The recent mention of Slice on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire prompted this email from a former New Yorker who did some time in my hometown of Olathe, Kansas, before moving to Minneapolis. This "rant" made my day after I opened it Saturday afternoon. Enjoy! --Adam
I just discovered your website courtesy of the fact that it was a question on Millionaire. My first search on your site was for Lento's because I went to elementary school one block away. (I am over 50 now.) Last year I was in New York for a reunion and saw that Lento's was gone and was saddened indeed.
I have not yet had time to explore your site but was interested to note that your father had tried opening a pizza place in Olathe, Kansas. We resided in Olathe from 1981 to 1988, and I can remember hunting for a place that had a brick oven. People who had grown up there didn't even like pizza from a brick oven because they had grown up on the chain stuff and that was their definition of what a pie should be. As I recall, there was a brick-oven pizza place at Oak Park Mall, one near Johnson County Community College, and one in a mall near Kansas City, Kansas. That one was run by a guy who had come from Brooklyn and was really good but a lengthy drive up from Olathe if you had a quick hankering for a slice. So my question to you is: When and where in Olathe did your father try this pizzeria? I certainly would have been one of his customers if I knew about it. We lived up the hill from the Nazarene college.
Now, I did notice you lamenting the quality of pizza in Manhattan. That is because, with the exception of Little Italy, pizza is not from Manhattan. New York-style pizza is a misnomer. Pizza came from Brooklyn (and branched into Queens). Pizza was on every corner in the Italian and Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn. At that time, Catholics abided by the dietary restrictions, so pizza, calzones, and strombolis were standard Friday night fare. Some places in Manhattan that are now residential were not back then, so pizza places for carry-out were not needed. What has developed in Manhattan is the quick and dirty--customers may or may not come back but there will always be another--rather than the family-owned-and-operated places that counted on developing repeat business in the neighborhoods.
In fact, even as late as the early '80's I took my husband to New York with our kids. I parked him in Nathan's while I went to get tickets at TKTS. The man bought slices of pizza there, and when I got back he said he didn't understand why New York pizza was so special! Fool. You don't go to Nathan's to buy pizza! Even though he was from the Midwest, I thought he had listened to me rant often enough that he knew that.
Once, while living in Chicago, he asked one of my coworkers, who was from Rockaway, about New York pizza. My coworker gave the best definition, and I still remember it: "New York pizza is 50 percent wax paper and 50 percent olive oil dripping down your arm." I thought that truly summed it up.
When we moved to the armpit called Cleveland, I took the Yellow Pages and called every pizza place listed and asked if they had a brick oven. If the response was "a what?" I said, "Thank you, if you don't know what it is, you don't have one."
Now, if you are ever in the Twin Cities area, there is an interesting pizza place there called Punch. They have a special oven that runs at 800°F. You barely get it ordered and paid for and it's ready. While the aficionado looking for "New York pizza" will not be satisfied, it is a very good taste to try.
Thanks for letting an old lady rant. If I have repeated things that are elsewhere on your site, I apologize.