Sunday, August 30, 2009

That's Amore Pizza: "When your eye's hit the pie / and you just wanna cry..."

Cristy, Matt and I left Rap Pizza and wandered around in a daze, still high off the incensual aroma of Rap's rad slice, until we found That's Amore Pizza a block or two away.


I was pretty pumped at the front of the place.  The filthy awning and Italian Ice Area out front worked in collusion to take me back to childhood.  As soon as we got in, though, I lost any expectations that the rad exterior might have instilled in me.  The slices sitting behind the counter just didn't look very good.  I ordered my slice, paid my $2.00, sprinkled on my usual array of pizzeria spices (if you care to argue about the legitimacy of spicing pizza, we may as well keep it all in the comments section of this entry, just for the sake of containment), and brought the slice to the table, feeling pretty unenthused about how it looked.


The undercooked, thick glob of cheese at the very front of the slice, falling apart, with sauce poking through the holes in it's structural integrity, really turned me off.  While I totally realize that this is someone's ideal slice, I also realized that I am not that someone.

I kept my reservations to myself, so as not to prejudice Matt and Cristy, my pizza partners.  Taking the first bites, I was impressed by how good the sauce tasted, though I did mention, after everyone had tried it, that I was generally unenthusiastic and thought the slice had too much cheese.  Cristy mentioned that there was "something wrong" with the taste of the crust.  The she put her finger on it, "it seems like this crust has been frozen!  It's a good thing, though.  I fucking love Elio's."  Take that however you will.

Generally speaking, I think the slice was totally undercooked overall, and it might've been a little better if it had been a little more cooked through.  However, with that much cheese lumped on the middle, it'll never really be possible to cook it more without the cheese turning into total liquid and dripping off.  Initially I thought the crust was pretty good, but that was just because I had bitten into the reservoir of grease that had collected when I'd folded it in half.  The rest of the crust was the most textureless, flavorless waste I've tasted in a while.  The sauce sure was good, though.

That's Amore Pizza
1405 Saint Nicholas Ave
New York, NY 10033


I got a really nice letter recently from my friend Kate Ferencz, whose new tape my roommate happens to have put on in the living room ten minutes ago and it is BLOWING MY MIND.

did you get the idea for the pizza blog when you were traveling through sad lonely places where there wasn't any good pizza? I'm sitting in my mom's house in westchester reading it and thinking about how it really makes me want to eat pizza and remembering what it was like in new orleans when all we ever ever did was talk about how we wished we had pizza, or sometimes, you'd think it but you wouldn't say it, because you didn't want to remind everyone else around you and make them all upset.  I can't believe I'm about to leave pizza land again.  keep up the good work!

You can listen to Kate's rad music and check out some upcoming tour dates on her myspace page, which you should do.  She is way talented and worth seeing live if you're in the Southeast, where she will apparently be playing some shows next week.  And if you aren't lucky enough to live in Asheville or Murphreesboro (really, Kate, Murphreesboro?), you should still listen to the songs and order a record if you like them.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rap pizza: "You could have my heart or we could share it like the last slice"

Matty B came over yesterday at 12:20 or so.  Meredith was already here for band practice.  So when Matty showed up and was all, "hey, I was in the neighborhood so I figured I'd stop by," I was like, "Wait, but Matt, we talked last night about having band practice today!"  But the man was tired and had forgotten.  Luckily he was biking past my house and was seized by a totally overwhelming desire to stop by and see me, because he loves me so much.

Anyway, band practice was superb.  I've had all the songs stuck in my head since we started showing them to Meredith.  After band practice me and Matty drank coffee till we were crazy and waited for my friend Cristy to show up, so we could all head up to 181st st and eat some pizza.  She arrived promptly, we sat around and talked, then walked to the subway for the trek to Washington Heights.  During the course of our lengthy subway ride we told stories about adolescent awkwardness, discussed Matty's new comic (topics: confrontations with yuppies, craigslist ripoffs, failed experiments in queer sexual practice), shared goofy makeout stories and just basically made too much noise and acted more gregariously than is fitting for public transit.  Here's the thing, though, we couldn't help it.  I seriously felt like I did as a teenager when I just wanted to talk really loud and fast about everything awesome, and so what if that church lady over there is offended when I talk about smooching boys, she'll get over it.  In short, the three of us had an excellent hangout dynamic and that made shit awesome.

