In December 2006, I planned to meet my cousins in the East Village to experience the wonders of Una Pizza Napoletana, which was supposed to be the best pizzeria in New York City. Sadly, the neon red sign was dark. Owner Anthony Mangieri was on vacation. We ended up across the Village at Lombardi’s, which had turned into an overflowing tourist trap. It was a sad day. Thankfully, we finally had a shot at pizza redemption, and Mangieri delivered in a big way.
Anthony Mangieri ran a pizzeria by the same name in Point Pleasant, on the Jersey shore, for eight years before relocating to the East Village in 2004. Pizza was a natural career path for Mangieri, since his family’s from Naples. He’s a traditionalist, baking “100% Handmade Neapolitan pizza” in a wood-fired, brick oven. He allows no substitutions or alterations, and absolutely no condiments are available.
Above the oven, Spanish tiles depict Saint Anthony, from southern Italy, the patron saint of people who work with fire, including firemen and bakers. He’s pictured with a pig. I told Mangieri that anybody who travels with a pig is alright by me. He imports white birch from Estonia, for its consistent burn. He says, “I feel bad about burning it, the bark’s so beautiful.”
We ordered one of each pie, for the sake of “research.” They cost $21 apiece.
The combination of mozzarella di bufala, extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, sea salt was incredible. Mangieri scatters little cubes of mozzarella before sliding the pizza into the oven, and they melt evenly. The blistered crust was startlingly good, nice and pliable, with a slightly sour tang.
Mangieri gets a lot of flack for charging $21 for pizza, but this is far from ordinary pizza. For such a high quality meal, it’s actually reasonable. Besides, it’s the best pizza in New York City at this point.