04.27.06

State of the Pizza

Posted in Brooklyn, La Pizza, Manhattan, Williamsburg at 3:44 am by Administrator

I was so glad to find out last night that I am not the only one in New York City who has “WRITE AN ANGRY LETTER TO LOMBARDI’S PIZZA” on my to do list. I picked up a woman in Park Slope who told me she was going to Allen and Stanton. It was midnight, and she had to leave her friends at the bar so she could head home and go back to work. But first she wanted to stop for a slice to sober up. Rosario’s?” I asked, judging from her destination. “Yeah, how’d you know?” she said. “Well I’d hope you aren’t going to Ray’s.”

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(An L.E.S institution)

We comiserated with each other about how bad Ray’s is. She said she had warned a friend of hers last week not to go in, but the guy was desperately drunk so he bought a slice anyway, even though Rosario’s is only a block away. She said he didn’t even eat half of it before he threw it out. Pizza can get really bad. I’ve found that saying, “sex is like pizza: even if it’s not so great it’s still pretty good” to be untrue on both counts.

As we crossed the Manhattan Bridge we reminisced about the old Rosario’s with the great arches of paper cup stacks leaning out across the sidewalk on Houston, and we both mournfully remembered defiantly signing a petition a few years back to keep Ray’s out. But Ray’s did move in, and so Sal, by far the most beloved pizzaiolo of the Lower East Side, had to move his store off the main thoroughfare. He left his old ovens behind, and his pizza, though still great, suffered.

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Joe’s of Carmine Street has not fared as well. It was always one of my favorites, and my fare declared it was her very favorite slice in the entire city. But since Joe’s moved from the corner of Bleeker Street to make room for Abitino’s Pizza (with the truly offensive motto of “The only pizza worth eating” and the even more offensive habit of blasting Fox News loud enough to hear it in Father Demo Square), Joe’s slice has dropped to just about one notch better than mediocre.

BlogShots 106.jpg (The fresh mozz slice at Joe’s these days, still pretty good) But our blood really began boiling when the topic of Lombardi’s Coal Oven Pizza came up. I thought I was the only one who noticed that they no longer have a crust. For exactly a century (1905 to 2005), Lombardi’s, America’s first pizzeria, made their pies with puffy, chewy crust around the edges. Lifelong friends, tight-knit families, mothers and daughters would bicker over who’d get the piece with the big bubble.

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(Me, my friend Nanda, and evidence of a crusty pie just a year ago)

I thought their expansion last year was good news, because I wouldn’t have to wait as long for a table anymore. But last time I went, I noticed there was no beautifully charred crust with which to grip my dream pizza. I asked the waiter, and he told me they now put the dough through a machine to make the pie rather than kneading it by hand. I responded with flabergasted and angry gestures and exclamations until the waiter told me, “hey buddy, all I do is drop the pizza on the table.” It’s an economy of scale I suppose.

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I was infuriated. How dare they? Popular religions have been started in less than a century. I had loved my pepperoni and red onion pizza like a son, and now I’ve been stabbed in the back. My fare an I agreed to write our angry letters, and eat at the newly opened (in comparison with Lombardi’s) Una Pizza Napolitana on 12th Street. I’ve been to Napoli, and I ate more than a dozen pizzas during my three days there (you can order little snack size pies from street vendors between meals at the revered institiutions like Brandy’s). And I can tell you, Una Pizza Napolitana is the real deal, though it is exorbitantly expensive. Had I eaten it in Napoli, I would have thought it was in the top five. My fare made the point that the Lombardi’s crust betrayal might not hurt Lombardi’s this year, or next year, but soon and for the rest of its life. In another century or so, no one will even notice that Una Pizza Napolitana isn’t as old as Lombardi’s.

A couple hours later, I hopped out of the cab on Bedford Street and North 7th in Brooklyn not because I was hungry but because I was whistful. Anna Maria’s hasn’t changed a bit since I first tasted their heaping garlic pesto slice five years ago. The place is always packed with ridiculously drunken hipsters, and the pizza guys have always been fun-loving, hard-working Mexicans.

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(One of the hardest working men in New York) 

They do seem to close earlier than before, but that might be my overdeveloped sense of nostalgia acting up. Anna Maria’s is a unique New York slice. People might call it California style because of all the toppings, but no one in Santa Monica would be caught dead eating a slice that looks like this:

blog1.jpgAnna Maria’s serves up nothing but heafty, tasty pizza. With my massive veggie slice still settling into my belly, I cruised around looking for one more fare to finish off my night. Someone out there must know where to find the perfect slice. Anna Maria’s, North 7th Street and Bedford, Williamsburg Brooklyn

Una Pizza Napolitana, East 12th Street btwn 1st and 2nd Ave, East Village, Manhattan

Lombardi’s Pizza, Spring btwn Mulberry and Mott, Little Italy, Manhattan

Joe’s, Carmine btwn Bleeker and 6th Ave, West Village, Manhattan

Rosario’s, corner of Stanton and Orchard, Lower East Side, Manhattan

Check out http://www.famousfatdave.com for a chuckle or to book an eating tour

4 Comments »

  1. Pandaface said,

    May 5, 2006 at 7:57 am

    I haven’t been to Joe’s Pizza in a long time. I know they moved and I’m sad to hear that it might not be that good anymore
    Thank your good friend at New York Hack, she got me to come to this one and i think it might be a new favorite!

  2. Michael Subrizi said,

    September 28, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    Dude it’s actually in greenpoint, but I think the best traditional New York slice is at Carmine’s Original on Norman Ave and Manhattan by the g train. I’ve tried thousands of fancy so-called fresh pizzas in New York, but they always @#$@-up the consistency and are often drippy or too cheesy. Carmine’s Original(not the Carmine’s that is not the original on graham) is the most consistently delicious well-priced pizza in NYC proving pizza making is an art even beyond ingredients(although they are crucial). My step-brother from Richmond Hilll brought me to another place that competes in Forest Hills I think, but I forgot the name(it’s near an old drag racing strip)

  3. Barbara and Herb Jacobowitz said,

    January 2, 2007 at 5:21 am

    Dave,

    This is phenomenal!! Your website is fabulous, your writing is more fabulous, and we have to book a tour with you the next time we come to NYC. Why hasn’t your mother told us about you and this terrific site? Shame on her!!

    Barbara and Herb

  4. The Hungry Cabbie: The Eating Adventures of a NYC Yellow Cabbie » Spring Training said,

    June 20, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    [...] The rest of the night passed without incident until, at about 3:15 am, I stopped for pizza at Rosario’s on Orchard Street. As I was waiting for my slice, three neighborhood guys started a friendly conversation with me about the Yankees. I was feeling a bit too comfortable. I was in my element, the neighborhood in which I had lived, worked, hung out, and volunteered with youths just like these. At that moment, waiting for Sal to heat me up a slice and talking of life and baseball with the locals, all was right with New York City. As I hopped back in my cab and waved goodbye to my new friends, I thought to myself, “Those neighborhood kids are great; you just gotta give ‘em a chance.” I realized twenty minutes later that the chance I had given them was the chance to rob me. While my three friends distracted me, a fourth had stolen my cigar box of money out of the cab. I was not pleased. How was I to believe in karma? [...]

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