Pizza Truck NYC
During the summer of 1988, a pizza price war broke out on St. Marks Place. The slice mainstays at that time were the now-defunct St. Marks Pizza (it was actually on Third Avenue and is now a falafel shop) and Stromboli on First Avenue (featured on Slice here). Along the blocks between these two, a couple of fly-by-night slice joints opened up and started selling pizza for under a buck. Since there was nothing to indicate that either place had the chops to actually make real pizza, price-chopping and cost-cutting inevitably became their paradigm. Prices fell from 99¢ to 75¢, and if memory serves me correctly, all the way down to 50¢. The resulting slice was a cruel hoax, an oily slick masquerading as cheese, a smear of sauce that may have been ketchup over a cardboard crust. Not surprisingly, both places are long gone, replaced by tattoo parlors, sushi restaurants, smoke shops, or all of the above in rapid succession.
Fast forward to 2010, and we find the city once again has a number of places selling $1 and 99¢ pizza, which if you think about inflation adjusted dollars might just be the equivalent of 50¢ in 1988 money. Certainly prices for most regular slices of pizza (that you would actually want to eat) cost between $2.25 and $5 these days. So I wasn't expecting much when I approached the Pizza Truck NYC and its promise of the "New York City's best pizza for only $1."
Pizza Truck NYC's website shows a brand new truck (painted a sparkling fire engine red) parked in Union Square. I came across the truck in the exact spot as the picture was taken, but it now looks like a 1970's subway car—covered in graffiti and looking a bit tattered and battered. Somehow that adds an air of street credibility to the enterprise.
Pizza Truck NYC claims to serve fresh slices, but when I visited around noon on a weekend right after they opened, the back of the truck was full of baked pizzas. It seems likely that the pies were baked elsewhere and then loaded in to the truck, despite any claims that the baking takes place on board.
Because of this, I am fairly certain that the slice I had at the beginning of the day when the pies were freshly stocked will not be the same as the one you might have at the end of the day when the pies have been sitting in the back of a truck, marinating in carbon monoxide.
But get there early in the day when the pies are still relatively fresh, and I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. I certainly was: the slice I had did not suck. In fact, more than simply being edible, was actually kind of enjoyable. Of course, it did not have the oodles of cheese that one would get on a rationally priced slice. And the cheese was rather thin and watery with little flavor and even less stretchability. But at least it didn't devolve in to an oily slick or add any off flavors.
The crust was not really objectionable either. It had plenty of crunch and snap. The bottom had the telltale grid pattern that suggests that it was baked on metal grates. It was not very flavorful, though, and was perhaps a bit oily. But it was the sauce that dominated the palate and helped to elevate the less-than-stellar components. It had a sweet, tangy taste and was redolent with oregano. The sauce added balance to the pizza and made the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Pizza Truck NYC might not serve an amazing slice, but they certainly serve a credible one early in the day, especially considering the price (and that it comes out of a truck.) Is it the best $1 pizza in all of New York City? I'll leave it to one of you to do that rather depressing taste test.