There should be lots of cheese – this is a given! However, the ratio of cheese to sauce has been hotly debated, for generations. Thin crust, hand-tossed, or deep dish, the crust is very often the deciding factor, when it comes to deciding where your pizza will originate. You can certainly make your own, with every ingredient home grown and prepared, but there is so much great pizza out there already!
When you’re in New York, and especially in NYC, you will eat pizza at least once. It’s easy enough to pick up a slice on the street corner, with hot pies coming out of the oven every few minutes, and the next batch already prepped, and waiting. You stand at high tables, leaning on your elbows with strangers, folding your slice of cheese in half, to eat it one-handed. The other hand reaches for paper napkins, to catch the oozing sauce.
You can order a custom pie at a family-run pizzeria; dining in offers a unique pizzeria atmosphere, but you sacrifice the extra time spent waiting for your food, your mouth watering, as completed orders make their way from the kitchen to other people’s tables. Ordering ahead for take-out promises a shorter route between placing your order and enjoying the first bite.
Then there’s the luxury of pizza delivery . . .
Sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to venture out, to pick up a slice! Home delivery means convenience. You get the same New York flavor, at a great price! The tip offered to the delivery guy is typically less than that given to the waitress at the pizzeria – she refilled your drink, after all – and the pizza somehow arrives hot, every time!
Born and raised in Chicagoland, I have rather high expectations for my pizza. I arrived at my company-approved hotel, near JFK airport, kicked off my heels, flipped on ‘News 12: The Bronx’, and settled in for the evening. After a long day of training classes, I was prepared to order in. The NY vs. Chicago-style pizza comparison was ON!
I dialed up Maria’s Pizza, on Rockaway Blvd., half a block away from Resorts World Casino. About 6 miles from JFK, the pizzeria serves Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Lindenwood, and of course JFK. I dialed in, thinking about what toppings I’d order . . . . (718) 322-8500, free delivery by car, min. $10.00 order. The line rang loudly in my ear once, just once . . .
The line was picked up, and I quickly realized that I couldn’t understand the guy who answered the phone – not a word. I was puzzled by his thick Bronx accent, the rapid pace of his words, and his eagerness to be finished with me, so he could take care of the next customer. From the comfort of the 12th floor of the JFK Airport Raddison, room 1239, I wasn’t sure this exchange was going to result in a pizza delivery.
Tony answered the phone with real urgency, barking the name of the Pizzeria: “Maria’s Pizza – whatcha orderin’?” I remember him introducing himself as ‘Tony’, but perhaps it was Gino, or Stefano, or Marco. . . I can’t be entirely sure. What I do know is that I simply didn’t know how to talk to this man, when I could understand his questions. My Midwestern roots were exposed, which was illustrated by my numerous requests for Tony to repeat himself.
Whatcha orderin’ – you wanna pie? (not a pizza) What size ya want – you wanna 18? Wa’kinda toppins?
I questioned what my options were, and learned that there were just two sizes – a small, personal pie or the 18 in. Large. I was the only one camped out at my hotel, so I didn’t need 18 inches of melted cheese, sauce and toppings; I’d go with the smaller, personal size.
Sure . . .what else. . . ? Nothin’ else . . . ? Dat’s all ya want . . . ?
There’s a $10 minimum for delivery, so I asked about, maybe, adding some garlic breadsticks to my order. There’s silence on the other end of the line.
All I’d planned on was ordering the pizza, so I hadn’t checked the restaurant’s menu online, where I would have discovered garlic knots, cheese calzones and pepperoni pinwheels, but not the garlic bread I was asking for. What about a couple of sodas? Yeah, ok, I’ll just add two Sprites.
That puts me at $9 – there’s a $10 minimum for delivery. It’s just $7 for the pizza and $1 for each Sprite. Ok, that won’t get me the free delivery, so let’s start over. . . . I don’t drink pop anyway. Or is it soda? I’m not entirely sure what they call it out here. Let’s just go with the 18’ N.Y. Style pizza, with both kinds of olives.
What? Olives – black and green olives. Yeah . . . ? Olives . . . ? Yeah . . . ? Let me see. . . okay, that will be $18. I’ll call you when the driver leaves – click! Wow, how did we get from $7, for pizza and drinks, to an $18 2-topping pizza . . . ? I try to mentally visualize how big an 18’ pizza really is. . . it’s big!
Besides the size of what I’d just ordered, it was the toppings that pushed the price up, at $3 each. Cheese is the New York staple, but if I’d looked at the menu, I would have seen the variety of pizza by the Slice: N.Y. Style Slice, Classic Sicilian (with a thicker crust), Grandma’s, Special Slices and Special Slices w/bacon. I could have ordered one slice of each, for $14.50. Back on the streets of New York City, the same slice of cheese is offered on just about every tourist street corner, for just $1.
The night before, the hotel concierge was polite and helpful, advising me to use Uber instead of the taxi service, which charges a standard $15 rate; this is true whether I go 1 mile or 15 miles, and is a policy meant to keep the drivers honest, in their dealings with unsuspecting tourists. Tonight, as I’m waiting for my pizza delivery, the concierge speaks with the heavy accent of an Italian immigrant, and once again I’m at a loss in trying to make out what he is telling me.
He mutters under his breath, something about wanting to know where I’d ordered from. He gestures sharply at the stack of menus for the hotel-preferred pizza delivery, shaking his head when he learns that I ordered from elsewhere. I suppose he won’t get the small kickback he’s used to. When I step away, to get a glass of wine to take up to my room, he barks at me from the lobby. “Lady – your pie’s here!!!”
I approach the desk, with a slight smirk, amused by his enthusiasm, when he explains “. . . . I didn’t want anyone else getting away with your food!” Seeing the size of the box, I try to figure out what I’m going to do with all that pizza. The shuttle to the airport the next morning leaves before 6 am, and I can’t recall if there’s a fridge in my room. I try to give at least ½ of the pizza away to various hotel staff, but they politely refuse.
“Oh my god, it’s so good. . .” I catch myself muttering, as I take my first bit. I romanticize the pizzeria in my imagination, wishing I could have watched them make it, flower dusting their hands, tossing the spinning dough high in the air. Then I wonder how many calories are in just one large slice, folded over, to make the eating even easier.
“If your tip sags like a face without botox or your crust skews soggy or you’ve just gotta gulp down your meal as fast as possible, don’t worry. We New Yorkers have our own special way of holding a slice. It’s a technique that a former colleague of mine dubbed The Fold Hold.
At its most basic, it’s as simple as folding your slice in half lengthwise. . . Not only does this method double the amount of pizza you can eat with one bite, it helps avoid the mess associated with an overloaded slice. . . It also obviates the need for a knife and fork. In New York City, utensils are a big no-no; pizza is a handfood here.” (Serious Eats – How to Eat a Slice, aka “The Fold Hold”)
My favorite bite of the New York pie is that inner triangle, the tip of the gigantic slice, the delicious first bite, full of cheese and salty olives. Not wanting any of that to go to waste, and having found no one to share my pizza with, I resolve myself to eat every bite of that inner portion of the pie. I go to sleep that night with no regrets, but dreaming of my upcoming holiday visit to Chicago, where a stop at Giordano’s will help me continue my “Field Work” in comparing these two very famous styles of pizza.
Join me on my next adventure,
The Soda vs. Pop Map: https://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/the-soda-vs-pop-map/
Serious Eats – How to Eat a Slice, aka “The Fold Hold”: http://slice.seriouseats.com/2010/02/pie-love-ny-how-to-eat-a-slice-aka-the-fold-hold.html
Marie’s Pizza: http://www.mariespizzeria.com/