How did you spend your downtime between Christmas and New Years in 2009? I'll tell you how I spent part of mine: on pizza tourism. Did I just make that term up? It's catchy, isn't it?
At 11am I met up with twenty or so strangers in front of 53 1/2 Spring St. Any pizza fanatic worth their weight in dough knows this is where American pizza was born in 1905- Lombardi's original address (now a bar). What did the bunch of us have in common? We were all about to embark on a three hour tour (insert Gilligan joke here) of pizza history, led by none other than Scott Wiener of Scott's Pizza Tours.
After rallying everyone together and prefacing the tour, Scott took us down the street to Lombardi's current location for a slice.
While we warmed ourselves in Lombardi's back alcove, Scott began spitting facts and dates like no one's business. Seriously, this guy knows everything there is to know about pizza.
Almost as soon as we were seated pies were brought out to each table. I hadn't had a Lombardi's pizza in a long time, so it was great to have it once more (note to self: Lombardi's needs its own entry here). Just look at it-
As everyone chowed down, Scott took everyone back one table at a time to check out the oven (it's hard enough to fit a 20-person party into a pizzeria, let alone the kitchen). Scott's enthusiasm was kicked up a notch to meet the intensity of the hustle-and-bustle of Lombardi's kitchen-
After filling our stomachs with a hot slice or two, we popped back outside to brave the cold. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mr. Wiener stops us on a side street to give us a brief explanation on the differences between anthracite and bituminous coal :
There he is holding some memorabilia from his trip to Scranton's Anthracite Museum. FYI, anthracite coal is what is used in cooking pizza since it's (relatively) cleaner burning. As tempted as I am to post all the pictures I took, I don't want to divulge every aspect of Scott's bodacious tour.
After a couple P.P. I.'s (pizza points of interest), we headed for the west village for our next stop on the tour and my favorite NY slice in the city, Joe's Pizza.
Hey look! There's Scott grabbing a table from a very packed Joe's filled with lunch hour patrons. Scott calls ahead to each pizzeria to give them a heads up that he and his entourage are on the way, so by the time we get there the pies are fresh out of the oven and ready for consumption.
There's Jack in the middle, it was his 9th birthday! Man, I wish that's how I spent my 9th birthday, what more can you ask for? Once the pizza was served, a grabbed a slice and stepped to the side to take a phone call and unknowingly at the time became the example of how to fold your slice and multitask.
If I lived outside Joe's, I'd be this overweight too. Once we cleaned our plates, Scott returned the table back inside and we walked all of two blocks to John's, which had an even longer line than Joe's.
To kill time while we waited for our pizza, Scott hopped down into John's cellar to show us, once again, some coal-
There are heaps and heaps of it down there. Not before long, our pies arrived, much to the chagrin of patrons in line.
Pizza monster! I've never had John's at this location (only the 44th St. "Church of Pizza"), but it was definitely my favorite slice of the tour.
Man, feast your eyes on that! Oven-fresh sloppy and full of flavor! In the end, Scott's Pizza Tour was a blast, no bones about it. I went in (naively) expecting just to eat some pizza and hear the all-too-familiar history of New York pizza, which is definitely what I got, but so much more. Scott is truly entertaining and full of tons of pizza trivia you've never heard before.
I can't stress this enough, especially to locals: become a NY pizza tourist, and let Scott be your guide!