When it comes to eating healthy, bread and cheese are not exactly the first two food groups that come to mind. And yet they're the primary ingredients in pizza—that glorious, mouth-watering, iconic dish you absolutely must love in order to call yourself a New Yorker.
Thankfully, the city is home to more than a handful of pizza joints that churn out pies that are better for your health. These spots use quality ingredients like organic tomatoes grown just a few miles away, mozzarella made in-house with milk from grass-fed cows, and house-cured meats free of nitrates. They pile fresh produce on top, make crust that's super thin or gluten-free (for Celiacs or those who live in fear of Frankenwheat), or offer vegan options.
We spent some time eating from wood-fired ovens in three boroughs (tough life, we know) to bring you the most delicious, healthier New York City pizza places you've got to try (listed alphabetically). Maybe don't plan on hitting them all next week, okay? —Lisa Elaine Held and Jamie McKillop
(Photos: American Flatbread, Franny's)
Sustainable food visionary George Schenck created the American Flatbread concept in 1985, and while it's now a franchise operation, the company retains its commitment to all-natural, fresh ingredients at all of its locations.
Pizzas are made with organic ingredients sourced from local farms and greenmarkets (which are posted on the wall), so the menu changes often, and you can choose between gluten-free or sprouted grain crusts.
And rather than catering to of-the-moment food trends, there are upgraded toppings like carmelized onions and mushrooms (that aren't the slimy, canned kind).
And the vibe of the large Tribeca restaurant mirrors that comfort-first ethos. It feels more like low-key Vermont spot (where the company started) than a frenzied Manhattan spot, which is just what you want when you're sitting around the dome-shaped wood-fired oven sharing a few wholesome slices with friends.
205 Hudson St., at Canal, Tribeca, www.americanflatbread.com
(Photo: American Flatbread)
Yoga teacher-restauranteur Cristina Castañeda serves up tasty flatbreads made with local (and organic when possible) ingredients at this neighborhood casual sit-down restaurant (formerly called Rigoletta Pizza).
Our favorite was the Lucca (pictured above) with kale, pesto, roasted plum tomato, goat cheese, and toasted pine nuts, and the menu has an extensive selection of other healthy options, like arugula and quinoa salads and roasted veggie sandwiches, not to mention flatbreads served with poached eggs in the morning. (Permission to eat breakfast pizza, granted.)
Bonus: Castañeda's Naam Yoga is housed upstairs. We recommend going before dinner.
141 W. 72nd St., between Columbus and Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side, www.communalnyc.com
(Photo: Communal Oven and Earth)
Despite its reputation as a can't-get-a-table foodie hotspot, Franny's still retains a neighborhood-joint atmosphere that feels casual—but its commitment to sustainability is anything but.
Owners Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg use renewable energy, convert the kitchen grease into biodiesel fuel, and use eco cleaning products. They approach the menu (yes, it's biodegradable) the same way, sourcing fresh and organic produce from local producers (listed on the back of the menu). On the wine list, it's actually hard to find a glass that's not marked with the biodynamic or organic asterisk.
In terms of Franny's culinary reputation and take on personal pizzas, it lives up to the buzz, from the basic tomato-basil-mozzarella to the cult-favorite clam pie, covered with fresh parsley and shelled littlenecks steamed in olive oil, garlic, and white wine. And in a nod to Naples, pies come unsliced, which feels awkward at first glance and lovely and communal at first ungraceful cut (or tear).
348 Flatbush Ave., between Sterling Pl. and Eighth Ave., Brooklyn, www.frannysbrooklyn.com
This small, no-fuss Queens pizzeria opened just last year, and it doesn't have the clout of Franny's or the table-wait times of Roberta's. What it does have is some of the best better-f0r-you wood-fired pizza served in the five boroughs.
Milkflower picks up much of its produce from the Brooklyn Grange organic rooftop farm just blocks away, and fresh vegetables are the star of the menu (okay, the crust is good too...). Pizzas come in creative combos like the Chico Verde, a no-cheese pie draped in leaves of kale and sprinkled with chili flakes, and the Van Dammer, with Brussels sprouts and a runny egg on top. There are also delicious salads and "toasts" piled with veggies like corn or roasted red peppers.
Bonus: The adorable back garden with communal picnic tables for fair-weather dining.
34-12 31st Ave., between 34th and 35th St., Astoria, Queens, www.milkflowernyc.com
This Lower East Side-meets-East Village staple is like a pizza wonderland for gluten-free and vegan eaters (and their friends!).
Its gluten-free flatbread crust is really one of the best when it comes to taste and texture (just ask the Celiac eater we took there, who was filled with joy throughout the meal), and toppings range from classic Margherita to lamb sausage or butternut squash. Vegans can choose from an entire menu of pies made with Daiya cheese (or without). Not to mention a vast selection of both vegan and gluten-free pasta dishes—think organic corn-and-quinoa-flour spaghetti with veggie meatballs.
Plus, its modern design is cozy and romantic, with a front wall that opens up to the street when the weather allows.
198 Allen St., at Houston, Lower East Side, www.palapizza.com
(Photo: Facebook/Pala Pizza)
Roberta's is a fresh-and-local Bushwick pizza powerhouse that's been drawing a trendy crowd to the L train Morgan stop long before runoff residents of Williamsburg populated the 'hood.
It's famous for its Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza with airy, crispy crust and innovative toppings like "prairie breeze" (nutty cheese), sungold tomato, and delicata squash.
Many of these items are picked from its insanely impressive on-site garden, which features greenhouses built out of re-purposed shipping containers, fig and apple trees, and on-site beehives. What they can't grow themselves, they source from local friends like the Brooklyn Grange.
261 Moore St., at Bogart St., Bushwick, Brooklyn, www.robertaspizza.com
Okay, Wild's pizzas are really not "pizzas" in the traditional sense of the word (so don't show up expecting Motorino). But its flatbreads made with gluten-free and vegan crust are a great pick for those looking for wheat- and dairy-free options, and it gets major points for ambiance.
The pretty West Village spot opened an outpost in Williamsburg, with an awesome greenhouse in the back, in May, and it uses "hormone-free" cheeses, and locally sourced, organic produce "as much as possible," according to owner Miki Agrawal.
A recent Pear Fig Gorgonzola was delicious, and Wild also has multiple options for vegans, including the Skinny Bitch, with pesto, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes, and the Vegan BBQ, with faux chicken and mozzarella.
535 Hudson St., at Charles, West Village, and 340 Bedford Ave., at S. 3rd St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, www.eatdrinkwild.com
(Photo: Facebook/Eat Drink Wild)
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