Monday, June 28, 2010

Previti Pizza: "There is something awry here."

Walking into Previti Pizza feels like walking into a Starbucks coffee. A crappy place with aspirations towards some kind of sterile, yuppie fanciness. You know how in the struggling downtown areas of certain small cities they put in those weird malls that have like, a fake city street with a fake manhole cover with fake steam coming out of it, and old time looking wrought iron streetlamps. And then in them there is a movie theater and a Target and some kind of blacklight bowling with trance music and like a pretend soda fountain? I am not 100% positive this is a phenomenon, but I certainly have seen these sorts of prefab fake urban environments in any number of blight stricken downtown areas across America. Previti Pizza would fit in perfectly in one of these places.

Much like these fake downtowns, where people's desire for nostalgia about "the city" is superficially sated by strolling down a fake avenue, where one side of the street's buildings are just a facade and behind it is a 500 spot parking structure, Previti Pizza exists in a state of constant reference and denial. Throughout the establishment, which feels sterile to a degree that made me uncomfortable, are scattered laminated printouts of good reviews Previti has received from various websites on the internet. This is a case of pure hype and they read like the text of a science fiction novel.
When @MidlingSecretary tworted me "WHERE CAN I EAT A DELICIOUS LOW CAL LUNCH?!" I didn't know what to do but luckily @MidtownStud420 twirtled back "Go to Previti u will not b disappointed!!" Sweet! Then I tried it and it was awesome @HungStud69 is the coolest.
Or whatever. It is a bummer to me that people spend so much of their time culling and crafting their facebook/twitter "personas" at the expense of making genuine connections with real humans. I was actually flipping through an issue of Slice Harvester Quarterly #1 on the magazine rack at Academy Annex and found a piece of paper with some notes I was taking about a conversation with Caroline accidentally stuffed within the folds of the magazine. On it was a quote attributed to her that said "I don't trust facebook because it fosters this environment of constant reunion." And it's true. Just today I was "befriended" by someone I haven't seen in probably 10 or 12 years. I'd put money on it that neither of us writes the other a note to see how we're actually doing because simply reading each other's status updates is enough and that bums me out! I think I'd rather just not know. I guess I'm having a hard time accepting the fact that in the future we are heading towards, social interactions and people's personalities are going to be distilled into 140 character outbursts and lists of their favorite bands. I was at the beach the other day and found myself briefly wishing someone had taken a camera so that I could post a picture of me being at the beach, because otherwise, like, WAS I EVEN AT THE BEACH? If a tree falls in the forest and doesn't update it's profile picture to a picture of it's fallen self, did it even fall at all? What if it doesn't have a personality profile, does it even exist?

Sorry to get so heavy, but Previti Pizza just drudges up a lot of bummer thoughts for me. I don't blame them for catering to the marketplace around them. Starbucks People wants Starbucks Things. They work in Starbucks Offices and wear Starbucks Suits and ride Starbucks Trains to their Starbucks Towns where their Starbucks Kids play Starbucks Sports and dream Starbucks Dreams in their Starbucks Beds. I guess I am just bummed that anyone is actually perpetuating the Capitalist Death Cycle. We can't all be Fred Hampton or Annemarie Schwarzenbach, but at least we don't need to all be Bartelby the Scrivener.

And the real shit is that their pizza isn't even any good, so regardless of all these great reviews, there is no product to back it up. Their plain slice, at least. I will say that some of their specialty pies looked fantastic, and the ingredients seemed fresh and delicious, so maybe if you are into putting a ton of shit on your pizza, go for it. To start, this slice is pretty small for $2.70. We got two plain slices between the group of us and one was drastically worse than the other, but neither was good. The sauce tasted like very high quality organic whole pealed tomatoes, and nothing else. It was sweet and had something of an aluminum tang. The cheese, too, tasted high quality, but since there was really nothing in the sauce for it's flavors to work with, it was a moot point. The texture of the slice was horrible. It was floppy and underdone, there was a layer of uncooked dough beneath the cheese and the whole thing turned into this paste in my mouth. And one of the two slices tasted like oven cleaner. Great. The whole thing just reeked of money being spent on quality ingredients but no care being shown on actually making the slice. I'm sure some of the slices I've loved had a way lower bottom line and couldn't brag about using the fancy flour and distilled water for their dough or whatever bullshit, but they were made by skilled hands, with love and care for the art. There was no love in this slice and no love in this pizzeria. This place is the pits.

