Thursday, May 27, 2010
Siena Pizza: "Finally."
I have always loved the slice here at Siena Pizza. Once upon a time, my favorite thing about returning to the city on a bus was that I could immediately get a slice of pizza at Siena before returning to my mundane life. Once, I was coming home from spending a week in Baltimore hanging out with these totally rugged, White Rasta, gangbangers. I had spent time in Bmore as a young teenager and I had always meant to go back because that town is so grimy and strange. This guy Dave Blaze that I smoked weed with mentioned that he was going home to Baltimore and I don't remember if I invited myself or he invited me, but we went back to see his crew and they were totally wild boys living these crazy lives on the outskirts of Baltimore. This was towards the end of my being a teenage all-day-every-day weed smoker, so I was still puffing hella blunts but it was starting to wear me out and make me miserable. I think the Sunday morning in Baltimore when all these thugs had a bible discussion was the last time I ever felt comfortable being high around strangers. Digressions aside, after that week, I was so glad to have spent time observing someone else's weird life, but I was really glad to get back to NYC. As soon as I got off the bus I practically ran out of Port Authority, shouldering my pack, and beelined to Siena. That slice hit the spot so perfectly. It had been raining before I got on the Peter Pan and I was soaked the whole bus ride, shivering under the air conditioner. When I munched up that incredible slice feeling it's warmth spread throughout my body, I knew things were going to be different from now on, I had changed somehow, but I was safe, and I was home.
The slice I ate at Siena yesterday was no different, if a little less dramatic. I met my friend Jonathan in front of Port Authority and we walked over to Siena. It was 90+ degrees out and we were both sweating it out in our punk rock tanktops. Jonathan is someone who I have known for years in New York, but I feel like our friendship really blossomed when he moved out to SF and I ended up out there for a couple months. You know when you get out of town and you're excited to see anyone from where you came from in a different context? I feel like I have tightened up a lot of potential friendships in that context. Anyway, that's what happened, and I'm glad because Jonathan is really cool. A few years ago he put out this zine about being from Staten Island that was some of the most beautiful prose I had read in ages at that point. It surprised me immensely, not that Jonathan was a good writer, but that he wrote at all. I was caught really off guard and I think that left me open to be super impressed. I'm not sure if he has any new writing--the last time I asked him was at a party and I've forgotten what he said--but I hope so.
As I bit into this slice and handed it to my mans, I let out a low, guttural growl. "mmmmph. This is what every street slice should taste like. I feel like when I was a kid, all pizza was at least this good. Maybe I just had worse standards, but I think pizza has gotten way shittier lately."
"Yeah, I know what you mean, Colin. My favorite place when I was a kid, I thought it was the best slice around. Like, the best slice anywhere in the world. I was just back in Staten Island and it's a Famous Famiglia. Always has been! I don't know if it was different when I was a kid or if I just had horrible taste."
I told Jonathan that, as far as I know, Famous Famiglia was a much smaller chain in our lifetimes and each location made totally different pizza, before it went national and became a total mall store. I'm not sure if that's true and I certainly haven't looked into it, but the amount of anecdotal evidence I have from friends claiming that the Famiglia in their neighborhood growing up was good, and different then the chain, leads me to believe I might be on to something.
But back to this perfect slice: The cheese was relatively viscous, and there was a perfect cheese::sauce ratio that left the slice feeling wet and warm in my mouth without it slipping and sliding sloppily off it's crusty base. The dough was salty and crunchy, a totally perfect flavor. The whole slice was pretty greasy, which left some handprints on the thighs of my jeans, but otherwise is something I'm super fond of. The sauce tasted really acidic, in the way that a sort of watery, light on the spices, tomato sauce should. Not too sweet, with a wild tang. The cheese was delicious and great quality. This is a perfect model for how a slice should be. When I walk up to a window on the sidewalk and order a slice to walk around and eat on the street, this is exactly what I want.
Siena Pizza - $2.50
274 West 40th Street (at 8th)
New York, NY 10018