Dubious legends have lured outsiders to New Mexico since the first conquistador was sent farther down the road with stories of a city of gold just over the next hill. Our third-largest city, Rio Rancho, was built on a myth that an aquifer roughly the size of Lake Superior lay beneath its surface and would provide ample water for the City of Vision for generations. Buoyed by this myth were New Yorkers, bringing with them a desire for tract houses, a newfound need for sunglasses and, of course, pizza. 

But these new immigrants inspired their own myths as well. Were former mobsters in the Witness Relocation Program living in Rio Rancho? Who really profited from all the shenanigans with the plumbing infrastructure throughout the city? Is it impossible to make a good pizza here considering the water and the altitude? While we may never have answers to the first two questions, it turns out the pizza myth is just not true.

Exhibit A can be found just across the street from the Intel campus, where Aldo’s New York Style Pizzeria sits in an unassuming strip mall. Aldo’s has been a Rio Rancho mainstay for decades, with a history that stretches back to the pizzeria’s original incarnation as Venezia’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, first opened by owner Aldo Venturino’s uncle in 1977. The shop itself is small, with a few booths and a Statue of Liberty replica crammed in the corner for kitsch value. 

Aldo’s lives up to its name as a New York–style pizzeria. For starters, you can walk in and buy a fresh slice, a rarity almost anywhere in New Mexico due primarily to the lack of walk-up traffic, and especially in Rio Rancho, where little is done without a car. New York–style pizza is meant to be served by the slice and eaten on the sidewalk or standing on a subway platform. While those more urban aspects may be harder to pair with your slice in Rio Rancho, Aldo’s is absolutely holding up their part of the deal.

Big pies are also fundamental to New York–style pizza. At Aldo’s, twenty-four-inch pies are cut with speed and precision to deliver hot slices that exceed the capacity of a standard-issue flimsy white paper plate. Once received, grasp the plate and slice firmly and in unison. New York–style pizza is meant to be held in your hand, folded and eaten from the narrow end. Don’t let anyone, including the former president from New York City, tell you otherwise. Eating New York–style pizza with a knife and fork is as grating to real New Yorkers as someone asking for “chili” is to New Mexicans. That said, if you are a New Mexican, feel free to eat it as you please. It is a very big slice after all.

The classic I went for was plain cheese. Dough requires a certain elasticity to allow the archetypal fold, and Aldo’s accomplishes this flawlessly. The sauce on a New York–style pizza is normally a bit sweeter than you will find with other types of pizza—another win for Aldo’s. Objectively, New York pizza is never much to look at, but the style is distinct and Aldo’s has got it nailed. I’m not sure how much more “New York” you want your pizza to be.

What Davido’s Pizza & More lacks in ambience (think foyer with nothing but stacked pizza boxes and a counter), it makes up for in pies of a style common in the outer boroughs and upstate regions of New York. Davido’s is a take-out place with no in-house delivery, no working website, and no incentive to hang around the waiting area, and they make great pizza without any frills, gimmicks, or complications. 

With no slices available, I ordered a whole pizza to go and headed home to eat. My pick at Davido’s was an eighteen-inch cheese and pepperoni pie. The crust was a bit crustier and less elastic than a true New York–style slice but could still be folded a bit without breaking. The more acidic sauce paired well with pepperoni and the oils that float on the cheese. This type of pie is arguably better cold the next day after the oils from the pepperoni and cheese have congealed and soaked into the dough. This is the kind of pie that also holds up to excessive toppings, so feel free to pile them on.

Love at First Slice is a trailer with a wood oven parked in front of the store Furniture 42, where you can find, as promised by the sign on the side of the building, Furniture-Appliances-Mattresses-Rugs. Love is situated deep in the “Vision” part of Rio Rancho, where many tract-home developments have names and sales trailers but appear to be little more than dirt outlines on undeveloped patches of desert. Seating extends no further than a picnic table in the parking lot. Also, if you go, bring cash or maybe a Visa card because this out-of-the-way gem may crank out a beautiful pie, but they don’t take American Express.

Somewhat ironically, Love at First Slice does not serve slices, but rather whole ten- and fourteen-inch pies. Opting for a ten-inch margherita, I found a Neapolitan-style pizza, distinguished from New York–style by its breadier crust and a less complicated sauce that gets its flavor from the tomatoes rather than sugar and herbs. This pie was by far the prettiest of the three I sampled, with big slices of tomato and a dusting of parmesan. The sauce was well balanced atop the crisp crust that wood-fired pizzas are known for. Here the complexity comes from the texture and the salt. It is a sophisticated pie found in a remote outpost and ready to roll in about ten minutes. For those living on this frontier, that has got to be hard to beat. 

While we may never know if aliens crashed in Roswell or who cut the foot off the statue of Oñate, some questions can be answered through diligent research. Is there good pizza in Rio Rancho? Rest assured, the truth is out there. 

Clarke Condé

Clarke Condé is a veteran food photographer and writer based in Roswell with a strong preference for red chile, keto-friendly beverages, and natural lighting. Find him on Instagram @clarkehere.