Showing posts with label Good Slice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Good Slice. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Da Vinci Pizza: "And now the end is here, and so I face the final curtain..."

So this is it. I don't even know where to begin. Let me just say, that though this is the Last Official Manhattan Pizzeria Review, it will not be the last post on Slice Harvester. I still have plenty of recapping and decision-making to do, and plus I want to keep this thing going at least until the last zine comes out in February so there's that, too. Anyway, I might as well just start this thing. You should probably open up in a new tab and listen to that Green Day prom song while you read this review.

I met Christina Sparhawk a little less than two years ago, just shy of six months from starting this project. I was lonely and sad and needed someone to so I went to a Witch-Matchmaker and she set us up. When we first met, Christina handed me a piece of paper with a phone number on it and said, "if you're in a bad mood, call this number and ask for Manoff. Take it out on him." I didn't know her too well at the time and thought maybe she was a dominatrix or something and he was one of her johns and this was part of their thing. Turns out she was working as a hostess at a Burger Restaurant and this guy Manoff had been consistently stiffing her delivery guy on tips and just generally being a dick on the phone and she felt he needed some vengeance. At this point, I knew I was in love.

It's easy to write about smashing the state or how much I hate bro-dog frat culture masculinity or offing pigs or whatever, but how do you write about being in love in a way that doesn't suck? Do I rhapsodize about my girlfriend's beauty? (She is the most beautiful woman in the world.) Do I talk about how awesome and tough she is? (The other day some dude in a suit winked at her on the sidewalk and she punched him.) Do we discuss how talented and creative she is? (At everything.) Do I mention the ways we care for each other? (I honestly think she saved my life.) I don't know. This stuff is harder to talk about than all the hard stuff I talk about.

So I'll leave it to the poets. Go ask Yeats or Richard Brautigan what it's like to be in love, because all I can tell you is that I am honestly happy for the first time in my life and I can attribute a huge portion of that happiness to the truth of caring and being cared for. The fact is that we live in such a Sick Fucking Society that the simple act of honestly loving and being loved is transcendent and radical. Like I said last week, people are so alienated from themselves, from their own emotions and from each other that forging genuine human connections is NOT the go to means of interacting.

The other day I was talking to my friend Jamel who panhandles outside the supermarket in my neighborhood. In the summer we eat King Kones and talk about vampires because we both love vampires, but there was something in the air on that humid, too-warm Autumn evening, standing on the street watching the sun set, and we got to talking about life. Jamel told me, "the other day, I saw a guy drop a $100 bill. I picked it up and handed it back to him and you know what? He didn't give me shit." I scowled. "And you know what else, Colin? I don't care. Maybe he just got paid, maybe he had to spend the whole hundred on Thanksgiving dinner for his family or Christmas gifts for his kids. For a few minutes I thought that maybe he only had the $100 and he was would come back and give me something after he made change, but he never did." I was shaking my head pretty vigorously at this point, rolling us cigarettes. "And I still don't regret giving him that money back, although I could obviously use a hundred dollars. Because I did the right thing, and if more people did the right thing more of the time, instead of doing the easy thing, or the selfish thing, the world would be in a lot less trouble than it is today." He asked me if Christina, whom he had met the week before, was my girlfriend, and when I told him she was he said, "you better make sure to hold on to her. She's a keeper."

So me and Christina ate at last week, for my final review. As we first approached, my heart seized up because I mistook Da Vinci for Pranzo Pizza, where I had eaten the prior week with awesome newspaperman . And I thought for a second that maybe I had fucked everything up and hadn't done my research and Da Vinci had closed and my girlfriend was gonna hate me and everything was fucked and oh my god oh my god oh my god. Well, I was wrong. The fronts of Da Vinci and Pranzo may look similar but their interiors and their pizza are worlds apart.

This place looked and felt like a real pizzeria (check out Rob Bennet's photos accompanying the [what?!] for evidence). And the pizza here, unlike the pizza at Pranzo, was real delicious pizza.