I forgot to photograph either of the slices for some reason but I am not going back there and getting another one after that experience, so you'll just have to live with that.


Previti Pizza - $2.70
123 E 41st St (at Lexington)
New York, NY 10168

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Giuseppe's Pizza: "Every day a small death."

Well, Giuseppe's. After Johnny (is that that guy's name?) got done taking a dump in the planter outside, we went in and ordered some pizza. Kever was really excited about holding out on Mercato because Giuseppe's seemed promising. Italian guy's name, looked pretty legit on the inside, pizza smelled pretty appealing. He got his own slice just to eat by himself and not share with anyone! Sadly, he was in for a sore disappointment.

This slice was definitely real pizza, I can say that much. And there was fresh basil in the sauce. I could tell because there were occasional huge chunks of it just hanging around overpowering individual bites while not really instilling much flavor on the rest of it. And there really wasn't very much sauce on this slice. At one point, while everyone was dutifully trying to stuff down the two slices we were sharing between the 8 of us, Kever looked at his half slice and around at our 8 hungry faces and said, "anyone wanna fuck with this thing?"
We all just looked down at our laps, like when you ask a room full of people who wants to volunteer for cleanup at the hardcore matinee.
"See! No one! No one wants to fuck with this!" Kever exclaimed, and threw the slice down on the table before picking it back up and getting back to work finishing it.

I picked up my slice and took a couple bites. "You know," I began, "I don't love it, but I wouldn't be mad if I got this slice."
Kever didn't even take his eyes off his plate and muttered, "Yeah, well I got this slice and I'm mad."

The crust on this slice was really good, and even Kever admitted that the bottom of the slice was cooked perfect and tasted great. And the sauce would've been better if there was more of it. The cheese didn't really speak to me one way or another, which is fine. Totally inoffensive. Whatever. This slice wasn't very good, but nor was it awful to anyone but Kever. The place also had this great food mural.


Giuseppe's Pizza - $2.25
341 Lexington Ave (39th & 40th)
New York, NY 10016

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pizza Mercato: "What is going on here?"

After the bizarre experience we had at Squisito, Ella decided she had enough. She called friend Kever, who you may remember from some months back, and literally hi-five tagged him in, saying to me, "from here on out, Kever will be taking my place as the surly native amongst all these Georgians." Kever is a bike courier and happened to be in the neighborhood on a slow day, so it all worked out rather perfectly when we walked over to Mercato.

Pictured above: Hot New Mexicans + their entourage + my sister. Kever is missing but you should look at a picture of him because he's beautiful.

None of that stuff is quite true, but I liked the sound of it. Truth is, Ella had to split because she wanted to see her mom while she was back in town and Kev had called to see if I was in Manhattan because he calls me every day that he's slow to see if I'm in Manhattan eating pizza. We were discussing slice organization (who's buying?! who's eating?!) when Kever confessed to me that he had only called because he "was hungry and it was lunch time and [he] didn't care about the pizza project at all and if [he] had known [I] was coming to some shit place like Mercato [he] would've just gotten a hotdog or something and wouldn't have hauled ass twenty blocks downtown basically for nothing." Either way, we ended up getting one slice between the nine of us and standing around in a circle right out front passing it around like teenagers smoking a dutch outside their high school.

I just took down notes of what everyone's complaints were, and I will relay them to you before I tell you what I think, as I have a very conflicted relationship with this particular slice of pizza.
Jeff: Spaghetti sauce/tomato paste taste.
Emma: This tastes like literally nothing. I really don't taste anything.
Joe: Rubber. Sauce from a can. Dry. Totally forgettable.
Max: Pedestrian.
Patrick: Bad cheese.
And Kever refused to even take a bite on principle.

The thing is, anyone who spent any time below 14th St or in and around St Marks Place back when those locales were teeming with all the punk rockers AND the moon-stompers, chanting songs about unity and never giving up and always struggling to keep this scene we hold so dear together (until we move away or get locked up or join the army or go to college), will remember the Pizza Mercato on Waverly and Mercer, I wanna say, that used to have a deal where you could get two slices and a soda for $3.00 and it wasn't good pizza but it was a whole meal that wasn't McDonalds for $3. Sometimes you have to eat something besides Punjabi or Food Not Bombs gruel!

