The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes...becomes, for him, pizza." If this theory is true, then the pizza at Mimi's is how I think pizza should taste. Or, rather, Mimi's circa 1975.
Back then, on special occasions, we would get a pie from Mimi's at 84th and Lex, four blocks from where we lived. Mom would re-heat the pie, even though the pizza did not have time to cool significantly on the way home. Still, this is how I first understood pizza: you ordered at a counter, and it was served by the slice to some, and as a full pie to others. I saw pies being made from scratch and I wondered, "is that my pie, or is it going to be sliced and sold as slices to all the other people waiting here?" And while I watched pies being made over and over, I felt a little short-changed that I never saw anyone toss pizza dough in the air like they did in cartoons.
Since my childhood, Mimi's has changed. They took over the storefront next door and added table service. The variety of pizzas and toppings has expanded beyond the simple New York-style vs. Sicilian.
However, some things remain the same. There are still a variety of celebrity photographs on the walls, presumably former patrons. When I was a child, Paul McCartney was featured prominently, and while I did not see any autographed head shots of the Beatle on my last visit, Paul Sorvino and Mario Cuomo were represented above the counter, along with team photos of the Italian national football team that I remembered from years ago. The clientele hasn't really changed either. Mimi's is squarely in the heart of the Upper East Side, and it remains one of the few places I can remember where the doormen and porters eat at the same counters as the residents of the buildings where they work. On my most recent visit I also noticed a fair number of livery drivers eyeing their black cars, double parked on Lexington Avenue as they waited for their slices.
Did the slice live up to my childhood memories? Of course not, but it still has its merits. While at $2.75, the cost is above the subway-fare guideline, I didn't feel shortchanged; it's a hefty slice. The slice folded nicely and felt a little floppy without being unwieldy. The cheese had some pull to it without being stringy, and the sauce stayed discreetly in the background. The slice was neither memorable nor disappointing. For those who want something more contemporary, Mimi's also has a "fresh mozzarella" slice, complete with artful slivers of basil, at $3.95 a slice. "Low in fat!" the counterman reassured me.
Mimi's Pizza & Restaurant
1248 Lexington Avenue, New York NY 10028 (at East 84th Street; map)