By Ben Adler
This is the sort of nonesense perpetuated by vulgar mockeries of pizza such as Pizza Hut with its never-ending concoctions of “New York Style,” “Neapolitan,” “Medium Thick Crust,” and so on.
Good pizza has the following qualities: thin crust with at least some crispy parts, high quality cheese, but not too much of it, and neither too much nor too little sauce. If it is real pizza you do not need to specify “cheese,” when ordering it to ensure that it will have the aforementioned ingredients. Of course it will, IT’S PIZZA.
If you need to say anything, you just say “plain.” Likewise, real pizza is ordered by the slice or by the pie, not by the pizza. E.g. “I’d like a plain pie,” not, “I’d like a cheese pizza.”
Ergo, most of the places in the country do not serve real pizza, because they use the latter, idiotic locutions. The only distinction worth making between different types of pizza is between the type you order at a pizzeria, which you usually get by the slice and if you get a pie it’s to go, versus the fancy pizza restaurant type. The best examples of regular pizza by the slice are almost entirely found in New York City (see Roma’s in Brooklyn and Joe’s on Bleeker Street) and maybe some of its suburbs, although some passable ones can be found in a handful of East Coast cities such as Philadelphia. They are meant to be eaten by folding the slice in half and sticking your head out so that the oil drips onto your plate (or the ground) and not your shirt. There should be plenty of oil.
The latter type was originally confined to the same locales (see Lombardi’s in Little Italy, Pepe’s in New Haven, and John’s on Bleecker, which Matt mentions.) There should be real grated fresh parmesan at both types of pizza places and if it’s by the slice I also want some garlic powder.
Anywhere that serves soft, squishy or thick crust or excessive amounts of thick cheese is dishonoring the dish. Toppings should be generally Italian in nature and should not include pineapples. Variations on the thickness of crust are not permitted except for Sicilian, which everyone knows isn’t as good as regular and should only be ordered when you’re sick of the regular because you’ve had it so much.
So the examples Matt uses in D.C. are self-evidently absurd. Pete’s is a joke, a total mediocrity. Its crust has nothing approaching the texture or flavor of Pepe’s. And Pepe’s, I might add, is simply a sub-variety of classic New York thin crust. The notion that “New Haven” pizza is really a different category is a silly notion probably concocted by some sad Connecticut booster who was trying in vain to claim some cultural relevancy for his state — or perhaps a businessman trying to sucker you into buying his mediocre pizza. Pete’s isn’t the best of any type of pizza in D.C. Red Rocks and Two Amy’s are the competitors for best fancy pizza, with Radius coming in third. Radius is a good imitation of New York pizza in terms of taste when you order a pie, but a regular New York pizzeria can serve you a slice in under two minutes, and under three dollars. That’s about ten minutes and two dollars less than you’ll get from Radius. For pizza by the slice D.C. has literally nothing. The jumbo slices aren’t real pizza and the few good pizzerias don’t serve slices, at least not with the immediacy and affordability that makes it a true pizzeria experience.
Now I will admit that there is one other “type” of pizza out there. It’s called deep dish and it’s from Chicago. I recognize it as fine tasting dish, although one I cannot have because of the corn meal they put on the crust. I do not, however, recognize it as pizza in the “who makes the best pizza” sense. Whereas New York-style pizza has spawned a thousand imitations the world over and requires no prefix, deep dish is always deep dish and is not found much outside Chicago. So, when a blogger asks “Who makes the best pizza in the world?” there is an answer and deep dish has nothing to do with it unless he asks “who makes the best deep dish.”
Ironically, while Matt claims that there is no answer to the question of who makes the best pizza, the blogger who posed it, Stan Collender, got the correct answer in his very first reader comment: Patsy Grimaldi’s on Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn.
*Upon a minute’s reflection Matt’s argument is hardly ludicrous, so I take it back.