Royal Pizza is such a Harrowing Bummer! It is so picture perfect, with a filthy, old Coca-Cola awning and a interior tile job reminiscent of all your favorite public bathrooms! It is bright and there is music on, and the people inside are so nice! Like, really really sweet. This place was the polar opposite of Libretto's in terms of warmth and not being a bunch of fakers. That place was really the pits!
When Ben and I walked in, we were kindly greeted by the pizzaman, who seemed unperturbed from his great mood by the facts that we were both carrying fountain sodas from somewhere else and we were only ordering one slice between the two of us with the obvious intention of sitting down. Now, I have sung the praises of the surly pizziaolo, time and time again. He is a New York tradition, and I hope the beleaguered guy who don't take no shit serving me a slice of pizza even though he hates my guts continues to spawn and that his children and their children continue to serve up good old fashioned loathing and steaming hot pizza for time immemorial. But there is something transcendent about walking into an establishment and encountering a counter person In A Really Good Mood. Maybe it's because I've worked in food service in varying capacities for the better part of my adult life and so I know how much standing behind a counter giving assholes things they want can totally suck eggs that I don't feel entitled to a good mood on the part of those who are put in the position of serving me. In fact, when I see someone working a menial is in a good mood, I generally feel a little blessed and hope that some of their good luck will rub off on me.
There was a little crappy Coby jambox behind the counter playing the pop station, and while I was waiting for my slice, "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson came on. I must have started singing along aloud, because the Albanian manager of the place came out of some office behind the counter, looked me dead in the face and said, "He will always be remembered, Michael Jackson. Yeah?" It was a perfect moment that I would've liked to last forever, but instead, I was handed my slice of pizza and descended into the unfathomable depths of depression brought on by experiences something so close to perfection and yet so, so flawed.
Not that this slice was close to perfection. Far from it. But my pizzeria experience there was absolutely impeccably perfect until they handed me the slice. For the first few bites, Ben and I tried to find something salvageable to glom onto, but there was just nothing. We were both taking tentative bites and not saying much when Ben finally exhaled deep and said, "This tastes like Campbell's soup with a thin layer of bread around it."
"I know," I replied, relieved that Ben had finally broached the subject. "And the cheese and crust are the same exact texture."
Giving this pizza the bad review it deserves is one of the hardest things I've had to do in the ten months I've been at this project. I am really sad about this.
Royal Pizza - $2.50
592 3rd Ave (38th & 39th)
New York, NY 10016