Friday, May 28, 2010

Witz Pickz: Pizza

I'm deviating from the normal posts today to bring you my definitive essay on my favorite food in the world: pizza. I wrote this a few months back and decided that it's about time I posted it on Witz Pickz.

Curb Your Epicurianism: An Essay

Life is about timing. Life is about people and opportunity, and luck, and grasping whatever love you can in this world and never letting go-- Life is about pizza.

My name is Witz and I'm a pizza addict. I can't get enough of the stuff. I love it, I crave it, and everything about it makes me happy-- the taste, the texture, the smell. Pizza has abused me-- stomach aches from loving it too much, scalding sauce splattering on my hands, toppings chaotically fleeing onto my clothes, singed tongues, and the dreaded hot cheese sticking to and burning the roof of my mouth-- but I've taken the abuse and come back for more.

I remember my first encounters with pizza-- I was four, and I hated pizza because I didn't like the sauce. My mom, who apparently hated the idea of me growing up healthy and in shape, brought home a white pie, and that was it for me, I was hooked. White pie was a gateway drug and it wasn't long before I took a liking to the real deal. I started in on the hard pies: Pizza Hut and even Domino's, the meth of the pizza world. I've done deep dish. I've done stuffed crust. I've done just plain stuffed-- the gluttonous menage a trois. Brick-oven, baked, from frozen, fresh, french bread, street cart, late night slice, on a bagel, cold, next day, you name it. I spent an entire summer on the budget effective seventy-five cent frozen pizza regimen we named the "Totino's Diet," in honor of our brand of choice, and I would strongly recommend this diet to anyone in search of more chins. I've been to some dark places. If you've ever gotten a five dollar hooker at a cheap motel and felt lonely and ashamed afterward, then you know what it's like to eat at Little Caesar's.

So you can understand why I was excited to go to New York's highly touted Grimaldi's on Sunday night. Not only that, but I was with my friend, and I'd promised her the best pizza in the city, while nonchalantly itching my arms and trying to contain both my shaking and withdrawal sweats. After taking the F train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, we started our walk to the supposed Promised Land. Fortunately, New York is a walking city, which is what people say a city is when everyone in it eats and drinks too much. The walk took longer than anticipated, partially because Brooklyn is a scenic borough and I thought she'd appreciate some haphazard wandering, and partially because I got us buck-ass lost. As our appetites and anticipation grew, we turned the corner and there was Grimaldi's...along with thirty other people waiting outside.

You see, for all Grimaldi's has in reputation, it lacks in seating. We peered in the slightly steamed windows at the happy people eating their happy pizza and then turned around to look at the annoyed, anxious people, eating their annoyed, anxious fingernails. But I'm a pizza addict, and we had come a long way, so I knew what had to be done-- I tried to bribe someone.

Walking to the front of the line, I asked if anyone was ordering takeout and if we could place our order with theirs and pay for their food. The first people in line shook their heads without comprehension, and when they spoke, I realized they were french and didn't speak much anglais. The next people in line? They were Asian and they also didn't speak English. The next group was hipsters, so I didn't speak their language, either. Already twelve people deep, I damned my lack of language learning in school and tried to think of what I had learned that might help me. Did these people speak recess? Could I communicate via alto saxophone? How could I creatively write myself to a quicker meal?? I cursed my education and started to think about which words from "Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi" might work. The whole, "avec moi ce soir" part seemed reasonable, but the first bit seemed either a bit desperate or not quite explanatory enough.

"Remember how I promised you the best pizza in Brooklyn?" I asked my friend.
"Well, instead of that, how would you feel about anything in the general vicinity?"

At that moment, a cyclist went by and shouted, "Front Street Pizza is better!" at the line. This marketing, the equivalent of "O'Doyle rules!" was both perplexing and entirely effective. Except, where was this Front Street Pizza? Was it close? How fit had that biker been and did he seem fatigued or relatively fresh from his trip? We waited for more cyclists with information, but none came. I suddenly realized that this is what most of my life has been-- standing, waiting for the next cyclist to ride by and tell me where the pizza is. It was time to take action.

Using our sleuthing skills and superior powers of deduction, we decided the pizza place was probably on Front Street. Walking back down the blocks, each step was filled with purpose, hunger, and probably some passive-aggressive silent frustration directed towards yours truly. Then we saw it-- Front Street Pizza, lights on, but with chairs stacked on tables. We hurried to the door where a sign read, "Due to funeral, we will close at 7pm." Appropriate, I thought, given that our second-string pizza, which might not even be possible to get, more than likely signaled the death of the night. Life is about timing, and once again, timing had been bad. If we'd gotten to the pizza sooner or much later, Grimaldi's might have been empty and we would have been inside, laughing, drinking, and eating. If it was after seven, we wouldn't even get our last resort. I checked my phone: "6:58." Timing is everything.

Pulling open the door, we went inside and ordered the last slices of the night. Our cold slices were tossed in the oven, reheated, and handed back to us in to-go boxes, because that's what it was time for and so we did. Back on the street, I tried to salvage the meal by thinking of places where our pizza would have greater context-- the Promenade, a park, the Brooklyn Bridge-- but pizza gets cold, legs get tired, and people remain hungry.

"What about this spot right here?" My friend asked, pointing to an open space of curb between a sedan and an SUV.
"Looks perfect," I replied.

We sat down on the curb and ate our pizza. Conversation stopped, but our moods were improved, and at that moment, Grimaldi's didn't have a damn thing on us. The cheese slid, the sauce sloshed, dough folded and gushed, and the crust crunched-- just like it always had. For those brief minutes, I could have died happy, and then we almost did.

"The SUV's backing up," she said.
"What do you mean?" I replied, mouth full.
"The SUV's backing up, the SUV's BACKING UP!" my friend reiterated in warning, and we hustled to grab our remaining slices and jump up out of the way. Clutching our wares on the sidewalk, reality came crashing back and it suddenly became clear that we were two adults, looking like orphans, eating pizza on a curb in Brooklyn. We laughed. "How about that spot over there?" she pointed and we relocated. Having avoided death for the moment, we sat down at our new table for two and I smiled, content with the knowledge that we were two adults, looking like orphans, eating pizza on a curb in Brooklyn. Maybe that's why I love pizza; it’s more than just dough, and sauce and cheese. A good meal isn't about where you eat or even what you're eating-- it's just about eating it with someone who makes sure that when an SUV backs up, you're not there to get run over.

1) City Pizza (Hartford, CT)
2) Luna Pizza (Simsbury, CT)
3) My Mom's Pizza (Home)
4) Little Star Pizza (San Francisco, CA)
5) Paxti's Pizza (Palo Alto, CA)
6) Zeek's Pizza (Seattle, WA)
7) Grimaldi's (Brooklyn, NY)
8) Little City Pizza (Simsbury, CT)
9) Numero 28 (Manhattan, NY)
10) Trader Joe's ingredients made at home (My kitchen)

...That Sounded Fat, Didn't It?,

1 comment:

c8 said...

#1. Modern Pizza in New Haven. Anyone who does not agree, has no taste at all.
The rest of the list can be in any order you'd like, as long as Modern is at the top.