Gran Turismo di Pizza: Sampling NY’s Best Cheap Pies in a $220K Maserati

“Gran Turismo” means “grand touring” in Italian. But just as a loose, Americanized interpretation of “Italian food” might yield a hole-in-the-wall dollar cheese slice from a Manhattan alleyway, a loosely-constructed grand tour might include stops at several dining establishments that serve exclusively that. In fact, if you had a few days with a $220,000 Italian coupe and a fondness for hot cheese, you might build a trip around it, like I did. Welcome to The Drive’s inaugural Gran Turismo di Pizza, a non-exhaustive roundup of the New York region’s most iconic cuisine, viewed through the windshield of a 2024 Maserati Gran Turismo Trofeo. This is not a culinary ranking (we’re not Zagat, and I don’t want to end up at the bottom of a river) nor a review of the Gran Turismo, which you can find here. This is a half-brained idea I, high on caffeine and shaking slightly, thought of while clutching the keys to the Blu Pozzi coupe Maserati lent me for a long weekend. I Slacked this plan to my editor, Chris Tsui, to which he responded: There was no turning back. Stop 1: Di Fara Pizza, Brooklyn, NY If New York invested the time and energy it puts into making pizza into improving infrastructure, there wouldn’t be a pothole or expansion joint left on the Belt Parkway. Some ideas cross the Atlantic seamlessly—others, not so much. The Gran Turismo’s 21-inch tires slap uneven pavement as my stomach grumbles. I’m on my way to Midwood’s Di Fara Pizza, an old-school establishment that contends for the title of best authentic pizzeria in New York City. Opened in 1965 by Neapolitan immigrant Domenic De Marco, Di Fara has served saucy thin-crust slices from the same quiet Avenue J block ever since. De Marco passed away in 2022; regrettably, I never tried a slice fired by the master. The shop attracts crowds during the lunch rush and on weekends, so I’m headed there at 11 a.m. on a Thursday. But first—a pit stop at South Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field to shoot photos of the Maserati. Floyd Bennett was the first major airport to serve New York City; today, its defunct runways make up a park used by birdwatchers, remote-controlled plane enthusiasts, and, allegedly, people looking to bed in new brake pads. (I will deny having any firsthand knowledge of that last one.) For photography purposes, it has open space—an NYC rarity—and a row of decrepit hangars that make for engaging backdrops. Photos done, I hop back into the Maserati’s cocoon, point it north towards Di Fara, and consider how spilled pizza sauce would look on white leather. Dine-in and Wet Wipes, it is. A plumbing van and a police car occupy the two legal parking spots in front of the shop, so I snap a photo through the driver’s side window at a stoplight and park down the block. Maddox Kay There’s no line, and my Margherita slices are ready five minutes later. I burn the roof of my mouth on the first one—rookie mistake. I wonder if the tire company food review guys ever burn their mouths (probably not), and ponder the absurdity of a tire company reviewing food in the first place.  Once I can taste again, flavor and texture wash over me. The sweetness of the tomato sauce is complimented by the minty spice of fresh basil, all contained by a firm, thin crust and gooey Mozzarella cheese. I savor the second slice, focusing on each flavor and the total package. The test is off to a good start. Stop 2: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, CT The second stop on our tour took me 87 miles north on I-95 to New Haven, a once-bustling port city known for Yale University and less known for two revered brick-oven pizza shops: Sally’s Apizza and Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Both shops nestle along Wooster Street in New Haven’s compact Little Italy, flanked by long lines and pastry shops. New Haven’s “apizza” style features a doughy crust that’s wide, thin, and blackened at the edges. The city’s proximity to the coast means white clam pizza is the local specialty. (If that sounds gross to you, don’t knock it until you try it.) Frank Pepe was founded 99 years ago by another Italian immigrant whose name you can probably guess. After immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager and fighting in World War I, Pepe opened the restaurant that still stands. Once out of New York, the Gran Turismo cruises flawlessly, its adaptive air suspension smoothing out highway imperfections and its quick reflexes now endearing instead of annoying. Like a good slice, some things take more than a single bite to appreciate. My copilot radios an order for a clam pie to Frank Pepe; unfortunately, the clams have left for the day. We settle for a meatball and ricotta pie instead, a choice that soon makes me forget seafood existed.  Wooster Street, which is lined with Italian flags and the aforementioned pizzerias, loves the Maserati. People point, wave, and smile. Two young women ask me to rev the engine. The young woman in the passenger seat, whom I asked to marry a few short months ago, covers her face and asks me not to. I listen. Maddox Kay Balancing the pizza box atop a microfiber towel on the Maserati’s trunklid (there was nowhere to sit), we dig in. This pizza is more savory than sweet; the meatballs melt in my mouth like butter. Vegetables? Never heard of ‘em.  Stuffed, we turn north for the evening and soak in some two-lane scenery. The sky is golden and the windows are down on the first 70-degree day of April. If this is as good as life gets, I’m OK with it. Stop 3: Sal & Carmine, New York, NY All good things must come to an end, and eventually, we get hungry again and head back to the city. Our lunch stop is Sal & Carmine’s, an Upper West Side institution that opened in 1957. It’s a classic New York slice shop, cash only, and part of the city’s fabric that I hope never dies. Maddox Kay One cheese and one pepperoni to go, please. I learn from my earlier mistake, waiting a minute so that I don’t burn my mouth on the first bite. The slices are hot and cheesy. They taste like home for tens of millions of people. Stop 3.5: Mama’s TOO! New York, NY Still hungry and craving a break from red sauce, we head up the street to Mama’s TOO. Opened in 2017, this spot is known for its Instagrammable square slices and creative toppings. I like that New York is proud of its traditions but not too proud to keep riffing on them. I order slices of cacio e pepe and caramelized onion with mushroom. They taste somewhere between focaccia and pizza, and are delicious. They’re gone within seconds, so I order more. Then those are gone. Stop 4: Joe’s Pizza, New York, NY If you ask someone from out of town to name a New York pizza shop, there’s a good chance they’ll say Joe’s. I mean, the place employed Spider-Man, for crying out loud. As part of this assignment, Chris stipulated that I must visit Joe’s. The tourist place? I rolled my eyes. Maddox Kay Folks, sometimes the tourists are right. Yes, the line sucks—I recommend the location on 14th Street and 3rd Avenue rather than the OG West Village location—but the pizza might win best New York-style slice of the three classic shops I tried. It’s flavorful, the texture is right, and it’s easy to eat one-handed, an important consideration when you’re walkin’ heya. If I have one gripe, it’s that the crust is a little dry. Any Way You Slice It Between the stat sheets and bench racing we’re all guilty of, it’s easy to forget that cars are about going places and hopefully experiencing something along the way. When we fixate on power output and tire width, we can lose the forest for the trees. Just as pizza won’t win any awards for outstanding nutritional value, the Maserati Gran Turismo won’t win your heart with numbers. It’s fast, but a Tesla Plaid or Taycan Turbo will dust it in a straight line—and it’s pricy for what you get. But there’s a certain glamor to a vehicle built not for practical concerns but as long-distance pleasure travel for you, perhaps one other person, and your stuff. Savoring the moment. Maddox Kay So take that stupid trip. Buy that stupid car, if you can afford it comfortably. And savor that slice of pizza before it gets cold. Because while there might be better options for how to spend our time and “optimize” our lives, this is the moment we’ve got.