I was a little bit turned off by the fact that this slice of pizza was sitting on a piece of aluminum foil. But I am open minded, right? And it looked and smelled good. I lifted the slice, and it drooped a little more than is ideal, but I still had a good feeling. And I wasn't wrong! This slice had delicious ingredients. The cheese tasted great, the sauce was on the sweeter side, but didn't taste synthetic and was totally delicious. The dough was expertly made, though perhaps not cooked as much as I would have liked, and the whole slice had GREAT ratios.

Tina said, "it's got that youth fair taste that I like," and called it "carnival pizza." Now, I wouldn't necessarily disagree with this assessment with a small distinction. Traditionally I have discussed a disgusting type of pizza I love, which I've always called "roller rink pizza" because it reminds me of this pizza I ate at this roller rink in Queens at my parents' best friends' kid's birthday party when I was like, 8 that for some reason I remember really vividly. That sort of pizza is objectively bad, but I admit to loving it anyway. This slice, while superficially similar to this sort of pizza, is neither disgusting, nor objectively bad. I think the similarities lie in a certain amount of fluffiness in the cheese and the dough. But this dough was soft and supple without being rubbery, and the cheese, while bountiful, was not over whelming.

All told, this slice was totally satisfying, although not mind-blowing. But it was good, and I am happy to end on a positive note. I wouldn't go out of my way for this slice, but I stand behind it. I will eat here next time I am planning on spending an afternoon reading a book and riding the ferry back and forth. As we finished eating Christina let out a huge belch, smiled and said, "that was a burp of satisfaction."


Da Vinci Pizza - $2.50
44 Water St (Hanover Sq & Cointies Slip)
New York, NY 10004

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza: "Almost didn't make the cut."

I have to admit something: I have never been to Chicago. Which means I have never had Chicago style pizza. I don't even actually know what it is. I've talked for minutes at a time about how much better the New York slice is than a Chicago Pie. "I MAY AS WELL EAT LASAGNA!" I've shouted in bars over Cock Sparrer songs blaring too loud from the soundsystem. But the truth is, I am just good at being a windbag and a blowhard. It's just like all the books I've never read and movies I've never seen that I find myself pretending I have because it seems easier than finding something else to talk about.

Either way, I still KNOW New York pizza is better, even if I've never had the pie in Chi-Town. And that's why I almost didn't even go to on Thames St right around the corner from OWS. Because I review New York slices and I figured they didn't have one. Because why would a regular New York pizza parlor go through all the effort of calling itself Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza if they were just gonna sell regular slices?

Then the comments and emails started coming in. "What about Big Al's?" "When you gonna go to Big Al's" "I'M A COP YOU IDIOT" "Did you skip Big Al's?" And I called Big Al's and I said, "yeah, do you guys sell slices" and I could see the pizzaman's look of disgust and perplexion (I just made this word up!) as he said, "yeah...." but was clearly thinking "who is this moron?"

So I went. And I'm glad I did.

Big Al's definitely gets the "Best Slice Near OWS" award, which is actually something a lot of people have been asking about. This slice has a thin but adequate crust, nice pungent cheese, ample grease and a pretty good sauce. The ratios are spot on. There is just enough salt. And in the words of Mr. Paul Lukas, "everything coheres nicely." This slice is A-Okay. Totally alright. Wildly above average. It was prepared well and I like that.

At one point while we were sitting there, this worker accidentally jostled Paul while mopping up some spilled soda. He apologized, and Paul was like, "it's cool man, what's going on over there?"
And the guy is like, "This lady, she takes one sip of her soda and then just turns it over into the garbage bag. The worst part is, she was looking me right in the eyes when she did it. By the time I got around here with the mop it was running all over the floor."
"People are animals." I interjected. "I work at a diner in Brooklyn. We got this garbage can in the bathroom that has one of those foot pedals to open the top, and every day I clean up piles of sullied paper towels from the top of the lid. From people too lazy to press a fucking button with their foot."
"Animals..." the guy muttered, as he stepped away to continue mopping.

