Ambiance Is Not a Topping
"It sometimes seems as if he's living in an alternate pizza universe—one where Papa John is Chris Bianco and ambiance should be a topping that you can order like fennel sausage."
Mic check 1, 2, 1, 2. Bubbles B in the place to be. Comin' outta retirement to work ya like a fireman. What's good, sliceheads? I know it's been a minute, but I have to break you off with a little something.
I made a move to the Upper East Side (it's not all bad—Central Park, Museum Mile, D'Ag hags) and can't say much for the pizza thus far, but there's been a couple of places that are worth mentioning, if only for their delivery-pie consistency. A good delivery pie is pretty simple to me: some salty aged mozz, fresh sauce, and a crisp, well-done crust. If you're looking for anything more than that, you may be asking for too much.
It's hard for the fresh mozzers (Totonno's, Nick's, Al Forno) to deliver you a pie that's up to snuff because the cheese has to be eaten so quickly or else it cools off and hardens; it's not meant to last. It's why they call it fresh, ya know? Aged mozz, on the other hand, is meant to be enjoyed anytime, really—even microwaved. A pie with aged mozz can come 40 minutes later and still be on point. But their fresh mozz brethren? Better plan on dining in for those bad boys.
Nevertheless, I sat here only an hour ago with a small, aged mozz pie (half plain, half green peps and pepperoni) from Arturo's Pizza on 85th and York. (This joint is not to be confused with Arturo's on Houston—at least they make an attempt to know what they're doing.)
Man, what a waste. An overload of toppings and cheese is not gonna compensate for poor ingredients. If anything, it just makes the pizza worse, because there's more of the bad stuff to contend with! As I'm throwing away the excess stale green peps and coagulated grease blanket of cheese, I have to ask myself, if you're gonna go and clog your arteries, you may as well do so with high-quality pie, right? And that's what Slice is for—so you know where to go when you need a Pinch of that pizza by the inch (another bootleg purveyor of NY pie), but I digress....
The thing is, I housed that Arturo's pie straight up Kobayashi-style because I had denied myself pizza for the better part of two weeks. I know, I know, that sounds like some cruel form of self-punishment, but I just bought a grill and was kickin' teriyaki-style with my grilled chicken sandwiches. When the pizza came, I basically inhaled it in an attempt to recapture some level of awesomeness. I believe I succeeded.
Frank Bruno, the New York Times restaurant critic, often seen skipping about town in designer Austrian lederhosen, deserves some singling out. That dude is never quite telling it straight. It sometimes seems as if he's living in an alternate pizza universe—one where Papa John is Chris Bianco and ambiance should be a topping that you can order like fennel sausage.
His recent article on the uptick of artisanal pizzerias was admirable in scope, but there are several points of contention. For one, I think Kesté deserves a lot more credit than he gave it; without having tried Motorino or Luna Rossa yet, I think its Margherita is among the best out there.
And Tonda as being worth a try because of "its attractive setting, attentive service and side notes like respectable salads and snacks"? If I wanted a snack, I'd take a Snaxi to a deli and get a Snickers.
I'm just not with it—I'd be happier sitting in a jail cell for an hour if you gave me a 117th Street Patsy's Margherita and a Stella than trudging to one of his downtown pretenders. Methinks it’s a lot of bullocks, mates.
Shout out to Paulie Gee for what looked like some magnifique pies at his pizza party that AK wrote about the other day. Boy, am I sorry I missed that little soirée!
And that's the real.