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Pizza Obsessives: Colin 'Slice Harvester,' On a Quest to Eat at Every Pizza Joint in NYC

Since his blog debuted a little more than a year ago, Colin "Slice Harvester" and his quest to eat at every pizzeria in NYC have never failed to amuse me. Now that he's a year in, I thought we'd put him in the hot seat. I know some of you are a little put off by blue language, so I'm warning you now, don't click past the jump if you're easily offended by strong language. If you've read Slice Harvester, however, I can assure you that this is a fairly restrained version of the what you're used to. The Mgmt.

20100907-po-slice-harvester.png

[Illustration from Jason Polan's "Every Person in New York" project]

You started Slice Harvester almost a year ago now with the goal of eating at every slice joint in Manhattan. How far along do you think you are now?

Well, I've eaten every slice above 34th Street, plus about 10 between 23rd and 34th. And that's taken me about 11 months. I figure the pizzeria density in neighborhoods is only going to increase as I move south, so I feel like there's a good chance it'll be February before I finish Manhattan. Oh, and that's barring Marble Hill, which I always thought was part of the Bronx. There's only two pizzerias up there, but I keep forgetting to go.

Also: Are you INSANE?!? How many slices have you eaten in pursuit of this goal?

Somewhere between 250 and 300 at this point.

Name: Colin
Location: Brooklyn
Occupation: Punk Rocker? I have had and probably will continue to have for quite a while more, a slew of shitty boring jobs. Bartender, cook, dishwasher, waiter, whatever. I don't think any of them are really considerable enough to be worth talking about, as none have really functioned to define my identity. Except for when I was a total poser bike messenger when I was 19 and totally tried on that "identity," which was ill-fitting, at best.
Website: sliceharvester.com, @sliceharvester on Twitter

You started Slice Harvester almost a year ago now with the goal of eating at every slice joint in Manhattan. How far along do you think you are now?

Well, I've eaten every slice above 34th Street, plus about 10 between 23rd and 34th. And that's taken me about 11 months. I figure the pizzeria density in neighborhoods is only going to increase as I move south, so I feel like there's a good chance it'll be February before I finish Manhattan. Oh, and that's barring Marble Hill, which I always thought was part of the Bronx. There's only two pizzerias up there, but I keep forgetting to go.

Also: Are you INSANE?!? How many slices have you eaten in pursuit of this goal?

Somewhere between 250 and 300 at this point.

How many places do you hit in a typical day of pizza exploring?

Anywhere between 5 and 10, depending on my mood and the mood(s) of my companion(s).

Do you eat the whole slice at these places?

I generally split slices with whoever I'm going with, which makes it easier to eat more. I think you can get a pretty solid feel for a slice by sharing it with another person.

Extremes: What's the best/worst you've had so far?

Best is actually a tie as of late July. Challenging times. There's Gino's on 83rd and 1st, which took me by surprise, because it looked a little too ritzy at first glance, but the slice was so impeccable and they are really sweet and down to Earth. I've been back a handful of times since and it continues to blow every other slice anywhere about 42nd Street right outta the water. Definitely the best slice in the entire top half of Manhattan. But then last week I finally made it over to Suprema, on 8th Ave and 30th. They have this really ostentatious banner claiming how awesome they are that totally annoyed me, but it was not wrong. Great slice. It received a 7.5-of-8 rating, which is the highest I've given since instituting the 8-slice rating system. One thing both of these places have in common is that the main pizzaolo of each has been making pizza since he was like, 10 years old.

Worst? Presidential Pizza, on 125th and maybe, Frederick Douglass? It's definitely up there with the worst, they also have a sign claiming that they are the "BEST SLICE IN NYC ACCORDING TO YAHOO.COM" and then when you look them up there are literally hundreds of fake reviews, all obviously written by the same person who made the same syntactical mistakes in all of them. Also Hell's Kitchen Pizza on like, 48th and 10th? I threw up on the sidewalk after I ate there. It was totally gnarly.

What area of Manhattan seems to be the best by-the-slice neighborhood so far?

You know, it all seems pretty bunk, to be honest. Decent pizza is harder to come by these days than I'd like to admit. I was talking to my mother when she came pizza-eating with me, and she was saying that she remembers being a kid in Corona, Queens, every slice of pizza she ate was delicious. And we were discussing whether it's just the rose-colored glasses of childhood sentimentality painting it like that, the unhealthy nostalgia of NOW never living up to THEN, or if it was a matter of her being easier to please as a kid because she had a less mature palate, or if it was simply that pizza has gotten substantially worse since nineteen-sixty-whatever. And I think there's a real combination of the three. The first two are undeniable factors, but no one can deny the proliferation of shitty pizzerias even since I was a kid in the late '80s. Anyway, to get back to your question, I imagine the answer is that it's somewhere south of where I am now, but as of yet, I have been disappointed more often than not.

What type of pizza do you prefer? New York-style thin crust? I'm just guessing here.

Yeah, of course.

Yeah, dumb question.... The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?