We accidentally took the train to 191st, because we were so busy talking we missed our stop, which was great, because we got to see the totally rad murals at the 191st St. I.R.T. station!  When we got out it was lightly raining and pleasantly cool, so we didn't mind the ten block walk down to Rap Pizza:

In the process of getting to this shining oasis on the overcast corner of 181st and St. Nick, I almost walked in front of two cars, and almost dragged Matty and Cristy into traffic.  I couldn't think, my mind was clouded by visions of pizza.  Halfway across the street, not even on the sidewalk directly in front of the place, I was confronted by The Smell.  The smell of pizza so good, no matter what I'm doing, who I'm with, or how full I am, it calls to me like a siren song and I will run across traffic, embarrass myself in front of a crush, push my way through gangs of street toughs, just to get a slice and eat it while I walk.  The smell doesn't always accompany a perfect slice, but it never wafts from a bad slice.

After making sure none of the bunch had died or been wounded due to my irresponsible leadering, I went inside and ordered my slice.  It was $2.50, which was a little bit of a disappointment.  I had hoped Rap's slice would be $2.00 just because the place looked so damn great:

But such is life, right?  While aesthetics are important, we are here for the pizza.  My slice came and looked great:

The sauce on this slice was phenomenal.  On the sweet side, but in a really subtle and excellent way.  And the way the flavor of the sauce combined with the slightly sour taste of the cheese was incredible.  Insert some kind of metaphor about beautiful celebrities having an orgy in my mouth, or something.  The dough, though, was a little bit too floppy, and a little bit too floury tasting for me.  I want to stress the phrase 'a little bit' in both of those criticisms.  Because it really was by a hair.  Basically, this is not a slice that's gonna make you shit your pants, but it is kind of like the prototypical, exceptional but not amazing, way above average street slice.  A-.

This place would be a great element in a good cheap date.  Imagine this: we take the train up to 191, walk through the rad tunnel, admiring the murals.  Next we stroll around drinking surreptitious beers and make out on a bench in that park on 189th and Broadway.  I am so clever and charming and I know so much about the city.  Then we walk down to this adorable little hole in the wall, Rap Pizza, and get a slice, then go walk around on the George Washington Bridge for a while and like, spit in the river or something.  Afterwards we head to this great dive bar I know, where you buy the first round, since I got the pizza.  I'll ask for an expensive whiskey drink and then when it's my turn to buy a round, I'll get you a Coors Light despite the fact that you wanted a Tanqueray Greyhound.  The entire time we're hanging out I'll talk incessantly about my band, and how big my blog is getting.  I'll never ask about you, and whenever you figure out a way to get a couple words in, I'll find some reason to interrupt you and bring the conversation back to me again.  For some reason, against your better judgment, you'll invite me back to your house.  I'll hail us a cab that you'll end up paying for.  When we get to your place, you'll excuse yourself for a minute and I'll start drinking any of your booze I can find.  By the time we make out, I'll be so drunk I basically just slobber all over you and then fall asleep.  In the morning, when I wake up, I'll tell you that I "don't think it's going to work out."  In the future, if I ever see you out in public while I'm with my friends, I'll point at you and tell them we "totally did it."  Sadly for all of you, dear readers, I've got a bit too much on my plate to date anyone right now.  What with the band, this blog, really important political projects, and working two jobs, I've just got no time for romance.  C'est la vie, it's the world's loss, not mine.

Rap Pizza
1422 Saint Nicholas Ave # 2
New York, NY 10033-4051

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fivo Pizza: "Ooooh, that looks gooood"

That's what Kevin said when we got our slice. By the time we got to Fivo Pizza, we had eaten 7 slices already and were NOT in the mood for another, but since we were right there, we decided to just go for it. First things first, this place looked amazing:

No sign anywhere mentioning the name of the place. Just a simple facade and neon letters in the window. This pizzeria does not need to try to impress anyone. Because the slice is so damn good. Check it out:

I was just talking with a buddy the other day about the possible drawbacks of this whole venture. The week prior I went to nine places or something, and none of them had a totally amazing slice. I started thinking that maybe I had developed some notion in my head of what that perfect slice might be, and it was based more on childhood nostalgia than real life. Maybe I was on an impossible mission. The mythic, perfect pizza in my head didn't even exist in the real world, and all I could possibly do by continuing my journey would be to disappoint myself and possibly ruin all the potential Good Pizza in the world by trying to get it to measure up to some unreachable standard. I thought perhaps I was using the same mechanism that our culture uses to try and make women hate themselves as a weapon again one of my only true loves, pizza.