Me and Paul talked a while and then parted ways, but as soon as I walked out the door I had to piss so bad I felt like I was gonna explode, but didn't remember seeing a bathroom in Big Al's. I went back inside, found the guy I'd been talking to, leaned over conspiratorially, "You got a bathroom in this place?" I murmured. He slipped me a key and pointed to a door, "take a left. First door on your right."

I walked out into the corridor of an office tower and quickly found the bathroom. Now, as you know, my second favorite thing besides reviewing pizza is reviewing pizzeria bathrooms. Well this one was a gem!

Easily the most claustrophobic restroom I have ever been inside. I felt like I was in a Kafka courthouse can in here! It's worlds away from the spacious and romantic two-seater at 42nd Street Restaurant, but equally charming, in it's own cramped way. Also, second to the Worcester, MA diner bathroom that was totally clean of graffiti except that someone had written VAN HALAN over two of the walls, this back wall, behind the toilet, vandalized with TOILETS! and an anarchy symbol may be my favorite bathroom graffiti.


Bathroom Rating:

Big Al's Chicago Style Pizza - $2.50
9 Thames St (Trinity & Broadway)
New York, NY 10006

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pizza Italia: "This could've been better but it was pretty good."

A while ago I ate pizza with this guy . Hopefully in a few months or years I can say, "my friend Paul Lukas," but for now we are just people who know each other and maybe there is reciprocal admiration, but maybe I just admire him and that's fine. Let me tell you about my future friend Paul. See, way back in the hinteryears of the mid-90s there used to be this store on E 7th St call See Hear and it only sold zines. And they would sell ANY zine ever. I bought my first issues of Cometbus and Punk Planet there (I bought my first issue of MRR at Tower Records, though). I looked at my first (and only) NAMBLA bulletin there at the ripe old age of 14. I was constantly befuddled by the black man who would come in and buy all the Neo-Nazi newspapers that were for sale. Later I almost got arrested right outside for drinking a 40 in the middle of the 7th St but the cop seemed more concerned with the fact that my handrolled cigarette might have been weed than with the fact that I was underage drinking in public. Go figure!

Among the many zines I devoured as a teenager in the 90s, one of my consistent favorites was this zine called Beer Frame, which I never actually bought at See Hear and would buy at St. Marks Books, now that I think of it. I'm not sure why that is. ANYWAY. In Beer Frame, subtitled "The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption," Paul set out to review any and every product available both domestically and internationally. From Beverly Bulk Sausage With Natural Juices, 10.5 oz can to the Brannock Device (that thing they use at shoe stores to measure you foot), Paul would review ANYTHING. And he did so with a degree of insight and stylistic panache that I still aspire to today. For over a decade, every time I've seen one of those weird tiny plastic tables they put in the middle of your pizza I've thought about Paul's thoughts about that object in an issue of Beer Frame.

That three-legged doohickey is called a lid support. It may not look like much, and it probably cost your pizzeria less than a penny, but it's saved many a pizza... from an unhappy fate. The lid support is so innocuous, and its functional utility so efficiently matter-of-fact, that it's become the perfect example of a product too simple for its own good: Everyone knows what it is but nobody outside the pizza biz knows what it's called, and most people just take it for granted. Hiding in plain sight, it has become classically inconspicuous--a stealth element in our consumer culture. 

He then goes on to provide a detailed and presumably accurate history of Lid Supports! What? If there's anything I pretty much indiscriminately love it's when people indulge their desire to be totally obsessive about something totally arbitrary and really go all out in executing it. See also, .

