Sadly, this is what many a born and raised Manhattanite, like myself, thinks of Queens: “Sure I’ve been to Queens. Shea stadium, Rockaway, Astoria, PS1. Great borough.” Turns out that there is way more to Queens than the hip pockets of commerce, art, and food that I’ve previously enjoyed. There are actually lots of unique hoods in Queens and people live and work in them! Much of the borough is still undiscovered country to the hipster-elite, which makes it a refreshingly diverse kind of awesome. Not to mention that it has Amazing (yup, capital A) pizza.
We drove out Bayside to stop by VI Pizzeria, where we got to try one the best Sicilian slices on the planet, and talk to a guy who always eats pizza before going to the gym. VI has been around for decades, and the co-owner Louis, refused to let us take his photo without his partner there. Now that’s loyalty. We got you next time.
From Bayside, we rolled west on 495 and hopped on the Van Wyck to get to Amore Pizzeria, in what I guess I would call, Downtown Flushing. This joint is shouting distance to the Van Wyck on the way to the Whitestone Bridge, located in a strip mall, where it lives with a Pathmark, a liquor store that uses old Pathmark letters for its sign, a Carvel, several hucksters pushing DVDs in the parking lot, a drive-thru falafel stand, and a check cashing spot…among others. According to Andy, the pizzaman running the show for over 39 years, Amore is at the crossroads of America, with Citi FIeld just a stone’s throw away, and traffic from the Whitestone Bridge and LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports constantly bringing people through the shop.
What’s amazing to me is that, despite its context, Amore is, and has been, a destination for northern Queens denizens for over 40 years. The place was jam packed on this Saturday afternoon. After I put down one of their heavy looking, yet unfathomably light and crispy slices, I could see why. That’s what keeps Tommo (Tom-Oh) and his family coming back.
This place has nothing attractive around it, except the pizza itself. Who wants to park over here? It’s insane getting to. Getting out of here, you’re sitting in traffic. It’s hard, but it’s worth it for the pie. Definitely worth it.
- Tommo Haubert, eater
The last stop on this trip was John’s Pizza of Elmhurst. If Amore is the crossroads of the world, John’s is an idyllic old New York bubble floating on a quiet side street in a land that time forgot. John’s is the only female-run pizza shop we have crossed on our journey. They haven’t changed a thing since they moved here in 1976.
We have been here since 1965. I want to change the place, but my customers don’t want me to. I’ve been looking at it for 45 years! The customers say, “Leave the way it is. We want to remember the way it is.” We have people who started coming here in second, third grade, now most of them are married, they went to the City, they went to Jersey, they went far away, they come with the kids and they say, “Oh, how nice! It’s still the same!” It makes them remember the good times they had when they were young.
- Rose Bagali, owner