But then I ate this slice. And GODDAMN! Everything was perfect. Salty enough, sweet enough, tangy enough. The textures were unbelievable. Perfect crunch on the bottom, halfway congealed cheese on top, a squirt of sauce in the middle but nothing too drippy. I didn't want to eat any more pizza when I got to Fivo, and by the time I was done I almost ordered a second slice. I will definitely come back to this place.

Fivo Pizza
804 W 187th St
New York, NY 10033-1218

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Washington Heights Mediocre Slice Redux

Grandma's Pizza - $2.50
If my grandma were alive to read what I'm about to say she'd plotz, but I don't think Jews can make good pizza, although, granted, this is the first Kosher slice I've had yet. I read somewhere that Kosher pizza will never be good because the Kosher cheese doesn't have the same fat content and the tomatoes aren't good. At least we invented pizza bagels.

My review of this slice will be one sentence long but will sum up everything: it tastes like burnt Elio's.


Charlie's Pizza
- $2.00
The crust looks amazing and this slice has great ratios. Otherwise, forget it because the sauce is waaay too sweet, the dough is so dry I felt like a guy in a cowboy movie stuck in the desert for a week with a mouth full of sand, and the crust, though excellently textured, was a major Flavor Vacuum. Worse than not tasting like anything, it tasted like less than nothing. Like a black hole. Kevin said this slice tasted like "diet pizza."


Broadway Pizza - $2.00
Undercooked slice with too much cheese. The dough was rubbery and dense. Kevin pointed out that it was the same texture as the cheese. Blegh.


George's Pizza
- $2.00
I almost want to go back here because the guy behind the counter was such a sweetheart. The slice here was the best of this bunch, which isn't saying much. The dough was incredible. Totally perfect. Biting into the crust was like biting into a soft pretzel or a bagel. However, the cheese looked like it had been sitting out all day, which tastes crappy, and tells me they're not really moving slices. To top it off there was like, no sauce on the damn thing. If I lived in this neighborhood I would try this place again a couple more times. It seems like they could've just been having a bad day.


My kid sister just emailed me this excerpt from Fortress of Solitude:
When I was a boy I used to love pizza, and whenever my father took me to the pizzeria I'd order two slices. And I'd sit and he'd watch me wolfing down the first slice with my eyes on the second. I wasn't even tasting that first slice. And one day my father said to me, 'Son, you need to learn that while you're eating the first slice of pizza, eat the first slice of pizza. Because right now you're eating the second slice before you've finished the first.'

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

West 190 Pizza/Arcade Pizzeria: "Check out that cop's eyebrows."

This place looks like a perfect pizzeria. In my ideal New York, which is equal parts Last Poets, Last Exit To Brooklyn and last decade's Ninja Turtles movie, every pizza place would look like some variation of West 190 Pizza:

That Lemonade and Fruit Punch have probably been spinning in those machines since my Grandma Sylvia came through Ellis Island, fleeing the bad pizza and mediocre knishes of Nazi-occupied Poland. Notice the grease stains on that old newspaper-clipping documenting some spurious, pro-pizza, health science of yesteryear. A pizza shop should be a little messy and chaotic, not streamlined and well-groomed like that cop's eyebrows.

Despite the fact that there was nary a seat in the entire establishment, the guy behind the counter asked me if I'd like my pizza to stay or to go. "To stay," of course, and I handed the guy my $2.00. The slice was WAAAAY too hot to eat when I got it, which is a great sign that the slice will be adequately crispy. After a torturous waiting period staring at what looked like an awesome slice, I took a tentative first bite and slapped my forehead, because the slice was still definitely too hot, AND I had forgotten to take a picture of it before biting in. It just looked that good. So here is a picture of my soiled slice:

The thing that I noticed as soon as I picked the slice up was how greasy and soggy it was. The whole slice hung flaccid in my hands, and the cheese sagged loose over the bread like the skin on an old man's legs. But here's the thing: sometimes it's just time for a soggy, greasy slice. If it's done right, it can really hit the spot. But when the pizza is already mediocre and it also suffers from texture deficiencies, that's when things get rough. Despite being a soggy mess, this slice looked and smelled great.

And the first half of the slice was great, albeit a little too sweet. The textures and ratios were perfect. The floppiness I had initially noted when picking the slice up was a result of the soggy foundation being unable to support the firm and crisp apex. Because aside from the slightly overwhelming sweetness, the beginning of the slice was AMAZING. And while the middle was somewhat lackluster, the very end of the slice was this amazing, greasy, gooey mess that I couldn't help but love. It was like how I imagine Pizza In A Cup, which apparently nearly exists as I read recently that someone's selling Pizza In A Cone.