I met Paul when we were both doing one minute interviews on 7 Second Delay's "60 Most Important New Yorkers in 60 Minutes" radio show. He is currently working on a ton of rad projects, but that day he was getting interviewed about , his website about sports uniforms. (He also works for ESPN and like, writes cool shit all the time and is just generally a great dude.) We eventually re-met at the City Reliquary and I found out he did Beer Frame and I was really excited and asked him to come eat pizza with me, and he agreed. Then I texted his land line for like, 10 months before I figured out what was going on and we finally made plans and we met outside Pizza Italia on a blustery Autumn day.

is a real proper pizzeria, which is a rarity for the Financial District, which seems to be mostly full of places that are Investment Opportunities or Business Plans instead of Pizza Parlors or Restaurants. But Pizza Italia feels honest, and honesty is really important to me. When Paul and I got there, it was super slammed with the Soulless Business Dude Lunch Rush. It was totally chaos in there, but I noticed the pizzaman check on my slices a couple of times before handing them to me. Which is to say, he didn't just pull them out once they were hot, he made sure they were cooked well, and that's a degree of care and consideration under pressure that is rare these days.

I know I usually share slices, but me and Paul were hungry and this place looked non-shitty.
This slice had a good crunch and expert ratios, but the the cheese texture was a little mealy. And it felt cheap, which is a shame. If they hadn't cheaped out on the cheese, this slice would've been pretty amazing. They certainly gave it adequate care, there was a perfect amount of grease, and the crust and sauce were phenomenal! Paul said, "it's not like, world class, but it's a perfectly solid, legitimate slice." And I tend to agree with that assessment. But it WOULD be world class if they had better cheese!


Pizza Italia - $2.75
11 Stone St (Whitehall & Bond)
New York, NY 10004

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's a Pizza: "Don't judge a book by it's cover."

Last week I ate pizza with my friend Ross Noyes. Ross is a punk kid from Boston, and when I had first met him many years ago, I thought his last name was like, "Noise" or "Noize" or something and it was an unfortunate remnant of his teenage punk band. But it turns out his real actual last name is just a homophone. Who knew?

One time Ross walked into the diner while I was working, on a moderately busy evening. I made eye contact with him, but didn't say anything because I had armloads of food and was bringing them to a table. When he shouted, "APPARENTLY I'M FUCKIN' INVISIBLE ALLOVASUDDEN!" a few seconds later, I thought he was talking to me and quickly rushed over to quiet him down. "Hey man, sorry, I see you there, I'm just busy." I blurted out.
He looked surprised and was like, "what? You thought I was talking to you? Come outside for a second, lemme show you something."

We walked out front and he showed me his bike. One side of the handlebars was flush with the frame, like a two dimensional drawing, and the wheels were totally fucked. I looked at him shocked and he said, "I just got dragged under a truck for two blocks."

I took him inside, gave him coffee and a whiskey, and asked how the hell he was still walking. He looked me in the eyes and said, "Cause I'm fuckin' Wolverine. I don't get hurt." When I saw him the next day, he was walking with a cane. Ross is a person who, while I don't necessarily think he's got everything figured out, I never worry about him making it in the world, because he seems like he can really take care of himself and he seems like he's at peace with who he is.

A little while ago I started therapy for the first time in my life. It's been really helpful in learning and growing as a person, and in unpacking a lot of the baggage I've accrued in the time I've been alive. When I first started seeing the doc, there was a voice inside me telling me that it was a bourgeois extravagance, like it was weakness on my part that led to my needing therapy in the first place. I knew that was bullshit but I also couldn't shut the voice up. And oftentimes, it would come back to me and it would say, "look at Ross. He deals with his shit. Why can't you just deal with your shit?"

One day I was waiting at the halal truck near my doctor's office for a chicken on pita, and Ross walked by. We noticed each other and the first thing out of his mouth was a surprised and amicable, "what the hell are you doing in this neighborhood?"

For a split second I was frozen. Here was this guy standing in front of me who, in a lot of ways, seems to embody many of the of the more admirable qualities of American masculinity--strength, self-reliance, confidence--without replicating most of the bad ones. For a moment, I felt a sense of self-imposed shame about my need for help. But I knew that at heart, Ross wouldn't think any less of me for seeking out assistance, and more importantly, I knew that if he did, it was his problem, not mine. So with some trepidation that I'm sure went unnoticed, I said to him, "I'm just getting lunch on the way to see the shrink."

