Top Chefs Dish on New York's Signature Foods

From pizza and pretzels to bagels and hot dogs, what makes a food "New York?"

Oct. 29, 2010 — -- The crunch of a just-out-of-the-oven slice of Ray's, the pop of a Nathan's dog. The chewy warmth of a Park pretzel, the creamy goodness of a Junior's cheesecake. New York doesn't have just one signature food -- it's got a cornucopia of city-certified eats.

In anticipation of New York Magazine's annual New York Taste event, which will host a herd of culinary stars and their signature creations in Manhattan on Nov. 1, asked seven of New York City's well-known chefs to share their quintessential New York foods. See what they said below:

Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef, Le Bernardin: "The quintessential New York City bite has got to be the 'slice'. At heart, it's an import, but like so many of the residents that come from afar to call this city home, it takes on a singular local identity. You can go for a plain cheese, or you can dress it up, throwing almost anything on it, highbrow or lowbrow, but it's still all about the foundation, the crust. Sure, you'll find a slice of pizza in the heartland, or on the opposite coast, but it's a pale imitation. To truly experience the slice, the city, you've got to do it here. And like home, it can be messy sometimes, and other times you've got to fold it up to take it all in. But even at its worst, it's still pretty great."

Michael Lomonaco, executive chef, Porter House: "Anything from Katz's Deli -- but especially a fatty pastrami on rye with sour pickles and extra mustard, washed down with Cel-Ray tonic."

Andrew Carmellini, executive chef, Locanda Verde: "A toasted Ess-a-Bagel with caviar cream cheese and smoked sable from Russ and Daughters, every Sunday at my house, no where in the world does it taste better."

Anita Lo, executive chef, Annisa: "There isn't really a singular quintessential New York meal for me -- this city is so multicultural that to name one would be pigeonholing it. But when I first came to New York, I ate a lot of rice and beans at La Rosita on the Upper West Side by Columbia University. We didn't have Cuban food in either of the two places I grew up so that dish came to mean New York to me ... but then again, so did my favorite Ethiopian dish, Doro Wat."

Ty Bellingham, executive chef, Kittichai: "Definitely a gyro. As a chef you finish work late at night and when you emerge from any subway you can get one at any time. As a new immigrant to this country [from Australia] I gravitate towards ethnic dishes. A gyro seems to span nationality, religious beliefs and cuisines in its simplicity and tastiness -- the combination of flat bread, lettuce, tomato, chicken, hot sauce and white sauce sums up New York in 2010."

Josh deChellis, executive chef, La Fonda del Sol: "This dish is quintessential New York in that it is creative, not traditional: maple-cured egg yolk, Jamon serrano [dry-cured Spanish ham] and pimenton picante [paprika]."

Jesus Nunez, executive chef, Graffit: "I love New York style cheesecake. In Spain, it's hard to find good cheesecake."