All in all, I wouldn't rush back there, but it was a decent enough slice for $2.oo and the atmosphere and people watching we excellent. I give this place a solid B.

Arcade Pizza
1611 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10040

Heights Pizza: "I am at a loss for words regarding how good this slice is"

After we left The Son of Pizza Delia, we walked a little ways to find the next couple places. I'd never really been to that part of Washington Heights before, so it was a real pleasure to walk around and look at the buildings and shit. There's way more hills, and a lot steeper, than I am accustomed to in other parts of Manhattan or New York City in general. Either way, we shlepped up this huge winding hill. I almost felt like we were in San Francisco, and when we got to the top, and turned onto St. Nick, Heights Pizza was staring us right in the face.

I was immediately dismayed by the awning. It's one of these new vinyl computer printout awnings that have absolutely no character or soul and were probably designed by students in the graphic design program at Apex Technical Institute. (Not to badmouth Apex, I have plenty of buddies who learned trades there, but I can only imagine the kind of rote graphic design churned out in that type of environment, like the art schools they used to advertise in the back of EC Comics.) Really, the place was hideous.

The inside didn't look much better. Bare walls, no music, no real ambience of any kind besides the bad vibes being given off by the two surly pizzamen. The depths of our respective hangovers were starting to settle in and Kevin and I could barely mutter a word to one another. And then we got our slice:

And what a slice it was. $2.00 had just bought me and Kevin a little taste of heaven. I took the first bite and it was as near perfect as it could be short of it's only existing as the waking recollections of a fleeting pizza dream. The dough, made and cooked perfectly, was probably a centimeter thick throughout the slice and maybe 1.5-2 cm at the crust. The very bottom was a layer of perfectly crisp perfection, segueing into a beautifully soft sponge of dough. The sauce was adequately sweet, but still retained a fair amount of the natural tartness and tang of the tomatoes. And the cheese was solid and congealed enough to properly contain the moist interior of the slice, but it was still warm and gooey enough to slide apart in my mouth with every bite. Slices like this make all the mediocre and bad pizza I have and am bound to continue eating worth it. This is an A+ slice.

Heights Pizza
1624 Saint Nicholas Ave
New York, NY 10040

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pizza Delia II: "Freddy's Revenge"

I woke up under a table today, because ADD/C and Future Virgins were in town this weekend, and let's get real, Chattanooga likes to party. I am indebted, in no small part, to my friend Kate, who refused to let me bike home from the show last night and fixed me a bed underneath the table in her room before going to sleep and told me, "Colin, come sleep in here when you are done RAGING." And let me tell you, 3 long hours, 6 big cans, and 300 tall tales, (both recited and heard) later, I managed to stumble up the stairs, find my luxurious digs, and fall asleep like a little, tiny, drunken baby. So you'll understand my alarm when I suddenly woke up under a table at 1 in the afternoon, with initially no idea where I was.

More people should listen to the Future Virgins. They are easily one of the best rock bands playing right now. But I am not here to discuss The Rock, and you are not here to read about it, for that, you go to Jason Duncan's mysterious blog, if you can find it. You are here for the pizza.

Well, after a lovely Porch Sit with the Chattanoogans before they packed into their van and left, I rustled up the energy to walk to the subway and take the train up to Washington Heights to meet my friend Kevin, whose new band, forgetters, had played their first show at last night's lovely soiree. I missed them, of course, because I was at work, but I did get there in time to revel with Kevin, drink heartily, watch the startlingly good other new local band Weird Weather, and ultimately pass out under a table in my friend's room.

But I digress, let's get back, in our rambling way, to the topic at hand. After quite a bit of trouble with our fine city's otherwise flawless and immaculate public transit system (perhaps it's only flaw is it's utter perfection, like The Underground Man's Crystal Palace--think about that, brah), I arrived in Washington Heights only two hours after I'd left, to find Kevin awaiting me on a street corner, looking and feeling only slightly less haggard than myself, and we walked to our first slice, Pizza Delia II:

Longtime readers (ha!) of this blog may recall that my experience with the original Pizza Delia was far from excellent. (What is the diametric opposite of 'rad'?) But I hoped that perhaps the two places were related in name only. Pizza Delia II charged $2 instead of the outrageous $2.25 at OG Pizza Delia, and it looked totally different inside.

