If you're a longtime Slice reader, you've heard bits of this site's origin story (ad nauseam) over the years. In a nutshell, when I first moved to New York City in the summer of 2000, I ate pizza almost every day for six months or so. I was broke, it was cheap, and, well, like I needed an excuse to go nuts here in Pizza Mecca.
At first, all the pizza here tasted good to me. But after a few months, my palate became more refined, and I became more discerning. I finally started getting a crazy notion that maybe not every slice I was eating was good. And once I did, I turned to the web to help me find pies and slices worthy of eating. One of the first hardcore pizza documents I found was eGullet co-founder Steven A. Shaw's "Pizza Guide." This was pre-eGullet, when Stephen was publishing a site called fat-guy.com.
The introduction, "Where Has All the Good Pizza Gone?" confirmed my suspicion that three-quarters of the pizza I was eating was just plain bad:
The conventional wisdom—that you can walk into any New York pizza shop, grab a slice, and confidently assume that it will be pretty good—is manifestly no longer true (if it ever was), and it should come as no surprise to any longtime New Yorker not living in denial (though it might be news to tourists and newcomers) to hear that pizza in New York today is, overall, terrible.
Indeed, this was news to me. And so I devoured Shaw's guide, with its then-current list of some of the best pizzerias in the city, along with thoughts on judging pizza, and the first hints at the strange lexicon of the pizza world I was about to dive head-first into ("garbage pie" being a memorable term).
Once eGullet was up and running, fat-guy.com disappeared and, along with it, the guide. Luckily, I had printed out several copies of it and filed it away in my "Pizza Notes/Information" file.
While having dinner with Steven last week, I mentioned that his guide had been a huge influence on me early on and that I wished it were still up on the web somewhere. While some of the places have since closed or fallen off in quality, there's still some great information to be gleaned from it.
Ask and ye shall receive, I suppose. Shaw reposted the guide on eGullet last week with this disclaimer:
To be clear, I'm not actually sure of the publication date of this item. I wrote it in 1999, that much I'm sure about, but for the next three or four years I made updates to it. This version probably reflects changes I made through about 2001. I don't know. I was a little hesitant to publish this, because my early food writing efforts seem in retrospect to be weak in places, but so be it. I think overall what I was saying was right, even if some of the details are a little screwy in retrospect and some of the writing is weird. If a student in my writing class today wrote this, I'd probably think he or she had some potential, maybe. Anyway, here it is for your consideration.
Anyway, enough blathering. Here's the link: The Best Pizza in New York, circa 1999