Anyway, one thing that is so amazing about Awful Goddamn Yumans is our ability, as a species, to acclimate to even the most harrowing conditions. People have flourished in barren wastelands and snowy tundras, and I once became accustomed to eating shitty pizza so regularly that the taste didn't even bother me anymore. That's right, I said it. And the thing is, I have a certain fondness for Mercato's pizza. And although I know it is Objectively Nasty that I'm into it, I can't help but get wistfully sentimental when I encounter it, like smelling your high school girlfriend's perfume. And much like smelling a former sweetheart's scent, the tender moment is quickly followed by a hyper awareness of truly gross it is that you ever found anything attractive in ANY OF IT and total disgust with oneself for feeling sentimental for something so stupid. And this pizza review is that phase of the phenomenon.


Pizza Mercato - $2.25
120 E 34th St (Lexington & Park)
New York, NY 10016

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Squisito NYC: "Double review! This heatwave is baking my brains!"

Squisito was the last slice I ate last week with Jacob the Terrible, but for somehow, I forgot to take a picture of the slice that day. It was a totally weird slice in that it was soggy and too thin and pretty bad texture-wise, but tasted totally great. To add an extra dimension to the review, here are my notes from that slice:
  • extremely white
  • in motion
  • soggy, floppy
  • fresh tomatoes taste DELISH
  • i wish it was crunchier
  • too thin for its cheese (a lot of cheese)
  • tried to murder me
  • where's the unity?!
That slice was totally crazy. It was like, the color of uncooked cheese and had some super strange textural shit going on, but the ingredients all seemed totally delicious. This week, however, the slices we got were WAY different than that. Luckily, the page of my pizza journal with these notes on it had fallen out, so I had no way to refer to it when I came back and thus wasn't prejudiced or swayed beyond recalling that the slice had been somewhat strange.

This slice was also really white, but there was a peculiar, orange, grease puddle in the middle of it. This slice had horrible sauce and major problems with it's structural integrity. Observe:

As you can see, there is a major canyon of uncooked dough surrounding an inadvertent fold in the pizza foundation which began to tear asunder at the third bite. My sister said, "it's like there is a perogie trapped inside the slice!" And it certainly tasted and felt like the dough had been boiled. And the crust! The crust was too dense but tasted like sourdough. The cheese was cheap as hell, although sort of delicious in a knowingly unhealthy way.

Ella said, "I kind of like the greasy, yellow, really processed flavor of this slice," and I think I agree. Like there's nothing on paper that makes this slice any good, but I remember it somewhat fondly.


Squisito - $2.25
64 East 34th Street (Park & Madison)
New York, NY 10016

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cafe Rustico II: "What a shitstorm."

I'm not sure where to begin this entry, but I'll start on Saturday morning. I woke up and my computer still wouldn't turn on. I was hell of stressed because I was counting on it deciding to work again so I could update the website during my unbelievably slow early morning bar shift. I brought it to the bar anyway, in hopes that it would work eventually, but it just served as a constant physical reminder that I am an irresponsible scumbag and I made my bed in shit so I better get comfortable. As the morning progressed, a few customers trickled in to watch whatever football game was on, but mostly I just had free time to stress myself out. This stress was compounded by the fact that my prospective pizza partner for that afternoon asked for a rain check so that he could attend the Mermaid Parade. I don't blame him and I'm not mad at all! It's a hell of a spectacle and he just moved to New York and if you're not a bitter, cynical fuckface like me it's a perfectly good thing to do with your time. I was scrambling to find someone to come along with me when I texted Chuck, who replied, "I'd love to, but all I can think about is the beach."

And that's when it hit me: Fuck stressing out over bullshit. I am going to go in the ocean. So I got out of work and went to Rockaway. Fucking, let me tell you, it was great! Afterwards, there was a barbecue on Chuck's roof and then a show downstairs. At the barbecue I ate two hotdogs, two burgers, two bratwurst, and two chicken legs. Plus I drank two liters of seltzer, the greatest beverage ever. It was pretty awesome. Also, there was some peroxide blonde in a neon orange bikini on the adjacent roof doing some kind of fashion shoot with the Marcy Projects as a backdrop which is totally the most tacky thing ever and made me so mad. I was thinking about mooning the photographer, but instead I just talked about mooning the photographer. What I did do was take off all my clothes and pretend that I was having a fashion shoot too, and all my friends pretended to be fawning groupies, which wasn't hard because that's basically what they actually are!!

