Friendly Pizza Has Great Pizza, Is Friendly

One of the many marvels of New York is that a plain slice bought from almost any of the hundreds of pizzerias in town will be decent. I don’t know if every hole-in-the-wall pizza joint just gets their dough and sauce from the same supplier or what, but I’ll buy a slice from almost anywhere and feel confident that it’ll probably be alright. Every once in a long while, I am proven terribly, terribly wrong, but that’s really not very often.

With so many pizza places in the city, however, it’s a lot of work to tell the good places from the nearly decent. We had no idea that The Grotto was better than average until Chris went there himself, and pretty much the only way to separate the tasty wheat from the merely passable chaff is trial and error.

That, or starting a blog and having readers email you tips. Former Midtown Lunch’er and current Downtown Lunch’er Matthew tipped us off to Friendly Pizzeria on the corner of Nassau and Maiden Lane, and I for one am grateful. After walking by this place for years, I finally stopped in and found a better-than-average slice and plenty of the eponymous friendliness.

Here’s the email I found in my inbox on the morning of the grossness that was Tuesday: “I would like to ask (beg, plead, cajole!?!?) if you could review and write up my favorite pizza place in the city, Friendly Pizza, on the corner of Nassau and Maiden Lane. It is now literally a hole in the wall, has been in the neighborhood in a few different locations for at least 25 years, and has survived to serve great pizza to downtown workers through 2 attacks on the WTC, several recessions, the downtown residential real estate boom and bust and, well, you get the idea…

My personal favorite is their “Chicago” slice, which is a sicilian-thickness round pie, made to a perfect crispiness, but all their pizza has stood the test of time…”
You don’t have to cajole, Matthew, just tell us it’s good, and we’ll be there. Sometimes within an hour…

Friendly Pizzeria is a cozy place, and I mean neighbor’s elbow in your eyeball cozy. I took this picture practically standing in the doorway, and just out of frame to the left is the other wall. There’s also a single small table with three stools, but quite frankly they should just get rid of it. If three people actually sat down at it, I don’t think customers would be able to get in and out.

Friendly lives up to its name, which I appreciated more than I would have thought. When you’re crammed into a phone-booth sized space with five complete strangers, it’s nice to feel like someone’s looking out for you. They take orders quickly, fill them quickly, are happy to answer questions, and are just generally warm and welcoming in a way that charmed this Southern boy.

Breakfast is cheap for the area, ranging from $1.50 to $3.50 depending on how much you load up your sandwich. I didn’t try any for this post, but I remember having one from here a few months ago, and it was quite good. They use real eggs and not the weird yellow stuff from a jug, which I appreciate.

The other thing I didn’t try–don’t worry, as you’ll see below, I tried lots–was their pastas. I didn’t realize how much glare was in this shot when I took it. I’ll just say that the pasta looked fine, and I’ll update you when I get back and try it.

Here’s 3/4 of the things I did try. Clockwise from bottom left that’s a plain slice, a Sicilian slice, and a whole wheat slice with chicken, red onions, and jalapenos. You’ll notice there’s no Chicago slice. After Matthew’s praise, I was sorry to learn they were out when I went. I was promised it be there the next day, and as you’ll see later, it was.

A plain slice will set you back $2.50, which is exactly the maximum amount I’ll pay for a slice and still feel I’m getting a good deal. I’m not exaggerating at all either. $2.75 slices really irk me.

Friendly’s plain slice is a very solid slice: Correct bread-to-sauce-to-cheese ratios. Good crust and excellent sauce, sweet but not cloying. The cheese is only ok, a little chewy and a little greasy, but it still works. The crust on my slice could have beeen just a tiny bit crispier, but part of that is Friendly’s trying not to keep customers waiting by leaving the slices in the oven for too long.  I’m sure I could ask them to leave it in longer. It is friendly pizza after all.

I think this slice ($4) may have been the first piece of whole wheat pizza I’ve ever eaten. I hope it’s not representative of the genre. The toppings on this slice were pretty great, but the crust was tough and bland. Maybe the whole wheat pies sit around for longer than the others, or maybe whole wheat just shouldn’t go in pizza dough. Either way, this was not my favorite.

The toppings really are good, though. The jalapenos and onions are nice and roasted, and I’d definitely get this slice again, provided it came on a regular crust.

I’m generally wary of Sicilian slices. A bad Sicilian slice is like eating a pound of cardboard, and there are way more bad Sicilian slices out there than bad plain slices.  But this Sicilian slice ($2.75) was great. I’d give the credit to Friendly’s dough, which is delicious enough to merit there being this much of it.

And now, the slice you’ve all been waiting for, the Chicago ($2.75). I was imagining some sort of deep dish concoction, that being the Chicago style. Here’s what I got:

The good news? It’s delicious. The bad news? It’s exactly what Matthew said: A round Sicilian pie. No deep dish here. There might be a little more sauce on it, but I don’t think so. So I agree with Matthew and heartily endorse the Chicago slice, just be aware that deep dish it ain’t.

So all in all, I think Friendly’s is a pretty great slice joint. It’s not Di Fara and it’s not one of these new fancy Neapolitan places, but it’s a good slice of pie, and I like me a good slice of pie.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • Good slices at a good price.
  • A particularly good Sicilian/Chicago pie, which is not an easy thing to find.
  • The staff is just as friendly as the name suggests.
  • Free soda with purchase of two slices.

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I am a deep dish addict, and they deceived me with their “Chicago” slice. I will never forgive them.
  • This place is about 8 square feet total.
  • The whole wheat crust is definitely not a winner.

Friendly Pizzeria, 59 Nassau St. (at Maiden Lane), (212) 962-0220 or (212) 791-1800



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