Without a second thought, Ross looked at me and said, "I wish I was in therapy. Good for you." And suddenly all these illusions I was harboring about both of us were shattered. It's always interesting, and oftentimes potentially disastrous, when the image you've created for someone comes face to face with their actual humanity. This is why so many people are disappointed when they meet celebrities, for instance. But we don't just create personas for strangers, we create them for everyone in our lives. Our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, our family. And people create them about us too. There's nothing wrong with it. I will never understand the entirety of another human being, so I have to surmise and imply what I can't know. But it's always heartening to realize that maybe you've oversimplified someone. That maybe there's a lot more to them than you let yourself believe.

I was a few minutes early meeting Ross last week, and so I had plenty of time to stand around in front of and ponder their hideous facade. I thought for sure I was looking at some heartless business endeavor, malevolent tumor of capitalism blighting the face of a city street. When Ross arrived, I nodded towards the awning and he said, "I am not looking forward to this."

Inside the place was decorated horribly. There was fake brick on the walls, and an array of weird mirrors hanging "artistically." The chalkboard pricelist had those fake painted food pictures at the bottom that look like they're out of a terrifying comic book. But it was bustling as hell in there, it smelled good, and there was a pretty authentic looking (and sounding) pizza man behind the counter taking orders and yelling at customers.

When our slice came out of the oven it looked pretty good. And it was good! The sauce was a little too sweet, and tasted more like the sauce on a chicken parm than on a slice, but there was just the right amount of it. The cheese was good quality and the dough was cooked to perfection. The crust, while skimpy, was absolutely delicious. Ross said, "If this place was in a different city, like Athens or Duluth or something, you'd be like, 'this pizza place fuckin' rules!' and there'd be only punks working here."

And suddenly, eating this good slice, and looking back at the guy behind the counter, who by all signs looked to be some moderately shlubby New York native and not the "business savvy" Wall Street shark I assumed would own the places based on the exterior, everything took on a different connotation. The aesthetic qualities I found distasteful about the place at first suddenly seemed charming, like when someone makes a benign and well-intentioned bad decision. The fact that the place looked like it would totally suck and it didn't made it seem almost better than if it had looked cool. Because that would've been unremarkable. "This pizza place that looks like a pizza place is a pizza place and they sell pretty good pizza." But because the place looked like a miserable outpost of the Capitalist Death Culture, but turned out to be a decent pizza shop, there was something triumphant about the whole experience.

I also noticed on that they offer a 99¢ slice "happy hour" from 4-6pm. If the slice they serve then is the same as the one I ate, then this is clearly the best slice of pizza you can get for a dollar anywhere in the city.


It's a Pizza - $2.25
20 John St (Nassau & Broadway)
New York, NY 10038

Monday, July 11, 2011

Friendly Gourmet Pizza: "No part of the name of this place has any resemblance to actual real life."

The other day I had the most post-internet experience I've ever had in my life. More post-internet than the handful of OKCupid dates I went on a few years ago (that's right, I'll own up to it)! I recently became aware of Internets Celebrities, a duo of native New Yorkers who make thought-provoking, oftentimes hilariously insightful videos about a variety of topics, most relating to New York City. , ostensibly about the rumored correlation between the price of a slice and the price of a single subway fare, but actually a biting commentary on the lack of services provided by the MTA despite consistent price increases. Their succinct findings: "The MTA is essentially charging us $2.50 for a $1 slice."

A week or two ago, , one half of IC, twortled on twerter inviting strangers to meet him for lunch. I think I was the first and maybe only person to respond, and so a short few days later, we met up outside to get a slice. Two strangers, joined by one common trait: an abundance of time on the internet. Would we butt heads, would a fast and enduring friendship form? My mind was full of questions as I made my way down the stairs of my building to unlock my bike and head to Nassau Street.

