This entry is part of NYC Pizza Week on Slice. This series is intended to give visitors and NYC greenhorns a sense of the pizza culture of the Big Apple. —The Mgmt.
First, it's a "slice," not a "piece of pizza." We New Yorkers don't have time for all that verbiage. Walk into any pizzeria in the city, make eye contact with the guy behind the counter, utter the word "slice," and within seconds there'll be what you out-of-towners or newbies might call a "piece of cheese pizza" sitting on a paper plate before you.
Oh, you want an entire pizza, eh? Well, that's a "pie." And, no—there's no danger of your pizza man bringing you a fruit-filled dessert; these two types of "pies" are mutually exclusive in New York pizzerias.
Hold Your Ground
Above all, be assertive. Native New Yorkers are brazenly aggressive in ordering and getting what they want. If you're a meek Midwestern transplant, now is the time to channel your inner tough guy or gal and make yourself heard and seen. The second you hesitate when the counter guy calls "Next!" is when the person behind you swoops in and steals your thunder.
Tastayatago? Say What?!?
When it's finally your turn, the counter guy will mutter something that sounds like "tastayatago." Don't become perplexed or appear hesitant—that will get you skipped and/or inspire the gruff treatment New Yorkers are famous for dishing out (think Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi").
Just answer "to stay," in which case he'll give you a copious amount napkins, or "to go," in which case he'll dramatically open a white paper bag with a sharp downward arm motion and slip the plate in—and give you a copious amount of napkins.
Ordering a can of soda (it's "soda" here, not "pop") may result in a comparable amount of disposable packaging; depending on the neighborhood you're in, the can might be placed in a tiny bag accompanied by a straw and another stack of napkins. Don't laugh at what seems to be excessive accoutrement. New York's a great city, but it's dirty—and you don't know where that soda's been. Use the napkins to wipe off the lid, and use the straw. Do you really wanna touch your lips to that can?
Most hole-in-the-wall slice joints are still cash only. And, whatever, even if they did take plastic, would you really want to swipe your card for the $5 or $6 a couple slices and a soda are going to cost?
That's it, as far as ordering a "plain slice" goes, and we at Slice encourage you—as a sort of culinary benchmark—to first try your pizza plain. ("Plain" is the preferred adjective here in describing a pizza without toppings, what you probably call a "cheese pizza" back home.)
What to look for in a slice? Stay tuned for that post later today.