Is This the First-Ever 'Best Pizza in NYC' Article?
Check out this amazing piece of pizza history. It's a pizza roundup from a 1970 issue of New York magazine, the goal of which was to find the best pizza in New York City. It's written by Jerome Snyder and Milton Glaser, the originators of the magazine's "Underground Gourmet" column now written by Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite. It just might be the city's first "Best Pizza in NYC" article ever! Quoth Glaser and Snyder:
It wasn't very long ago — 20 years, maybe — when that current gustatorial staple known as the pizza was regarded as an arcane specialty in the nature of the yak steak. It thrived, if at all, only in the depths of the more inbred of the city's Italian neighborhoods. Even in Italy itself, the dish was pizza incognita in all regions except the deep south, from Calabria, say, down through Sicily....
Nevertheless, the pizza in America has become a way of life, a worthy competitor, both in popularity and ubiquity, to the hot dog and the hamburger. Naples may challenge the claim, but New York is now the pizza capital of the world.
You can find the original version archived on Google Books. Or click the thumbnails here and after the jump for a larger version.
Or click the thumbnails here for larger versions.
The methodology is much the same as you'd see in a modern-day pizza roundup — bring the pizzas to a central location and sample them all. Obviously that's not an ideal way to test pizza — its quality degrades quickly once in the box — but these are all (more or less) NYC-style pies, which don't degrade as much or as quickly as Neapolitan-style.
Look how contemporary that layout is! The pizzas silhouetted on a white background, the rules running between floating text and the individual pies. Change the typeface and update the source pizzerias and you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish between this roundup and one from today.
The amount of toppings! Granted, the authors note that "each competing pizzeria was asked to prepare two examples of its most elaborate, expensive pie." That doesn't seem like it would fly today, when many pizza aficionados deem a plain pie the best benchmark of quality.
The voice of the magazine in 1970 is remarkably similar to present-day New York, despite the fact that some of the chatter about pizza being somewhat newfangled dates it — that's to be expected.
There are 11 pizzerias represented. Let's see if they're still around ...
Ralph's Pizzeria Restaurant,862 Ninth Avenue, is still there, now Ralph's Italian Restaurant.
Al Buon Gusto, Columbus Avenue and 72nd Street, does not appear to still exist.
Queen Italian Restaurant, 84 Court Street, Brooklyn, is still there.
Rocky Graziano's Pizza Ring, Second Avenue between 31st and 32nd, appears to still be around, though it's unclear how far it's morphed from the days when it was part of a modest chain owned by the boxer of the same name.
Sorrento Restaurant & Pizzeria, 216 Avenue A, appears to be gone.
Angelo's Italian Restaurant, 859 Ninth Avenue, is gone.
John's Pizzeria, 278 Bleecker Street, is still going strong.
La Marionetta, 105 Greenwich Avenue, appears to be gone.
King of Pizza, 206 West 42nd Street, in the heart of Times Square, likely died with the Disneyfication of the Deuce.
Paparazzi, 964 Second Avenue, is closed.
[Hat tip to illustrator and all-around hot dog expert Hawk Krall!]