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."
121 Dyckman Street
New York, NY 10034