What happened to New York Pizza?
As a child growing up in the 1980s in Long Island, NY, choosing a restaurant was the simplest task known to man. It didn't take the back and forth conversations, the searches on Tripadvisor, or a glance at Yelp. When asked, "what do you want to eat?" The answer was quite simple. I always asked for pizza, Mcdonald's, pizza, chinese food, or I would mention pizza again. If I thought it was a special occasion I would mention Red Lobster or Sizzler hoping that I would be lucky enough to be taken there. However, pizza was always on the tip of my tongue.
Going to the pizza store in my neighborhood, it was called Mario's at the time, was the best treat ever! In my kiddie eyes, having pizza from Mario's made me feel special. If your mother brought pizza for the class you were a champion for the day. If she dropped off cupcakes with it, your celebrity status might last a week.
Similar to "The Maxx" on Saved by the Bell or "The Pitt" on Beveraly Hills 90210, pizza restaurants were a common hang out after school. The owners not only knew your name but they knew your family as well. The pizza wasn't good, it was great! If it was a hot day, you might even add an Italian ice or eat your pizza on someone's porch. In those days, pizza started the party.
I eventually moved to Florida in the 1990s and was introduced to every possible chain pizza restaurant with a high level of disappointment. Pizza accompanied by cheese sticks, garlic sauces, and wings couldn't replace a slice of New York pizza.
When I returned to NY as a teenager, I closed my eyes and the hot cheese and toasted bread brought back every childhood memory in one bite. I ate pizza every day on my vacation. My NY peers even questioned my daily choice of pizza by about day five. By the end of the week, my teenage face started to break out, but I didn't care. I just dabbed the oil off my pizza more thoroughly to enjoy the remainder of my New York vacation.
A few years ago, I went back to New York, and I ordered a slice. Mario's had closed down so I ordered some pizza further out on the island. I don't remember the name of the pizza place, but I do remember that it was near Hofstra University. On the first bite, I tasted the goodness of the hot cheese but I was blank. No childhood memory soared. No tingling sensation through my body and my tongue didn't have its traditional parade. What was wrong? Had I outgrown New York pizza? Did my Florida palate change my love for New York pizza? Did New York pizza change? I looked around our hotel room and I saw the disappointment on everyone's face. My mother said, "This doesn't taste like New York pizza." My husband's face gave away his disappointment. I had raved about New York pizza for probably the better half of our marriage and he was finally getting to taste it for the first time in 20 years and he gave me a look that said,"You really hyped this up for no reason." I don't think that I have ever heard my husband use the word "hype" but I am pretty sure that his look said that.
Last week, I decided to give New York pizza another chance. Maybe, we chose the wrong place last time. Maybe, it taste more authentic in the city. I ordered pizza from "Patzeria Family and Friends" "It had to be good," I thought. It was rated number 23 out of 10,114 restaurants in NYC on Tripadvisor.
The pizza was delivered, I jumped up with excitement and grabbed the door as if the delivery man was santa clause, ready to hand out the gifts to all of the good little boys and girls. My husband and I opened the box and we were taken aback by all of the oil on the pizza. We took out our napkins and blotted the cheese. "I remember the oil," I told him. "Don't be discouraged, this may be a good sign." I picked up my pizza, folded it in half like any true New Yorker would do, and I took my first bite. It was good, but I didn't get any of my out of this world feelings. Okay, I added some of the peppers, parsley, and parmesan cheese that came with the order. It was better....but nothing happened. Maybe, I just don't feel the same way about New York pizza. Tell me, has New York pizza changed or has my palate changed over the years?