Editor's note: From time to time, Slice correspondents leave New York City. When they do, they always bring back the lowdown on New Yorkstyle pizza in other parts. Here is the second and final part of E-Rock's Sin City chronicles. Read Part One here.
Fear and Loathing: Pizza in Las Vegas?
Whenever I talked pizza with my New York co-workers in Vegas (which happened more than you might think), their explanation as to why the pizza in the casino Mecca wasn't up to snuff always came back to one issuethe water. One co-worker remarked, "The water here is so disgusting that you can practically smell it coming out of the tap. The bagels here suck, too." It takes good water to make good pie, so I'm assuming our friends at New York Pizza & Pasta used bottled water or had the stuff imported from the Big Apple. Too bad I couldn't stick around long enough to ask them their secrets.
As I recounted in the first part of this Vegas dispatch, New York Pizza & Pasta was a splendid surprise. But I figured things could only go downhill from there. My next assignment, on strict orders from the top brass at Slice, was to go to New York-New York Hotel & Casino on the Strip and try the pizza. I knew it wouldn't be pretty.
The New York-New York skyline looms over the south end of the Strip like a twisted version of the Death Star. If you haven't experienced the horror in person, the hotel is a mangled version of our great city's skyline, a geographical hodgepodge of New York's major landmarks crammed together like straphangers on the Lexington line. A fake Statue of Liberty in a pond that's supposed to pass for New York Bay stands in front of a rollercoaster that I assume is meant to resemble Coney Island's Cyclone. Behind that stands an ersatz Empire State Building, a copycat Chrysler Building, and a simulacrum of Grand Central Station. The monstrosity looks as if it were created purely out of Styrofoam; if a giant windstorm were to occur, the entire thing would blow away like a tumbleweed toward the mountains. Too bad it hasn't.
When E-Rock entered the casino, it looked like any other hotel lobby in Vegashundreds of slot machines bellowing their electronic announcements, surrounded by black jack, poker, and craps tables. Not knowing exactly where the pizza was in the joint (The Web site promises New Yorkstyle pizza), I aimlessly walked around the place like a drunken speedwalker, looking to accomplish my mission and get out. Fast.
E-Rock walked toward the back of the casino and noticed a familiar yellow Nathan's Famous sign near an escalator that leads to the rollercoaster's entrance. How cute. I went up and considered completing my mission then and there, as pizza was on Nathan's menu. But I knew our founding editorial director wouldn't be satisfied with a report on Nathan's pizza, so I moved on.
I soon found what I was looking for, in a food court-type area that was obviously made to resemble a Manhattan neighborhood, probably the Village or Little Italy. It's one of those places in Vegas that fools people, making one feel like they're outside when, in fact, they are deep in the bowels of a huge casino-resort. In the middle of this stood a restaurant that proclaimed, with a neon sign, Sirrico's Pizza. This was it.
E-Rock walked into the restaurant, and it pretty accurately copied the inside of a typical New York slice place. I ordered a plain slice and a vegetable slice, and to my horror, the kid behind the counter put them on a tray without heating them up. The two slices and a Budweiser totaled $12.09. I sat down "outside" and knew I was in for a beating. The pizza lived up to every cliché in the book: crust like cardboard, sauce like ketchup, cheese like rubber. Sbarro is better. Hell, even DiGiorno is considerably superior. I ate the stuff as fast as I could, nursing my Bud, so that I had ample fluid to wash it down.
I stood up, feeling like a bomb had been dropped in my thorax, and went back into the restaurant looking for proper documentation of Sirrico's. "Do you guys have a take-out menu?" I asked the kid behind the counter. "Take-out is whatever you order, and we put it in a box," was his reply. Really?
E-Rock took one for the team on this run, and I have the prune juice to prove it.
In the cab back to the Palms, I got to talking with the driver and found out he was from Canarsie. (What's with the Canarsie-Vegas connection?) I told him about my pizza experience in New York-New York, and he burst into a pizza monologue. On a good slice, the cheese runs and burns the tip of your mouth, he said. "You have to catch it. When you fold it, the tip does not bend."
This was the closest I felt to being at home in Las Vegas.
But then the driver's discourse took a prurient turn. Commenting that I was staying at the Palms, he told me about an event in the pool for which he had a half-priced, $20 ticket. "There's a skinny-dipping party there," he said with a toothless grin. "You'll see all sorts of p_ _ _y running around."
Channeling Cindy Adams, I couldn't help but think, Only in Las Vegas, kids.