Sadly, when I got downstairs, someone had locked my brake cable into their u-lock! I was aghast and furious. In a hasty act of defiance, I took a permanent marker and wrote a note across their top tube that said "BE MORE CAREFUL NEXT TIME" and then got onto the J train, afraid that I might be late and miss out on meeting Rafi.

On the train, the reality of my situation began to set in: I had just deliberately vandalized a bike that my bike was still locked to. Ergo, I would likely return to Brooklyn to find my bike vandalized. There was no question that the party responsible for my misfortune got off easy. Locking up someone else's bike is an amateur mistake, and sharpie washes off easy enough. But I had set myself up to be the recipient of easy vengeance, and I was none too pleased with my own rash and amateurish behavior.

This picture was taken on a prior pizza mission, when I got to Friendly Gourmet too late and it was closing for the night.
By the time I got to Friendly Gourmet, I looked a mess, and I was feeling like a total greasy weirdo. I was positive this stranger would see me for the loathsome shitbreather I am and would turn around in disgust at the very sight of me, but I held my ground and stood around outside the pizza parlor, which was tiny and cute, with a constantly moving line out the door. There was no seating to speak of, just a hastily assembled "countertop jutting out of the side of the building. As I waiting for Rafi, I was transfixed watching the flow of people moving in and out of the tiny storefront, the line out front ebbing and flowing like the tide. The place was cute as hell and they seemed to be running a pretty professional operation. I was getting excited to try the slice, and pretty soon all my concerns melted away. By the time Rafi strolled over I was cool as a cucumber and we stepped inside to get our slices.

I got a plain slice and Rafi got a grandma slice (not pictured). Mine smelled good and looked like it could be anywhere from passably decent to absolutely great, but I knew it wouldn't be bad. This slice had too much sauce, but otherwise, it was totally good. The sauce taste was a little overwhelming, but I think in a more moderate quantity it could definitely be a more subtle component in the complex flavor of a good slice, as opposed to the edible equivalent your hamfisted, slightly drunk uncle who is nice when he's sober, but who, after his fifth beer, talks too loud about uncomfortable subjects on Thanksgiving. But even with the sauce acting like a dickhead, the quality of the rest of the slice shined through! The cheese, while nothing to write home about was actually decent. That shouldn't carry the weight that it does, but it seems that these days most pizza places are using pretty crummy ingredients. The dough was crunchy and maintained it's integrity. The crust was crunchy enough without being brittle, and salty enough, which is really all you can ask for.

Rafi didn't seem too awed by this piece of pizza, but he hasn't been in the trenches like I have. (No offense, dude!) Compared to most of the shit they are slinging in this town, this slice is incredible. I know I've said this a million times, but in my dreamworld Crimethinc Utopia ruled by a kindly wizard, a slice this good would be the worst pizza around. However, in our sick fucking society (SFS), where everything is so backwards that , and , there is obviously no justice or sanity, so most pizza sucks and this pizza, which is by all accounts totally good, just not great, stands out as a shining beacon of hope amidst the shit.

Fuck the world.


Friendly Gourmet Pizza - $2.50
59 Nassau St (at John)
New York, NY 10038

I got so worked up being angry about the pervasive rape culture and systematic violent oppression in this country, I forgot to talk about what happened to my bike! Are you ready for this? Take a deep breath...

Nothing. Nothing happened. My guess is that whoever was unobservant enough to lock my brake cables was also unobservant enough not to notice that I had written across their top tube in permanent marker! I was thinking on the bus ride home from my girlfriend's house that night that if I saw them, I would offer to wash off my graffito if they paid me the $9 I had to spend in public transit costs because my bike was stuck to a pole all day.

Also, while I'm talking about the pervasive rape culture:
Attn: All Male-Bodied Dudes! Every time your cousin or your coworker or your best friend from high school or your neighbor who you are having a beer with on the stoop makes a rape joke and you don't say shit, YOU are personally responsible for creating a climate in which survivors are not taken seriously. Don't forget that.
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