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Best Pizza in New Paltz Has an Incredible Backstory

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All photos by Chris Galeano, courtesy of Best Pizza

CIA graduate and “celebrity chef” Frank Pinello brings Brooklyn-style pies to New Paltz via his new shop, Best Pizza. Can it live up to the name?

Frank Pinello never wanted to open a pizzeria. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he planned to work in high-end New York restaurants—think Jean-Georges. But after working at Giacomo’s Pizza in college, he fell in love with the pizza business and developed a five-year plan to open his own place.

Frank Pinello

Before moving back to New York City in 2009, Giacomo—Pinello’s mentor—asked him to open a pizzeria with him in New Paltz. They even visited a location on the corner of Main Street and South Chestnut Street. Unfortunately, the current owners were only two years into their 15-year lease, so Pinello returned to Brooklyn.

cheese pie

Pinello bounced around from pizzeria to pizzeria, rubbing elbows with the likes of Nate Appleman and Anthony Falco; the latter chef helped Pinello get a job at Roberta’s in Brooklyn. He had only been there for a few weeks when the owners asked him to open a proper New York slice shop at 33 Havemeyer. Three years into his five-year plan, Pinello jumped at the opportunity and—with his roommate and best friend from the Culinary Institute—opened the original Best Pizza. 

Best Pizza New Paltz

Still, Pinello always imagined he’d return to the Hudson Valley. He fell in love with the area during his college years and knew a slice shop would flourish on any Main Street. After helping a friend open Ollie’s Pizza in High Falls, he couldn’t ignore the possibility any longer. Thirteen years after abandoning the dream of a Hudson Valley slice shop, he resumed his search for the perfect location.

Best Pizza New Paltz

The space Pinello found was right on the corner of Main Street and South Chestnut Street in New Paltz—the exact building he and Giacomo had ogled at over a decade earlier. Reflecting on the serendipitous circumstances, Pinello says, “We literally waited out the 15-year lease.”

Best Pizza New Paltz

Anyone who’s been to New Paltz knows the streets are peppered with pizza places. When Best Pizza opened its doors and fired up its ovens, there was plenty of skepticism from the community. But the slice shop has proved its value, holding fast to its motto: “To do as much as we can by hand.”

With produce and meats from U.S. Foods and Greenmarket as well as Sogno Toscano and local Hudson Valley vendors, Best Pizza prepares everything in-house, from pickling its own vegetables to slicing its own pepperoni to making its own fresh mozzarella and sauces. And Pinello wouldn’t have it any other way. “I think taking that idea of doing as much as you can by hand and bringing it back old-school really sets us apart.”

Best Pizza New Paltz

Pinello is proud of his staff; the “secret ingredient,” so to speak, is their willingness to go the extra mile. For example, pulling mozzarella is a complicated process. Cheesemakers must pay meticulous attention to the temperature of the water and the curd. “We get a very flavorful mozzarella out of it,” Pinello muses, “and it’s because our guys are doing it the hard way,” rather than sprinkling their pies with a prepackaged parm.

Best Pizza New Paltz

The house mozzarella can be found on every slice of pizza, from the classic cheese pie to the veggie pie, which comes with seasonal greens, veggies, and pecorino Romano. Just as savory is the white pie, dressed with seasoned ricotta, pecorino Romano, caramelized onions, and a sesame seed crust. The robust menu of Italian staples also includes heroes, buffalo wings, spicy mixed pickles, and garlic knots served with spicy marinara. Pinello’s personal favorite, the grandma slice, features the house mozzarella along with crushed plum tomato, garlic, basil, and anchovies. 

two slices on paper plates

Looking to the future, Pinello hopes to cater to diners with dietary restrictions by introducing pies made with vegan cheese. He and his staff have been researching the best vegan cheeses and, once they figure out the right ratios, “vegan cheese will be at every Best Pizza, hopefully sooner rather than later.” For the present, Pinello and the rest of the Best Pizza family are simply thankful for the opportunity to share their love of pizza with the Hudson Valley. With local brews from Poughkeepsie’s Zeus Brewing Company, a stellar staff, and a minimalistic atmosphere, Best Pizza is eager to prove it lives up to the name one slice at a time.

Related: 3 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Hudson Valley Table

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