While under the influence of Giants fever during this year's playoffs, John Madden took a bite out of an American culinary staple and boldly asserted that the world's best pizza can be found on essentially every corner in Gotham city. Since moving to Manhattan five years ago, I have made it a personal quest to find a halfway decent slice within delivery radius (E 25th st). I've yet to find it.
Of course I've partaken of the usual well-known suspects (Lombardi's, Joe's, etc.) and have heard tell of magical home-spun za joints on the upper (upper) east side and the outer boroughs. Besides nine or ten places in the greater NY Metro, every pizza place I've been to in manhattan, including the 20 or 30 in my zip code, insist on serving pies that are nothing short of inedible. I'm embarrassed to admit that I am the number one contributor to the Manhattan-based Crappy Pizza Fund. I'll order roughly once a week from a new place - going by ads from flyers, outside restaurants, even from the yellow pages boasting all-natural ingredients and homemade sauce. The result without exception is 20 bucks out of my pocket spent on Contandina-paste like sauce mixed with some species of gyro meat on a flavorless crust.
And don't get me started on fake cheese. You know the difference when you taste it - that rubbery, chewy consistency that triggers just a hint of a gag reflex - that's not mozzarella. That's a sample of the "finest ingredients" that places like Empire Pizza ("20 years of experience" making watery Ragu sauce), AnnaMaria on 23rd Street (ask for their rat-meatball special - unformed lumps of ground reconstituted gyro splattered unevenly on a milk toast crust), and Aiellos (on third ave) base a business on. These are the places you CAN find everywhere. While certain friends of mine enjoy a nasty slice cooked under a heat lamp after their night of drinking, I doubt that even they would call the pie at most corner delis the best the world has to offer.
As a restless hound who seeks only truth in all things edible, I'd like to assert once and for all that "New York-style" pizza, like any local culinary delight, is only well-made in the ten or so places that make it well - not on every corner, and certainly not anywhere near my neighborhood.
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