The show was great. Big Soda played, Bender's new band whose name I forgot again played (someone remind me so I can replace this with a link!), and Shitty Darkness and Hot New Mexicans, both bands from Athens, both bands full of friends, closed out the night. Everyone had a blast and the show ended early so folks could go see The Reigning Sound, but some folks stuck around and I spent a chunk of time talking with Ivy and my old friend Ella until I realized how late it was getting and decided to go find Patrick and Joe to say goodbye. They were in Chuck's room, where a half a dozen kids were passing around a bottle of poppers! Wow!

I had a stroke of genius which may or may not have been related to the "liquid incense" fumes and told them that if I got off work on Monday, and they were still in New York we should eat pizza together. Palms were spat, hands were shook, and thus a deal was made. On the way out I mentioned it to Ella and she was totally in!

So fast-forward through Sunday (happybirthdaybeckywisehappyfather'sdaydadiloveyou), I got that shift covered and Monday rolled around and I was waiting to meet up with Patrick and Joe. We were also planning on meeting Ella and my sister in the city for pizza eating. Kind of a bigger group than I prefer, but such is life, right? Before I invited my sister along, I had already written the intro for Ella, Joe and Patrick. It was going to go something like,
"Ella is an old friend of mine and super tough New Yorker, Joe loves talking about Murphy's Law and being on tour, and Patrick is a little man with a big, big heart...."
It kind of threw a wrench in the works that my sister was coming, because I was expecting her to come along in a week or two and get her own dedicated Slice Harvesting sojourn, but things don't always work out as we plan and everything ultimately works out alright. (To help myself accept this precept, I've decided to become a Hare Krishna!)

Well, when Joe and Patrick finally showed up to meet me, they were with an entourage of like, 4o dudes. Okay, it was only 4 other people, but plus me made 7, plus Ella and Emma made 9. And I had thought 5 total would be an unwieldy group. I began to wonder what I was getting myself into.

I learned the answer to that question pretty quickly when Max, one of the Athenians, got lost in the subway. We got out at 34th street and I told the others, "Welcome to the big city, you inbreds. You're lucky I even let you hang out with me. Now if you want to come get famous, walk with me, if you want to find your little friend stuck in the big scary subway, you can go ahead and do that. But I don't have all day to wait around. I'm having dinner with Shaq and Bill Clinton at Kim Kardashian's penthouse tonight."

I didn't really say that, but we did leave to eat pizza and just figure that Max would eventually call one of us. Which he did, which facilitated one of my favorite types of social interaction, The Triumphant Reunion. But that is a story for another day. Today, I am here to talk about Cafe Rustico II.

I'm gonna say this for every entry from this expedition, but I am not faulting the pizzamans in this place for being rude. If 9 idiots walked into my pizzeria (if I had a pizzeria) and ordered 3 slices between them, I'd probably be a little curt too. However, my sister, who goes here somewhat frequently because she often finds herself in the neighborhood, informs me that the dudes in this place actually acted totally normal. In fact, she told me, "I see the same two guys working behind the counter there every time I go and I have never heard them say a word to each other and they are always totally weird to me." Interesting.

The slice wasn't great, but it was good. I hadn't learned everyone's names yet when we were discussing it, and I was sitting too far from Patrick and Joe in the throngs of folks to hear what either of them had to say, so this review is just according to me, Ella and my sister.

The slice smelled great. Appreciating pizza smells is a quality shared by most of my family, so when my kid sis told me this slice smelled great, I knew it would. And it did. Totally tantalizing odor. The dough was really good. It was thicker than I generally prefer, but it was fluffy and airy. It was cooked through everywhere and the bottom had a perfect crunch. The cheese was top quality, it tasted like milkfat and cheese instead of chemicals and processed crap. The sauce was the only problem. It tasted a little bit sweeter than I like in this totally crappy way. Total HFCS scene up in Cafe Rustico II. But otherwise it's pretty stellar, I guess. In fact, if the sauce improved this slice would be totally awesome!


Cafe Rustico II - $2.75
25 West 35th Street (5th & 6th)
New York, NY 10001