White Pie, White Heat: Vinny Vincenz

The editor & publisher of this site has been a bit neglectful of his first child as of late, paying more attention to his burger baby. As such, I've done a great disservice to Slice fans and to the site's staff members, one of whom, E-Rock, submitted this piece back when the first signs of warmth were hitting the city (and at a time when he had some weird fixation with X Files re-runs). Let this piece by E-Rock, then, signify a return to renewed posting vigor on Slice.

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WORDS BY E-ROCK .::. Ah, the first days of summer-esque heat in Manhattan. You start to smell certain aromas in the city that were hidden by the cold. Pretty ladies are wearing less clothing. And people start acting like jackasses because portions of their brains are thawing out and unleashing long-dormant chemicals. What better place to experience these first days of what looks like a string of consistent warm weather than the East Village?

E-Rock was strolling around the neighborhood with an out-of-town buddy, soaking it all in on an not-so-recent early evening. Always looking for a good deal, we headed to Avenue B to enjoy the two-for-one happy hour at the Lakeside Lounge, one of E-Rock’s favorite places in the world. We sipped Sierra Nevada beers, listened to the Stones, and watched the world go by through the back room’s large windows.

E-Rock could have spent hours there, but it was a weekday night and I had to be up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. And besides, my friend Putney was hungry. "Why don't we get some good New York pizza?" he asked. E-Rock scanned his brain, thinking of places in the area, coming up with a blank Rolodex. But then it hit: Vinny Vincenz, an establishment often recommended by readers of this site.

20050620VVVinny.jpgE-Rock knew this place was renown for its Sicilian slices, so we went there prepared to order a fresh pie of some square madness. We walked in and noticed Vinny, the owner, right away. (It doesn’t hurt that his name was emblazoned on the back of a soccer-style jersey that he was wearing; see photo at left.) Mr. Vincenz is very active around the counter and enthusiastically greets customers as if he's inviting guests into his living room. We scanned the pies already behind the counter, checking out the slices, and Putney pointed to one tray. “Is that a whole Sicilian pie?” he asked one employee. We eyed that sucker down and knew there was no way in hell we could come close to finishing it without tragedy ensuing. I don’t know how many slices that thing comprised, but it seemed like 30 at the time—and they were all of substantial size. We needed more time to think.

After several beers, telling the attentive waitress about five times that we weren't ready yet (she was doing her job; we were slower than the F train at 3 a.m.), Putney and I finally came up with a game plan: Why not get a slice each of the Sicilian, so we can try it, and a fresh, medium round pie, which we'd have no problem eating without leaving half behind.

20050620VVSicilian.jpgE-Rock and Putney decided on a marinara slice each, with plum tomato, roasted garlic, and basil. Ever the gracious host, I left the round pie up to Putney, and the words pizza bianco came out of his mouth as he ordered. I had that sinking feeling, like when you’re psyched to see a movie on the fancy cable you pay out your ass for every month, and all 1,000 channels seem to be playing nothing but the Electric Horesman or Kangaroo Jack.

That's because E-Rock doesn’t remember any prior white pie experiences. They've just never sounded that great. I didn’t speak up, though, and knew that not too long in our future a big white thing with mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino, and white truffle oil would be in my face.

The Sicilian slices came first, and, looking at them, I was a bit dismayed. I mean, this was supposed to be the highlight of my culinary evening. They were obviously reheated from the batch behind the counter. But my stupid-ass fears quickly subsided after tasting the product. The cheese had been applied before the reheat, and the flavors of all of the ingredients were perfect. Sicilian slices aren't really E-Rock's thing; for me, they're one of those once-a-year things—like Taco Bell, say—that sound great when you have a silly craving but, immediately afterward, lead you to believe you’ve made a bad, bad mistake. But Vinny’s Sicilian slices are quite the opposite of the typically thick-crusted, sauce-laden gut busters. The crust isn’t necessarily thin, but it’s very light, and you don’t feel like you've eaten two handfuls of raw Krispy Kreme dough with a side of Velveeta after you've finished.

But E-Rock was still worried about the bianco. Sure, Vinny, only open for a little over a year, is already known for his mastery of the Sicilian, but could he adjust my attitude about the white pie?

E-Rock knew when the pie hit the table that Mr. Vincenz had a shot. The shit was actually light. I was expecting a gut bomb, but man, it was practically fucking ELEGANT. I had no idea that three layers of cheese, on very nicely done crust, by the way, could make someone feel CLEAN. Maybe it’s the truffle oil? It has some kind of X Files episode power that can disintegrate any trace of grease.

“Scully, I think there’s some kind of life form or energy that’s beaming down from outerspace, making this cheese thing happen.”

”Mulder, I don’t understand how you’re coming up with this kind of conclusion. There is a solution for this that can be explained by science.”

Either way, E-Rock suggests that when you visit Vinny’s you check your prejudices at the door. It worked for me.

VINNY VINCENZ
Location: 231 First Ave., East Village (b/n 13th and 14th Streets)
Phone: 212-674-0707
Delivery: Throughout the East Village
Website: vinnyvincenz.com
Hours: Open late! Sun.–Thurs., 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m. to 4 a.m.

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