On a recent trip to New York City, I was determined to do some mop-up work and revisit some pizza joints where I had dined before officially crowning myself the Pizza Snob. My planned stop at Famous Ben’s Pizza of Soho would also hopefully clear up my confusion about the three pizzerias in Lower Manhattan named Ben’s.
In my younger days, Ben’s Pizzeria in Greenwich Village was a frequent stop due to its proximity to my fave record stores. Later, when Mrs. Pie took me shopping on the south side of Houston Street, I discovered Ben’s “of Soho” and assumed it was connected to the Ben’s on the north side. However, having since studied “Ray’s Pizza” nomenclature, I now see how linguistic tricks such as the use of “pizza versus pizzeria” and the “famous” modifier can be used to loosely disassociate pizza joints under different ownership. My stop in Soho uncovered that Famous Ben’s “Pizza” has a second location on 14th Street while Un-famous Ben’s “Pizzeria” is a lone business concern.
While walking about, some rain came upon us, so my brother and I sought refuge inside Famous Ben’s. On our way in, we were greeted by a flowing display of banners and Ben’s self-proclaimed iconic chef statue at their front door. Inside, my attention was immediately drawn to the wide assortment of slices on display in a triple-decker glass counter off to the left. Boasting a Sicilian as their specialty, their cornucopia of slices even includes a gluten-free version.
Bypassing the Sicilian this trip and having no aversion to gluten, I stuck with my usual plain cheese ($3.00) which was available although hidden so as to not waste space in the display. On the other side of the room were a few tables where we waited. Served quickly, my slice was an instant eye-opener: a tad thicker than most street slices, but with a firm solid look. The rich-looking tomato sauce and plentiful oregano also gave it a much darker look than usual.
Right off I knew that this dark solid slice was a winner. Crisp and flavorful, the crust was cooked to perfection providing for a deliciously delightful crunch. Likewise, the tasty mozzarella cheese clung tight to the crust setting me up for a classic Fold and Rip finish. And yes, the heavy dose of oregano atop the rich tomato sauce made this one of the most-satisfying slices I have ever had.
Famous Ben’s is well worthy of its name and reputation, and I am proud to welcome their slice into the Pizza Snob Hall of Fame. You may be tempted by the different offerings on display when you step inside Famous Ben’s. But, please be sure to try at least one plain cheese slice since it is the foundation for some of the best pizza you will find anywhere!
P.S. Cash-only, but there is an ATM inside.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***** Sets the Standard
Famous Ben’s Pizza of Soho
177 Spring Street
(Corner of Thompson Street) New York, NY 10012