New York Pizza & Cultural Implications

photo via Bon Apetit Mag
Watching my pizza arrive like...
Watching my pizza arrive like…

New York and pizza are synonymous. One in the same. You say them in the same breath and basically when you say one, you also mean the other. Pizza = NYC. NYC=Pizza. Alright, you get the point. Pizza is, well, life out here. It’s basically equivalent to LA’s green juice. During my first week in NYC I have eaten pizza 3 times. Each time cheap, easy, and on the go. (Actually Archie’s wasn’t on the go).

I’ve done some research, and while the origins and history of New York pizza are not clear to me, there is a definite and imperative set of standards when it comes to the thing:

First: A slice to go is always served on a thin, cheap, greasy white paper plate and a stack of napkins. Regardless of price or quality, this is generally standard.

Second: No matter how your ancestors ate pizza before you, while in New York, you will always and only eat it with your hands, folded in half while cramming it into your mouth. This is law. Don’t you dare lift a fork and knife to these sacred beings, you west-coast/European-wannabe heathen degenerate—outcried every true New Yorker to Mayor de Blasio.

While the first two have no exceptions, the third is not a requirement, but still highly recommended: Eat and walk. Now, I am a savorer of life. I enjoy taking it easy, indulging my senses. I do not enjoy walking and eating, at all. But it’s extremely common to see this happening at any point in the city. I once stopped and asked a proud and true New Yorker (“I sure am!”) on the street if I must do this while consuming the holy grail of bread, tomatoes, and cheese. He told me, “It depends. What’s the pizza look like?”

At the time, I actually had two slices in my hand: a classic margherita (thin crust, oozing with cheese and sauce. Quite a delight in my opinion) and the notably heavier famous Artichoke slice (wide, thick crusted and heavy with creamy artichoke sauce and cheese).

“Alright, this one you definitely gotta eat on the go.” Pointing to the margherita. “It’s light, easy to carry and hold in one hand. Good for walking. This one’s heavier and will probably require two hands. So see, it depends on the crust. Us New Yorkers are multi-taskers. If you can walk, talk, and eat, then you know what you’re doin’.”

NOTE: He also told me you’re not a true New Yorker until you’ve lived here 10 years. I’ve also heard the same about crying on the metro.

Needless to say, he was right. The Artichoke slice was heavy and slowed me down while walking.


Now, let’s take a look at the cultural implications of New York Pizza…

Unlike my recent days in Barcelona, New York is a fast paced place. Everyone is always on the go. After, pizza, work is also life so there’s not really a moment to sit back crack and beer and eat your pizza slowly. Living space is small, so people take their business to the streets. Since everyone is always moving (and never sleeping), nourishing yourself must be quick, efficient, and easy to do—enter the pizza slice: Quick, efficient, easy to do, and quite frankly, your cheapest option. It was basically made for a New Yorker’s lifestyle, which is probably why it caught on so intensely, and not, say, a burger and fries.

What about the hot dog? That’s quick, efficient, and also easy to do… New Yorkers like their hot dogs too, as we can see with the number of street venders, but it still doesn’t have that je ne sais quoi that pizza does. Personally, I think this goes back to history. New York is known to be the landing spot for the Italian working class in the late 1800s and early 20th century. This fostered a large and extended Italian-American community, which held on dearly to their homeland traditions. Not to mention, Italians, by nature, are extremely close-knit and like to keep everything in the family for generations to come! With such a large Italian-American population in NYC and the surrounding areas, it’s no surprise the pizza tradition stuck and adapted to a more American consumer needs. Simply traced back to the Italian roots of New York City, the evolution of pizza  trends is apparent: most recently, we’ve come full circle on the pattern and “gone back to the roots”, as seen in an increase of more traditional preparation “wood-fired, artisanal, Naples-style” pizzas, which hail from more authentic, Italian origins and less Americanized.

So while in Spain, a spread of tapas are enjoyed slowly on a terrace with bottles of wine and conversation until midnight, New Yorkers are fast-walking down 5th Ave with a greasy paper plate folded in half and pizza in hand to make the last F train downtown.

Don’t be fooled, there is nothing New Yorkers love more than their pizza (apart from this damned city). To date, there has been no other food to take pizza’s place in a New Yorkers heart and it should be damn proud of the fact.

So what do you think New Yorkers? Am I right on this? Does it have something to do with your fast-paced life that ‘za has reigned (and will always) reign supreme?

PIZZA REVIEW: So far my favorite slices have been devoured at Artichoke. Believe the hype. It’s everything you want in a slice and more.

Roberta’s: Not a typical NYC-slice spot. A slightly more gourmet, wood-fired type and not served by the slice (whole pizza only, totally okay by me). Famous and lives up to that fame! Amazing. Really. Blog post for sure coming on that. 

I don’t know if I’ll be harmed for saying this, but Joe’s Pizza is NOT WORTH IT. I felt like I was eating a large cracker with some sauce on it. Not even cheesy. I’m willing to give it one more chance. Will update this weekend. 


1 Comment

  1. Me like, will read more. Thanks!

Leave a Reply