Op-Ed: Of Pizza and the LES, or How I Spend My $2.50
There is no love like the first way-too-hot crunchy, chewy, cheesy, greasy bite of pizza.
Healthy food is all well and good, but when you need sustenance to make it through the day or night, you sometimes just need a slice. Or five.
So, I give you my four favorite Pizzerias east of Bowery and south of Houston. They are all markedly different, and they are incredibly delicious. They will henceforth not be listed in order of awesomeness, just in a convenient clockwise fashion around Sara Roosevelt Park.
Before I delve into my little breakdown, I should briefly outline my pizza credentials and pizza criteria with you.
I am merely a holder of Manhattan Pizza expertise. Admittedly, Brooklyn legend DiFara checks all of my anxiety boxes of line waiting and other intolerable, tourist soaked fuckery, so their pizza has evaded me thus far. Though I have been to Totonno’s and Spumoni Gardens, and man that was good. So purists can get angry if they like, but my weekends only upbringing in Staten Island, a.k.a. Shitaly, is like going to CCD for pizza catechism. If you have never been to Nunzio’s, you have never touched the foot of Santa Margherita of the Pizza Pie. Keep the tourist traps, because I was also trained in the art of Handmade pizza and Mozzarella en Carozza by my Dad, who was a fabulous cook despite his many flaws. We made our own mozz from Novelli’s buffalo curd. Surviving on a lunch of Chelsea slices during college, I made sure to only give my $1.50 to the best places (Bella Napoli, forever).
Now that the slices we were used to paying $1.50 for cost $2.50, no one wants to eat a shitty slice … unless it costs a dollar.
For me, the finest pizza is the ‘standard’ New York style slice, but I have space in my heart for other types, if they meet the following criteria:
- Must have crunch.
- Cheese must be slightly blistered.
- Sauce must be a touch sweet and salty, not too acidic and not over seasoned.
- And there must be NO OREGANO sprinkled on the pie.
Seriously, if you sprinkle oregano on your display pies, I will turn around and walk away. I have nothing against herbs, in fact, I am rather fond of them, but the overpowering piney pungency that freeze dried plant fodder imparts to every shred of luscious pie it touches is a dealbreaker for me. Last of all, pizza must be kissed by a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
Italian immigrants paraded down Orchard St with a tub of small pizzas on their head at one point in time, I would hearken back to these days in a heartbeat over the confused puddle of wannabes that currently line the street. Though there are plenty of “good” places, how many of them can we actually eat at on a regular basis? How many of them sell affordable items or artwork for people that only have a 5-figure salary? At least even someone that recycles cans for a living can afford pizza.
Pizzerias are great for different reasons. They can be great places to have a date, or delicious, reliable places to call when you don’t feel like cooking. These are selected for their different values to the neighborhood. These are reasons why in my opinion, you can never have too much pizza.
1 o’clock: La Margarita Pizzeria, 151 Ludlow St (between Rivington St and Stanton St)
Yum Yum YUMMMM! This is a proper slice joint, for sure. The counter staff is super sweet and polite. Despite the strategic, smack in the middle of Hell Square location, there are never tooooo many drunkies in there. The balance of respectful diners and twats is not bad, which is hard to find in other, more obvious corner pizzerias. Scaffolding always makes for mystery, and behind the little window is a charming shop with a great slice. Appropriate crunch, palatable acidic sweetness, decent cheese, and a few gourmet extras, like nice olive oil that you can taste in the crust, and a big plate of roasted garlic for eat-in use.
Luckily, this place has a great price on a large pie at $13.00 and with speedy delivery. I have never had a bad experience. Whether in transit and in need, or incapacitated and insatiable, La Margarita does not disappoint.