Italian-born Sal Malanga and his father opened the doors to their first Upper West Side pizzeria in '59 seven blocks south on 95th st. before eventually settling at 2671 Broadway with his brother Carmine. On the outside, Sal and Carmine's is an unassuming pizza parlor with a few pies on display in front of their standard gas deck oven. In fact, the place is so unostentatious that I accidentally walked right by it.
I walked in on an 80-year-old customer arguing with the piemakers over why there weren't any pepperoni slices left. Unable to fit a word in edgewise, I motioned a "one" to one of the guys behind the counter, who threw a plain slice into the oven for a reheat without hesitation as I headed to the empty cramped dining area in back and took a seat. There hanging in the top corner was a poorly framed certificate bestowing the title of New York's best slice to Sal and Carmine's- any further out of the way and you'd never know it was there.
Two minutes later, my sloppy, seemingly undercooked slice was brought to my table. With quizzical reluctance, I took my first bite, and realized just how accurate the New York Press was with their award. This was easily one of the best slices of pizza I'd ever had.
The sauce really isn't anything revolutionary- a thin layer of cooked tomatoes akin to what you'll find on most NY slices in the city. But the crust and cheese both have a truly unique taste and a subtle but perfect amount of salt content, making Sal and Carmine's one of a kind.
I ate silently, in awe of a slice and a pizzeria that had caught me so off guard. The pizza wasn't too greasy, and the end crust is magic, with a thin crispy "shell" but a perfectly soft, chewy inside. Without thinking I went back to the front and ordered another slice. I wanted them to know how much I loved what I was eating, but I knew they could tell by the look in my eye and the urgency in my request.
(courtesy of West Side Spirit)
Sadly, Sal Malanga passed away just over a year ago, survived by piemakers Carmine and Sal's grandson Luciano, among other family. People that knew him were devastated, but have been comforted in knowing that nothing is changing. Not the pizza, nor the parlor. I finished up my slice and walked out as they closed the place behind me, just in time to catch the sunset. Though Sal may be gone, his pizza and his legacy aren't going anywhere.