Friday, February 17, 2006
The Lazy World of Times Square Pizza
Pizza is one of my very favorite topics. I am not unique in this regard. I've said it before, and I'll undoubtedly say it again: I know how to recognize good pizza, but I understand that it is not always possible to find good pizza. And I live twenty miles outside of Manhattan, in an area where fine specimens are available, not in, say, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I've heard it's impossible to get quality baked goods of any kind, let alone a decent pie.
I'm not like my dad. As he chews on any slice that was not either A) made by my mother, or B) from his hometown of New Haven (where you can find some of the finest pizza ever), he's famous for saying "This isn't pizza." No, I'm more realistic than that. But I can still get my hopes up and then fall prey to true pizza disappointment, which is one of the most stinging letdowns there is. And I never learn.
Tonight my disappointment came at John's Pizzeria in Times Square. I knew I'd be in the area, and early in the day, as I thought about where to eat, I remembered John's. My decision was made, and I started to obsess in the mid-afternoon until it reached a fever pitch. I dreamed of tangy and vibrant tomatoes, oozing oases of fresh mozzarella, blackened bits of crust shattering under my teeth...
What I got was much closer to my local pizzeria's undistinguished output than I could have imagined. I had been to John's before, years ago, and I knew I wasn't going to have the best pie I'd ever eaten, but I wasn't expecting this isn't pizza. You can see the photo -- it wasn't awful. I'll admit that it was pizza. But there was absolutely nothing special about it. Neither cheese nor sauce had much flavor, plus the pie committed the cardinal sin of having a pale bottom. A pizza cooked in a brick oven should get banged up a little bit, show some signs of almost touching the flame. This sucker was all dainty on the flip side. I appreciated the browned top crust, and especially the few little bubbles, but if I'm going to have an achy jaw in the morning from all that chewing -- and this stuff required more work than usual -- I want to remember my pizza fondly.
I'm going to chalk this one up to the Times Square location; surely a pizzeria can get away with anything in such a tourist trap of an area. And I am going to vow to soon try Una Pizza Napoletana downtown, which I understand is the real deal, even going as far as turning out unsliced pies like they do in Italy. But my excitement begins now, and it's a long way down.