In the universe of New York pizza, very few stand taller than Patsy Grimaldi. One of just a handful of pizza men left who helped make New York-style pizza as renowned as it currently is, he’s the man behind Patsy’s Pizzerias, the original Grimaldi’s, and Juliana's, which he opened last year in the original Grimaldi’s location after deciding to get back into the pizza game.
Along with Dom DiMarco (of Di Fara) and the late Gennaro Lombardi (or Lombardi's) and Antonio Pero (of Totonno’s), Grimaldi is a member of New York’s pizza elite, one of the last of a dying breed of pizzaioli who helped invent the New York-style pizza that we know and love.
If you were to head to Naples, Italy, you’ll encounter a very different product from the traditional New York pie. Whereas the New York slice is completely covered with cheese and has a slightly crunchy crust, traditional Neapolitan pizzas (like what you encounter at Motorino) are smaller, tend to have dollops of cheese as opposed to one even layer, and have a crust that sags when you list it, oftentimes requiring a fork and knife to eat.
While dining at Giuliana recently, our intrepid Recipe editor Will Budiaman encountered Grimaldi himself, and asked him what the main differences are between a New York and Neapolitan-style pizza. Grimaldi’s answer was technical yet extremely simple: According to Grimaldi, the difference between Neapolitan-style pizza and New York-style pizza is that Neapolitan-style pizza uses what's called '0' or '00' flour, which is ground as finely as possible, and is made in a wood-burning oven. "If you use '0' flour to make a pizza and cook it in a coal oven like mine, it’ll just burn up," he said.
Grimaldi uses what he calls "American flour," which is most likely just all-purpose, for his New York-style pies, from a special supplier who gives him 1,000 bags a day. He also cooks his pizza in a coal oven, which is illegal in New York but allowed where it’s been grandfathered in.
So there you have it: Neapolitan pizza is made with '0' or '00' flour in a wood-burning oven; New York-style pizza is made with all-purpose flour in a coal-burning (or electric) oven. And that’s made all the difference.