pepperoni. They’re fatty, chewy, crispy, and well spiced. I don’t know what $5 of pepperoni looks like because the pizza life has kept me flush with it this past year and I haven’t had to buy it, but this is probably close.
Artone’s sauce isn’t something I’m going bananas for, mostly because I don’t prefer the sweeter, thicker variety. If that’s your favorite thing, I understand and want you to be happy, but we have to start seeing other pizzerias. Artone’s, however, is nowhere near the edge of the sweet scale. Sweet, but not that sweet, and I can appreciate.
Picasso’s Pizza: 6812 Transit Rd, Buffalo, NY 14221, (716) 631-0222
I’d first encountered Picasso’s in Lockport at a spot that has since become a delicious Mexican place called Aguacates. Picasso’s rest its laurels on the “Krispy Kreme” strategy, which is that they have hot slices that they’re damn proud to serve to you at the drop of a hat.
Easily the prettiest ponies in the stable, these bad boys should be on the city flag, right next to the schooner. The garlic-parmesan shake and strong herb sprinkle on these slices not only jazz up the visuals, but add scent and flavor when they melt into the hot cheese and through your brain stem because you told yourself they were cool enough to eat right out of the oven. It’s worth the hospital bills, and Picasso’s might even deliver a freshie right to your bedside.
Picasso’s slices also excel in the pepperoni and dough categories. Spicy, thick, and crunchy pepperoni compliments the chewy, crispy, semi-thick dough. A little husky up at the crust, but there’s nothing wrong with a little dough squish. A lot of us are into that these days.
Mister Pizza: 1065 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222, (716) 822-6500
Mister Pizza is near and dear to my heart because I’ve lived close for a few years now and they deliver well into the wee hours of the evening when my Connect Four tournaments really start to heat up. I’m still holding out for the guy in the top hat and tails to make a personal delivery, but men that well-dressed rarely have time to make house calls, so I get it.
Mister Pizza serves one of the best all-around slices in the city. Dough that isn’t so thin it cracks when folded, nor so thick that it feels like you’re eating Wonder Bread slices. Cheese that melts and browns perfectly, but isn’t going to clog your throat, just your aorta.
The undercarriage shot speaks for itself. The patchy browned bottom is crunchy and speckled with different textures and flavors. The top has a few crispy bubbles that I admittedly over-fetishize, but you bite into one of those and call me when you can’t fall asleep tonight because the experience shattered your crust-loathing.
Mister Pizza has my favorite sauce in the Buffalo slice world. It’s deep red, a little looser than your average slice, boldly spiced, and perfectly acidic to cut through the other predominantly savory notes of the pizza. Pour out a can at my funeral. It’ll weed out the normies and get the pizza party popping.
Blasdell Pizza: 3904 South Park Ave, Buffalo, NY 14219, (716) 822-1138
“Blasdell? I thought this was a Buffalo pizza review.” Yeah, well, it’s pretty close and I did these for fun, so deal with it. Do you want the sexiest of slices or not? Hitch a ride on your buddy’s BMX bike 15 minutes outside of downtown and chow down on some pizza that just might change your life.
Blasdell Pizza is the hungry man’s slice. If you’re looking for a lunch that hits like a tranquilizer dart, order two of these and get back to me around 3 pm after you’re fired for “tactical napping” on the job. These slices are overkill in the best way possible. Only surpassed in heft by Good Guys Pizza, Blasdell slices have a about a half-inch-thick cheese blanket that’s ready to tuck you in to a gassy, groan-filled nap.
Although the cheese is heavy, it’s fitting for their super-thick dough, which is coated in one of my top three favorite sauces, distributed, as far as I can tell, via cement truck. If you’re longing for Buffalo comfort food, fill your prescription at Blasdell Pizza. Tell them Dr. Sexy Slices sent you and watch everyone’s stomach twist as they savor those next few awkward moments.
Ricota’s: 206 Elk St, Buffalo, NY 14210, (716) 823-7636
Places like Ricota’s (yes, just the one “T”) are the absolute highlights of my pizza touring. I had never heard of it before, and it’s in an under-explored area of Buffalo. Plus it’s in what would be best described as a “bodega,” which if you’re not into loose beers, cigarettes, or color commentary, might be a new experience for you. Known in smaller pizza circles as the go-to order for the Buffalo Sabres and visiting teams, these guys are sneakily cooking up some of the best pizza in Buffalo.
Ricota’s game is the buttery-savory slice. Highlights include fluffy and perfectly thick dough, robust and deeply rich sauce, and a crust flakier than your ex-boyfriend at all your family parties. Ricota’s makes sure that they layer their cheese up and over their already-delicious edges so that you never have to go without. Ricota’s flavor is elegantly greasy. It’s a deliciously fatty slice that is packed with flavor.