Kevin and I were hungry, the place looked fine, and really, how bad could it be, right? And they had a special going where a slice and a soda was only $2.50. That's a deal! So we each ordered our own slice, and our own soda, because I either totally lack foresight or have no short term memory. And then our slices were pulled out of the oven and the reality of the nightmare we were living set in:

I was still futzing with spices when Kevin took his first bite, and I could see a glimmer of despair in his usually serene eyes. After I took my first bite, Kevin looked at me and said very frankly, "I think this is the worst pizza I've ever had in my life," which is saying something because he's from Florida. Here is the rundown:

Firstly, the slice as majorly overcooked. The cheese was burnt to shit and any semblance of moisture that may have been in the dough had long dissipated. Biting into it, I felt like I was biting through a layer of chewy plastic into a piece of cardboard. And there were no flavors at all. It just didn't taste like anything. The crust was a horribly bland, brittle mess, and it dried out my mouth like I was eating sand. One thing I will say that impressed me about my collective Pizza Delia experience is that they managed to cook two slices of pizza that totally sucked in totally different ways.

In short: avoid this place.

Pizza Delia II
4417 Broadway
New York, NY 10040

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pizza Pictures.

I got two comments today asking me to post more frequently. Well, I'm just starting and trying to get a decent flow going, or whatever. I'm not going to be able to get out and eat any more pizza until Sunday, but starting Sunday there'll be a post every day. In the meantime, to tide you over, here are some pizza related pictures I've stumbled across.

First, this is one of my favorite tags that I see around bar bathrooms:

I have a feeling I know who does it, but I don't want to make any assumptions (or blow up any spots on the internet). Either way, it's way good.

Next up is a picture my father emailed me:

"Notice the perfect outline of grease in the shape of a slice in front of the pizza?... Someone dropped the goods." Excellent work, Pops. And if anyone else has any good pizza related reporting to do, feel free to email me:

Now I'm gonna get back to listening to the Best Show.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pizza Palace: "A Spike Lee Joint"

It was getting a little later as we left Nova and headed over to Pizza Palace and like most summer nights in the city, the teenage boys were out in droves puffing out their chests and doing their elaborate homosocial courtship rituals. I looked across the street at our destination and there's a 19 year old Dominican kid with Bone-Thugz pigtails giving dap to a 30-something Italian guy who looks like John Turtorro, looked up and noticed that the awning of the place read "Pizza Heroes." The extraneous E in the word "Heros" didn't escape Sweet Tooth or myself because we turned to each other as we crossed the road and both said, "Those guys are my Pizza Heroes."

We walked into the damn place, and it was so alive compared to all the empty shitholes I had been in all evening (barring Grandpas). It reminded me of when I was a kid. Three generations of Italian dudes, from old-guy, to 30-something, to greasy-teen, standing behind a counter serving at least as many generations of the multi-ethnic clientelle that have been haunting pizza establishments since Bill and Ted brought the first ever pizza to the first ever Time Travel Olympics on Pangea, and ate it with Shaka Zulu, Ghengis Khan and Arnold Schwartzenegger, which technically happens after now, but in a time before now. WRAP YOUR BRAIN AROUND THAT ONE, SMARTASS!

Oh, but anyway, the slice. I ordered a slice. It was a tidy $2.25. The 30-something took my order while the greasy-teen took my money. I handed him a crisp $10 bill and said, "Hold on, I got a quarter," while digging in my pockets for the coin I knew I had. He started to count me out change when John Turturro, overhearing that I had a quarter and then overhearing that the kid's counting coins shouts, "'E SAYS 'E'S GOT A KWATA!" and slaps the kid in the back of the head, real mean-friendly and hands me my slice without even putting it in the oven.

So, they are obviously confident their pizza is good because that thing looks sloppy as fuck, AND they didn't even reheat it. This slice had thicker dough and more cheese than I generally prefer in a slice, but they were perfectly balanced so that every bite was a delight. And the dough, while thicker, was airy and fluffy, not dense and horrid. This really comes through in the crust, which, though it was thick and pale, two signs that it might be undercooked and crappy, it had a nice crispness to it, and the inside was fluffy enough that it never felt overwhelming or heavy.

As I was eating the slice I remarked to Tooth, "I like this place because I'm afraid to criticize the pizza out loud while we're sitting here. Like, I'm actually scared someone that works here will get offended and try to kick my ass. And you know what that tells me, these people take pride their pizza." Sweet Tooth, always astute, simply said, "Sometimes fear is a key ingredient in a perfect slice."

Pizza Palace
121 Dyckman Street
New York, NY 10034

Pizza Nova: "I can't think of anything"

With my whole demeanor revitalized by the presence of one of my favorite dudes, I asked Mr. Tooth if he would be down to help me check out a couple of more places. So we strolled down Dyckman and hit up Pizza Nova.

