Jeffrey Steingarten's Pizza Musings on 'Grub Street'

Grub Street talked to food writer Jeffrey Steingarten for its Grub Street Diet this week. In it, he mentions Di Fara:

Anyone who thinks DiFara is a shrine doesn't know what God is. I'm afraid I'm very immoderate in this, and I actually hate people, hate them, really dislike people who worship DiFara's.

That's a pretty succinct version of Mr. Steingarten's thoughts on Di Fara. In August 2009, he left a 3 a.m. diatribe on a Slice Di Fara post that was so long it appeared he may have hit the character-count limit in the comments.*

At one point he started talking about Eataly and had so much to say that Grub Street broke it out into its own post. Here's what he says about pizza there:

I spent an enormous amount of time at the pizza oven. I believe it's a similar pizza oven to the one they have at Paulie Gee's in Brooklyn, and to the one that Donatella Arpaia has built from scratch at her new pizzeria, which is not open yet. I do believe, and long have believed, that pizza is the perfect food. There's no other city like New York, where every block has a pizzeria where they're probably making dough from scratch. It's an unbelievable phenomenon, and I also find it very moving: On every street corner of New York there is someone, usually a man, who is performing a procedure that has not changed very much in 3,000 years. It has in the past moistened my eye to remember that.

The pizza wars — in Manhattan especially, though also Brooklyn — are really heating up. All the new pizzas — Keste, Motorino, Paulie Gee's — they're all making their pizzas in the Neapolitan fashion, which means the dough is almost never fully cooked. I remember when Ed Levine wrote his pizza book, in it he proposes that American pizzas can be better than Neapolitan pizzas. He thought that the pizzas he had in Naples had dough that was too soft, the crust was too soft, some versions were just inundated with sauce. Even though Ed is my friend I was very skeptical about that — it kind of reminded me of the people who used to go to China and come back and say American Chinese food is better. But then I returned to Naples, and I began to feel that Ed was correct. Still the best pizza in the United States probably is Pizza Bianco in Phoenix — don't worry about that, [chef Chris Bianco] was born in the Bronx — but I think that the new Neapolitan pizzas made in New York are truly great, and Eataly's is wonderful.

On the sustainability of the Eataly concept:

The thing that worries me is that I know that [Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich] are very particular about Italian food, and at a place like this all the people have to be at the top of their game all the time. I just imagine that would be very, very difficult. They're going to have to be on the edge for the rest of their lives, and it's very scary to imagine that. I spent all my time talking to the pizzaiolo, who has to go back to London in week. This is my concern: Many great people are going to have to return to their home bases, some to Italy, this guy to London, other people back to the rest of the empire. I just hope that they can maintain the very high level that I experienced there.

* Until then, I was unaware that there were even character-count limits in the comments here.

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