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


  1. Dude, what ARE you putting on your slices? Looks like a combination of hot pepper flakes, black pepper, garlic salt, MSG, crack cocaine, and macerated parsley.

    That's NOT pizza, pal! That's an affront to pizza and pizza-eating. A NY slice is just that - a NY slice, buck fucking naked, without all those taste-bud steroids heaped on top of it.

    You're not even ten joints in and you're already blowing your street cred with these spice rainbows you're slathering on. Good pizza doesn't need that shit.

    Get naked, dude, and fast!


  2. you are crazy, person above. Those spices wouldn't be there, sitting in a pizza joint for your use if they weren't meant to be put on the pizza.
    I good slice is only made better by the addition of spices "to taste" and a mediocre, even bad slice of pizza is made all the more bearable.
    I can almost guarantee that you pepper and/or salt your food, sometimes even before the first bite. Certain spices are more delicate on the palate to some than to others and need to be addressed properly by a discerning hand. A respectful pizza maker knows this, and so leaves it up to YOU. What a concept!

    My point is, you don't like spices on your pizza...he does. A blog, especially of this sort, is obviously about taste preference so why get all up in arms?

    Let's all at least be realistic about what's going on here, take a deep breath, follow this man on his epic quest and enjoy some good pizza journalism.

  3. that slice looks like you sat on it!

  4. Anonymous number one: Whadda you know? Gimme your credentials. Here's my credentials: Fuck you.

    Anonymous number two and Andrew: It's refreshing to know that the world isn't entirely full of assholes.

    Eleanor: friend Eleanor? What's up, girl! One time I was going for a long drive that I had to leave for immediately but I really wanted to eat this slice of pizza in my freezer, so I defrosted it by sitting on it for the first hour of the drive.

  5. You are all tools. The point of this is to taste pizza. When it's filled with red pepper flakes and garlic powder, how do you know what the cheese or the sauce or the crust tastes like.

    This is supposed to be about the quality of a slice, not how good it tastes after all those stupid toppings are put on it.

  6. i have a theory that those who are anti-pizza spices are also not from new york and thereby don't know from pizza.

    just a theory. whaddya think?

  7. Hey, last anonymous, you've got your head so far up your butt on that one that you can eat a slice and excrete it at the same time. I lived my whole life in and around New York City.

    Those jars of garlic powder, pepper flakes, dessicated parmesan cheese and whatnot are put there for poseurs, amateurs, people with dead taste buds, tourists, and dilettantes by mediocre pizzamakers so you can drown out the mediocre taste of their mediocre slices. No self-respecting pizza fan uses them.

    Eleanor's right, the damn slice looks like you sat on it -- and farted out all the spices you put on yesterday's slice. You can't even see what the slice looks like! You're just staring at a mound of spices in every shot! Why don't you just take a pic of the damn condiment jars in each place, and slather some tomato sauce and cheese on 'em while you're at it.

    Colin, so far there's no evidence you would know a decent slice if you fell over it -- which is what most of your photos actually look like.


  8. haahahah, this is all killing me!!!

  9. You don't go sample a good steak by drowning it in sauce, much like you don't go sample pizza by overloading it with herbs and garlic powder.

  10. life must be dull when you subject even joyful experiences like pizza eating to rigid hard and fast RULES. it's absurd. colin's ability to judge slices is clearly not going to be hampered by the addition of his favorite spices, as he is adding the same spices to each slice, thereby giving him a base line slice standard against which to judge each subsequent slice experience. i bet you complainy anonymouseses also have rules about how many days to wait to call someone after a date and the proper procedure for eating a bowl of cereal.

  11. Not sure if you've gone into this already, but there seems to be huge difference between pizza served fresh hot out of the oven, and pizza that has cooled completely and then heated again (my favorite) I think the same slice could act completely different in each circumstance.