I don't remember the first slice I had, so I'm going to talk about the first slice I really remember, OK? St. Marks Pizza (RIP) on 3rd Ave right above St. Marks Place was, for me, the benchmark of excellent pizza when I was a teenager. The first time I went there I was probably 13 or so, and my dad had taken me down to St. Marks to get combat boots. We walked around all day (I actually ended up getting a pair of Gripfasts at some place in the West Village for real cheap, which I wore the shit out of and then gave to my friend Milo when they got too small and then he wore the shit out of them). I was pretty dazzled by St. Marks. I mean, I had, like, heard about it, you know? But I had never seen so many punk kids in one place all at once. It was like all my daydreams flipping through MAXIMUMROCKNROLL in my room come to life! I was really embarrassed to be there with my dad but was like, "Whatever, once I have these combat boots I will look SO COOL!"

Anyway, we went and got burgers at Paul's on 2nd Ave, which has really good burgers. We were pretty full and we were heading west to see if there was maybe somewhere in the West Village because St. Marks was a ripoff and we had turned up bubkes in the way of decent boots for decent prices. We were walking off our burgers, both pretty full, when we meandered past St Marks Pizza on the way across 3rd Ave. We caught a whiff of that pizza aroma (pizzaroma?) and I imagine it must've been like a Looney Tune where there's Foghorn Leghorn and Henery Hawk are walking together and they smell something cooking in the farmhouse window and the smoke turns into a hook and pulls them unwillingly backward by their nostrels, because we literally stopped dead in the middle of 3rd Ave before we, without saying a word, mind you, turned heel and went straight back to St. Marks Pizza to get a slice each. Because even though we were full, that smell was so appetizing that we had to eat.

I went there almost every time I went to Coney Island High (RIP, as well) as a teen. My friends all went to Ray's or whatever the Pizza/Bagel place on the southeast corner of St Marks and 3rd is called, because the slice was bigger, but I always stuck by St Marks Pizza because their slice was so much better. I think I was probably on this winding 'zine-reading tour when it closed its doors, if I remember correctly, because when I came home there was a gaping hole in New York City.

Wow. That made me hungry and I just had breakfast.... Um, let's see, what's next on the list here ... What's your favorite topping or topping combination?

I like simple shit. A good pepperoni slice, a grandma slice, maybe a white slice every now and again. If I want to get crazy, I might get, like, a peppers, onion, and mushroom slice, but only if they aren't canned mushrooms! I am also secretly in love with the "salad slice," which is just a pizza with no cheese and, like, a totally crappy, iceberg lettuce and three black olives pizzeria salad on top. And I love a good chicken Parm hero almost as much as I love a good plain slice.

Where do you go for pizza in your neighborhood?

I'll tell you where I go for pizza near my job/Post Office box instead. San Marco Pizza on Lorimer Street just North of Metropolitan is great, and the guy who runs the place is a total maniac in the awesomest way. Carmine's Original (the awning says Original Italian Pizza) on Norman Ave in Greenpoint is amazing. And while we're talking about North Brooklyn pizza, I may as well weigh in on the Graham Ave debate and say that the Slice Harvester thinks Tony's has a better plain slice but Carmine's has better everything else. You heard it here first.

Do you make pizza at home?

Nah. My friend Scott Youth does, though. And my friend Paulie just got in trouble at his house in Chattanooga because he filled the oven with bricks so that he could cook pizza in there and the bricks all exploded and it was a huge mess.

Sounds like the kind of stuff the truly pizza-obsessed get up to all the time. I hope his oven's OK.... What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?

Who is more important to you, Deedee, Johnny or Joey? Fuck you for even asking me this.

D'oh! Now that you put it that way, yeah, maybe it's time to retire this question. Speaking of which, anything you'd like to get off your chest?

Phil Chapman is a scumbag.

OK.... What's one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?

Dessert shit. I wanna say all fruit, but there is kind of something classically gross about a ham and pineapple slice. Also, fuck all the bullshit chicken teriyaki slices, the taco slices, the fucking escargo slices, with puns for names. Fuck that! I hate it. It is so cutesy and precious and you can tell the people that come up with that shit are so delighted with themselves. It is disgusting.

Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?

I don't really go there. Although, I guess Zante's Indian Pizza on Mission in San Francisco is not only the weirdest pizza I ate, but the fact that I love it contradicts everything I just said in the last question. But, like, fuck it, I'm an awful goddamn human just like you, all of our lives our riddled with contradictions. And besides, Zante's is fucking good.

What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?

I guess like, biking to Di Fara with outta-town friends, maybe? Or going to Howard Beach to get a grandma slice from New Park Pizza. My friend Eliza recently biked to Maspeth from Fort Greene to get a slice from some place called Joey's on Grand Ave because she loves it so much. I haven't been there yet, but I think that's a pretty solid recommendation, especially considering that me and Eliza have really similar taste in slices.

Now: Who would you like to see interviewed next?

Ghostface Killah, Angie Martinez, Jim Jarmusch, Tom Scharpling.

If you have any way of getting in contact with them, sure. Thanks for playing along, Colin!

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