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First Review: Patsy’s

Posted by gambit50 on April 25, 2008

Patsy’s, East Harlem, New York, NY

It will take some time to fill in all the places to make a complete list so I am just starting it up as they come to me. New, old, whatever. This one is first.

I recently went to Patsy’s, the Harlem original, on a new urge to find some very good or even excellent pizza. Honestly, I really only think very highly of one place. It is in Manhattan, a few others are fine, most are rubbish. This goes for all the boroughs though I will write a general pizza guide some other time. I have not been to many of the biggest and most highly rated names. I am not optimistic based on the rest, however. Again, for the pizza article.

This Patys’s is the original in Harlem. Name was semi-franchised out but this location is not on the website, Yes, it is the same Patsy’s, though there are others that are unaffiliated.

I went to the takeout counter which is a separate door from the sit down space. You can order a pie(plain, only) or a slice, $10 and $1.50 right there. Yes, only $10, whatever you read elsewhere. I was there for a good 20 minutes and paid attention to the money exchanges because I saw no price for the pie(slice price is posted) and never heard it said out loud. Certainly, nobody is complaining about those prices even though it has to be a fair amount less than average due to its location.

A few people who brave it and trek up to Spanish Harlem on occasion rave about Patsy’s. Well, many mediocre places get that for whatever reason. It is not a convenience thing since most people who write and dine in NYC do not live up there, let’s just face the fact. Maybe it is the “slumming it” factor along with the fact that it is an old, original type of New York pizza joint. Even more dangerous than venturing to Ave C 5 or 10 years ago. Well done, danger hunters.

From everything I had read, which is quite a bit, I thought the pizza would be in the Lombardi’s/Grimaldi’s style of pie. Well, it is not. The pie is what I term the “regular” pizza style of NYC. That is, it is the same style, forgetting quality, of most pizzerias associated with the goomba, guido neighborhoods of New York, though that same style is in all ‘hoods. The same style you got for delivery as a kid, everywhere in the outer boroughs before the trend of authentic or artisanal pizza was rampant. It is the most common style found if all pizza joints are considered, good and bad.

This automatically would limit the ceiling on Patsy’s. Why? Well, there are only 3 basic parts to a pizza(no, forget toppings or cheese only or tomato only, etc.), the dough, the sauce and the cheese. Just from looking at this pizza, I was pretty sure the cheese was not great. Would I have bet it all on that, no, but I would give you very high odds. In short, I was correct. The cheese is whatever it is, not a great fresh mozzarella. This place is not the type to use mozzarella di bufala if that is what you seek. And that is fine but there is some very fine fresh cow’s milk mozzarella to be had all over town so there is no reason not to use a quality product if you care to.

Now the sauce. Personally, I do not like too much sauce. Would I rather eat cheese and bread or cheese and sauce? How about yourself? I cannot say it was a bad sauce, it was not. Was it a good sauce? I don’t know, it would take quite a bit for me to say,”Wow, this pizza has great sauce!”. Not sure I have ever noticed it too much even on pizza I thought was great. At least the Patsy’s sauce wasn’t sweet, the marking of true garbage. Sugar/corn syrup in everything.

Alright, I had read about the crust inconsistencies from the Patsy’s fans. I like to hear about admitted problems, it allows for the possibility that the writing is objective. Also, some people just don’t like a floppy slice. Too soggy, etc. is what they said. Some of this was attributed to different pizzaiolas at different times. Based on my findings, that is not the case. There was a large variation in cooking time between pies put in one after the other. I observed this all within 20 minutes, so it is not a changing of the pizza man.

I sampled slices from a few different pies to judge it overall. My preconception was that darker pies would be better. It is true. The pies with no black markings are quite lame. Average garbage from anywhere. The more well done pies were definitely a step up, though none seemed cooked exactly right. The cheese on these darker pies was a bit browned. I don’t mean a couple of spots as on a good pie. It was just generally browned cheese.

The chatter about inconsistency proved true but I sampled through that. So you have under and over mostly if you go and get takeout. Choose over. Hey, some overs were only a bit so, though some were blatantly so. You will not have a choice if you go to the sit down section, I assume. Get it to go.


Summary: Not worth a trip. If you are passing by or live in the area, fine. Much cheaper than downtown but it has to be. I have heard the service for sit down is poor. A slightly better than average, typical NY style pizza. Make sure slice/pie has a good amount of black marks on the crust. Get takeout. Patsy’s was below my expectation in the realm of 85 for food. If you are around they make the pies quickly and it is cheap(for NYC). Visited, 3/08.


Food 78

Vibe – NA

Service NA, takeout is fast and efficient.


Score – 77


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