I was initially turned off by the shape of the crust. It looked like a narrow wall someone had made with their thumb after pushing out the dough purely by hand or with a roller. It looked like the crust on the pizza they have at ice skating rinks, or the kind of pizza they have in crappy places outside New York like Albany. But I am a man on a mission, so I paid my $2.25 and was pleasantly surprised by the size of the slice. At least I was getting my money's worth, right? Keep in mind that the lighting in this place, though it seemed white, coupled with the crappy camera on my iphone, seemed to be in collusion to make every picture I tried to take of this pizza come out in weird, psychedelic colors:

The first thing that Toof and me noticed was how much this pizza looked and smelled like the plain slice at the Turkish pizza places in Berlin. Sweet Tooth talked about stifling a sneeze while reading Maya Deren's diary at a museum in Boston while I thoughfully chewed the tentative first bites of this slice. There were a million things wrong with it, in fact it was so wrong that it was almost good in its own right. But something was fundamentally wrong, in my book, and I couldn't figure out what it was until I took a sip of water and had another bite. It was too sweet. The dough was sweet, the sauce had waaaay too much fennel seed, even the cheese seemed somehow sweet. If that's your thing, I bet you'd love this slice, and it was a lot of food for the $2.25 it cost, but I just wasn't totally into it. Sweet T and Me both agree that the bread was too doughy, too.

Pizza Nova
150 Dyckman St
New York, NY 10040

PJ's Famous Pizzeria / Tony's Pizza and Gyro: "More Like BJ's Famous / Blow-Me's"

Well, after the total debacle that was Pizza Delia, I set my box of misbegotten photocopies I'd be hauling around on the curb, rolled a cigarette and debated real hard whether or not it was worth it to keep it up, or pack it in for the night. Because by now my mood was soured, but time was of the essence, because without Sweet Tooth sharing slices with me, I ran the risk of becoming full if I sat still too long. I checked my list, and there were two more pizzerias in between where I stood and the Dyckman A train stop, meaning that if I could stomach two more slices, next week I could start at Dyckman and not have to backtrack. With my resolve firmly in place, I resaddled my burden (is that even a phrase, to saddle one's burden? Because it was more like I was the pack mule in this case), and trooped down Broadway. In a moment of questionable luck, one of the places on my list seemed to have vanished without a trace. And as I approached the next place, Tony's Pizza and Gyro (be careful about the loud ass music on this ridiculous and amazing website), which beamed like a ray of sunshine look at this place:

That isn't an incorrect picture, we have yet another instance of awning/phonebook discrepancy. I was thrilled at the sight of this shithole. Then I walk in on this:

Except there's some old dude standing by himself behind the counter wearing a greasy Guitar Hero promotional baseball cap. I seriously thought I was in Heaven. They were playing Light FM! Every good pizzeria has the shittiest music. Always. So you can imagine I was pretty thrilled to get my pizza. I even didn't care that my slice was $2.50 because it was kind of on the big side. Here it is:

And boy, what a dispointment it was. Where to begin? This pizza had horrible ratios. Too much cheese, next to no sauce, too much dough. And the dough had fucking CORNMEAL all over the bottom, and because it was so overcooked, the cornmeal had all burned into this horrible textured, horrible tasting teutonic plate at the bottom of my slice. When I folded the crust this fucking thing snapped in half. Have you ever had a slice in the freezer, and you put it in the oven at 350 to defrost all slow-like, so it reheats evenly, and then you forget about it for like, 40 minutes instead of forgetting about it for 20 minutes? That's basically what happened to this pizza. It's inexscusable. The lack of sauce led to the whole slice being really dry, and the copious amounts of grease did not really help that situation, though grease is technically a liquid.

The only good thing about my experience eating this slice of pizza was that while I was doing it Sweet Tooth walked into the place blinking like a moleman, told me he lost his glasses in the ocean so he's been walking around half-blind, and that he just got off a subway train that was stopped in the tunnel filled with smoke so he thought there was a terrorist attack or something, and then he had been wandering around Inwood sticking his head into every pizza shop and giving people a description of me to see if I'd been there. And since that part of the experience was totally incidental and had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the pizza I was eating, I will give this slice 50 thumbs down. BOOOO!

Tony's Pizza & Gyro
4771 Broadway
New York, NY 10034

Pizza Delia: "Fuck This Place."

Leaving Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp. (I can't stop saying that awkward name, I love it), I was excited to stop into Pizza Delia, because it looked somewhat comforting and familiar.

