What May Be NYC's Best Pizza Can't Be Bought With Money, Only Bartered For

The secret to the hard-to-get pizzas may be in the dough, which sits for 96 hours

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It may be the best pizza in New York City, according to some, and most definitely is the hardest to get. But it can't be ordered at a restaurant, or be taken to go — it can't even be purchased with money.

But the cook behind the sublime slices does accept something as payment instead of cash: A taste of what his "customers" can make.

Making pizza was a pandemic survival tool for Gabrielle Lamonica. He was set to open up his own shop, but then COVID hit and put all his plans on hold.

"The only thing I could do was to make pizza at home, which was the only thing that made me happy, and (got me) up and running in the morning" Lamonica said from his Harlem apartment.

He started posting his heavenly homemade creations on Instagram — and that's when things really started to blow up (check out the mouth-watering video, and you'll understand why).

Soon, people started asking to buy his pies. But Lamonica wasn't comfortable with that.

"I was like, you know I really feel bad charging you for this, I'm not going to make any real money out of it. So I still want you to try it, I really want to give you the pizza, it's my pleasure, but give me something else in return — any homemade food, anything you good at making," he said.

And just like that, a system was born. Lamonica makes a handful of Pizza Barters a week now, and as done 60-70 in total, with every piece unique.

But what is always the same is the light and fluffy dough. It gets that way by letting it sit for 96 hours, "in different forms, in different stages."

The barter idea was inspired by his late grandmother in Italy, he said.

"She was actually baking brad every morning and she was exchanging it with the neighbor who had chickens so she would get eggs," Lamonica said.

But not everyone he agrees to barter with is exactly skilled in the kitchen, so he'll take some other things as well.

"Sometimes people don't know how to cook, so they tell me, 'Oh can I give you a bottle of wine?' I'm like yeah, sure," he said with a laugh.

Thursday night's exchange was made in Columbus Circle. Lamonica made an eggplant parmigiana pizza, which he exchanged with David Weissman for a homemade spicy rigatoni with Italian sausage.

"I'm excited. Ninety-six hours is a long time, this looks amazing," Weissman said. "I think it's a great way to try things new and still stay responsible."

Lamonica spends about $20 per pie, and the costs do add up. But sharing his passion for pizza with others is priceless.

"I do this to let more people, as much people as possible, try my pizza," he said.

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