The translucent wax paper serves as your only reminder that you can’t indulge in a Ricota’s slice every day unless you work in a steel mill and split logs as a hobby. Everything is locked in at the golden ratio. It’s the “diamond in the ruff” of all 10 of these spots and you hipsters better give me credit when you impress your friends with this exotic pie.
La Nova Pizzeria: 371 W Ferry St, Buffalo, NY 14213, (716) 881-3303
La Nova is a Buffalo staple for pizza, and time and time again they’ve proven it’s for good reason. One of the more unique and enticing atmospheres you’ll see for a pizzeria, La Nova has their whole operation laid out in front of you the moment you walk in. Several different pies to choose from, all staring back at you from behind the glass, longing for a reheat in the roaring hearth. Is this what the SPCA is like for people?
Looking at these, you may be thinking, “Sexy Slices, there are two different kinds of pepperoni pizza there. What gives?” Here’s the deal: La Nova has two styles of pepperoni. When asked if you want beef or pork pepperoni, I recommend you go with both. Both are delicious, but if you can only eat one because you weren’t raised right and don’t believe in yourself, I recommend the beef. It’s the only place I know where you can get it. Or don’t get pepperoni at all if you want. What am I, your therapist?
Another unique feature of the La Nova slice is the sesame crust. Crust toppings or flavorings are an easy way to accentuate what is normally the least interesting part of a slice. Additionally, La Nova has so much sauce on their pizza that by the time you hit the crust, you’ve likely collected yourself a little pool of it to dip your sesame coated breadstick into. Don’t let the stares affect you. The haters haven’t seen the light of the slice lifestyle yet, and it’s sad.
Bob & John’s La Hacienda: 1545 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216, (716) 836-5411
Bob & John’s was a childhood staple for me growing up, and much like my main man Mr. Bubble, I love it to this day. For entirely different reasons, of course. Let’s get that straight.
Bob & John’s dough is my favorite in the category. Hands down. The underbelly of the slice is hard and crispy like the very best NY pizza. You can recognize the telltale hollow “thud” if you flick the bottom, which is something I recommend you do in the privacy of your own home. What sets them apart is that above this crusty sheet is a fluffy layer that you would expect from Buffalo style slices. A tale of two cities on a single slice. This stuff practically writes itself.
Bob & John’s other highlight feature is its simplicity. The Cheese, sauce, and pepperoni are all distributed in just the right quantity, but never overpower each other, letting the quality of the dough shine through. It’s a very harmonious slice that’s easy to eat. Just don’t start over chanting that mantra as you waddle up for slice #8 at the lunch buffet. When it’s all over, be sure to request a video of yourself from their CCTV so you can throw it on when you have a pizza craving. Get the Pavlovian diet off to a strong start. Pretty sure that’s what Al Roker did.
Bocce Club: 4174 Bailey Ave, Buffalo, NY 14226, (716) 833-1344
Probably the most popular pizzeria in Buffalo and the reason a lot of us are a little plumper during the Bills Season, pizzas have been coming out of the Bocce Club since the 1940s. Times were tough due to the War effort, and the men of the bocce club pooled their resources from their individual victory gardens to create a simple, inexpensive meal that would fill them up. That’s how pizza was invented…at Bocce Club…in Buffalo. Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that. Tell your friends.
Anyhow, like a fine box or Franzia, Bocce Club pizza has aged well and stayed true to their roots. Bocce Club was one of the first to pioneer what we’ve now covered exhaustively, the “Buffalo style” pizza. The cheese is heavy, gooey, and has incredible pull. Their pepperoni are textbook cup-and-char. Most importantly, the trademark thick dough succeeds in an area where most other Buffalo style places fail in that it’s fluffy and light all the way through. It’s a difficult task to fully cook the dough and not blacken the rest of the pie. Bocce Club does that better than any place I’ve had pizza from and they deserve a lot of credit for it.
If you’ve followed along this far, by now you know that I’m practically Captain Ahab of the saucy sailboat. I like a lot of sauce, man, and Bocce delivers. The stuff runs out of every crevice from your first bite to your last. I love the quality and it’s got a flavor profile that hits on a lot of different notes. It’s super rich, fresh, perfectly spiced, but it’s damn sweet, which holds it back a little for me. Clearly a matter of preference, but when it comes to Bocce slices, for me, it’s all about the incredible dough and cheese.
There you have it, my favorites. Bring on the mob. You’re passionate and I love you for it, Buffalo…but you need to diversify your slices. Try one of the 15 others that I’m sure are within 5 miles of your house. You just might learn a thing or two.
Follow @sexyslices on Instagram and Twitter for more pictures and reviews of Buffalo’s finest pizza