I should have turned right around when I saw that woman's beleaguered expression. I thought perhaps her day had been so bad that even pizza couldn't make it better, but my 20-20 hindsight is telling me that her day totally ruled and was the raddest but then she took one bite of the shit pizza they sling in this craphole and the burdens of the world fell upon her shoulders like a curse.

When I got to the counter, the first thing I noticed was that they kept all the spices in the bottles they use for ketchup or garlic aioli or whatever in restaurant kitchens. This was an unnecessary but small hassle for me when preparing my slice later on. The pepper and garlic powder poured out in torrents, while the red pepper and oregano nearly refused to arrive at all.

During all this thinking, I realized what this place reminded me of--that pizzeria on the corner of Delancy and Essex. The one with the totally shitty pizza. Me and Juan used to go there back when we went to ABC No Rio all the time because it was around the corner and their slices were only $1, whereas our favorite place, St. Marks Pizza (RIP) was like, ten blocks away and cost $1.50. A couple years ago I was in that neighborhood, right after $2 replace $1.50 as the standard price for a slice, and I decided to stop in there and retry the place, figuring they were at least maybe still $1.50. I ordered my slice, it was the same sub-par bullshit, but they had decided, when everyone else in the neighborhood upped the prices to $2 to just shoot straight to $2.25. I feel like a penny pincher kvetching over quarters like this, but it's just a really big deal, and if you love pizza, you understand. But back to Pizza Delia's shitty slice:

Looks good, right? But it's not. It's terrible. Majorly undercooked, this slice hung like a limp dick when I folded it. The dough and the sauce were both WAY too sweet, and the slice itself was really unpleasantly heavy. I could tell with each bite that it was gonna weigh in my gut like a brick. I really started to bemoan the fact that Sweet Tooth wasn't around to help me finish it, because I can't stand to waste food. I begrudgingly got to the crust, which was totally awful-- undercooked, but dense. When I left I actually kicked a telephone pole and muttered "fuck that place" under my breath.

Pizza Delia
582 W 207th St
New York, NY 10034-2603
(212) 544-9453

Telwin Pizzeria And Pastas Corp. / D'Junior's Pizza: "Don't Judge A Slice By Its Toppings"

I left Grandpa's feeling a little bit excited and still very hungry, headed back South on Broadway and took a West on 207th, down to Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp., the very unfortunately awninged establishment on 207th and Post Ave.

The crowd outside here is not, in fact, waiting to sit in an airconditionless, musicless pizza purgatory, they are in line for the Pay-O-Matic check cashing place, whose logo looks like someone frowning and shedding a single tear, a fact that has always bothered me.

I pushed my way through the folks waiting in line to cash their checks and into the pizzeria. The woman behind the counter had been looking forlornly out the window at all the non-customers and really perked up when I came in. "A slice to stay? Anything else?!" When I told her no thanks, she seemed a little disapointed but that's life, huh? I paid my $2.25, spiced up, and headed to a table with a slice I was not looking forward to eating.

This picture doesn't quite do the slice the injustice that the lighting in the pizza place did, but the slice I held in my hands looked washed out and undercooked. However, when I folded it in half, I heard, thanks to the horrible silence permeating the place, that perfect crunch of a perfect slice cracking down the middle. And when I bit down, that first bite was perfect. I pulled the slice away from my mouth in total shock. It didn't look amazing, but this slice was incredible. Upon further bites I decided that the dough could've used a little more salt and the sauce could've been a touch less sweet, but that was really just me being nitpicky.

As I got further towards the crust, where the dough thickens, the slice got less good. I couldn't believe it. I was right initially, the slice was undercooked. But it was undercooked at such a goddamn high temperature that it cooked through perfectly up until the very edges. The crust was a haggard mess that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, but man, three quarters of that slice was heaven.

Oh, and as for the slashes in the name the sign says Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp. and the menus read D'Junior's Pizzeria. What do you make of that?

Telwin Pizzeria and Pastas Corp.
522 W 207th St
New York, NY 10034-2646
(212) 304-0990

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Grandpa's Brick Oven Pizza: "Two Thumbs Halfway Up"

I woke up really startled and sweaty in Union Square Park at 5:36 this afternoon because I had gotten a text message from Good Kid Paulie that succeeded at what the alarm going off for 6 minutes at that point had failed to do, probably much to the chagrin of everyone around me in the park. I was sleeping leaned up against a giant Staples box full of zine copies I had been making in preparation for the Big She-Bang IV coming up this weekend. After three and a half hours in Staples looking over my shoulder every time an employee walked by because I was scared they might notice that the copy count wasn't moving on the display and that my card value had read $0.25 since I'd gotten there, I packed everything up and went out to the park to read a little bit before heading up to Inwood to meet Sweet Tooth and begin the journey. It was definitely a good day for it, I had worked up quite an appetite by the time that I woke up and immediately hustled onto the train.

I got out of the 207th St A train Station onto the corner of 207th and Broadway at exactly 6:31, one minute after I was supposed to meet Sweet T. I sat around and read and smoked a cigarette for a while, because no one actually shows up on time, waiting for him, and eventually I had to piss so bad I was like, 'Fuck This,' and walked over to the pizza place I could see from the corner, Pizza Haven. I had been staring at it's crappy old looking sign and tri-color awning salivating for like, half an hour. That is the awning of a proper pizzeria. A bus had been obscuring the front of the place, and I was really excited to see if it looked equally perfect inside. And I couldn't wait to try the damn slice. So you can imagine my surprise when I the idling bus left and I was confronted by this sad reality:

That's right. The place was closed. At 6:50. Which led me to wonder if it's ever open. I kind of hope not because later on when I finally did meet Tooth, he told me he'd eaten there before with Andy, Chris and DPG and it's really nothing special.

So I picked up my giant box of spuriously obtained copies and shlepped north on Broadway two blocks to 211th street, to go try out Grandpas Pizza, the northern-most pizzeria in Manhattan:

The place was decently crowded and that was good, but then again, it's right outside the 211th St. exit for the 207 stop, so who knows if those people are just spillover from our city's fine and moderately priced public transit system. But there were two stoned construction workers on line in front of me and they seemed excited, so I was excited, too. I paid my $2.50, got my slice, put my usual assortment of spices on it (black pepper, red pepper, oregano, garlic powder, all in moderation, and a touch of parmigiana, if available), and walked it over to a table in the ample seating area.

Good looking slice, huh? Well, it was perfect, taste-wise. The dough and crust were incredible, just salty enough, the cheese was gooey but firm, the sauce was perfect-slightly sweet, slightly tangy. And it had that smell. The smell that used to make me and my dad stop and split a slice of pizza walking down the street, despite the fact that we were full of the giant cheeseburgers we'd just consumed moments before, because we couldn't resist the aroma. The problem with this slice was that it was totally unsubstantial. The ratios of everything were perfect in context, but all told, there just wasn't enough of any of it. The dough was so thin it couldn't hold the weight of all that delicious cheese and grease, so it flopped over flaccidly when I folded the slice in half. I ended up accidentally stuffing almost half the slice in my mouth trying to take my first bite, and my mouth wasn't even terribly full of food. I'd have to eat three of these slices to get anywhere near full, and at $2.50 each, that is not suitable for a broke asshole like me.

Grandpas Pizza
4973 Broadway
New York, NY 10034-1651
(212) 304-1185

Pizza Mission.

Here's the thing about this blog:

I am going to eat a slice of pizza at every pizzeria in New York City. I'm going by neighborhood, starting in Manhattan, getting a plain slice at every place. I am fucking sick of the current trend in Pizza Journalism that's all about fucking artichoke guacamole tahini pizza on rice dough. That shit isn't pizza. Sorry. The only instances where "not pizza" actually is pizza are Zante's in San Francisco on like, 27th and Mission that makes Indian Pizza, and the Turkish Pizza places in Berlin. The rest of it, not pizza. Brie cheese with prosciutto bits and a horseradish mustard, cooked to perfection on flat dough in a hot oven? Sounds delicious, not pizza.

I digress. No one has done a proper survey of every single plain slice in New York City to scientifically determine which is the absolute best one. It's all Grimaldi's this and Difara's that. Those places are good, sure, but some days I think that one place Gino's, right across from the last stop on the 4 train in the Bronx is better than both of those places put together. And speaking of specific pizzerias, I will only be eating at mom and pop joints. No chains. That means the Pizza Hut in Kew Gardens, the Dominoes in Inwood, the Sbarros on W. 8th, the Papa John's in Crown Heights, etc., ad infinitum.

All in all, a slice can be damn near perfect, but if you aren't in the mood to be receptive, it can blow right by you. As such, I'll be doing my best to explain to you the exact, well, head-space, as our poor-lexiconed, West Coast brethren might say, that I was in at the time of each slice's eating.

Finally, you may be asking yourself, who is this guy and what does he know about pizza? Well, truth be told I am just some shmuck from New York with too much time on my hands.