Monday, July 25, 2011

Why New Yorkers Remain Globally Friendless

Because you just can't take us anywhere. See if this rings familiar:

"While you're visiting, we just have to go to Panda Dragon*. It is THE BEST Chinese food in all of Boulder!"

*Panda Dragon is not a real place. It was my lame attempt at naming anonymous Chinese restaurants which generally have either Panda or Dragon in the name.

One hour later and your hosts are looking at you like you'll never be invited back to their home because you vaguely picked at the gelatinous mess that was Panda Dragon's Kung Pao chicken.

Since moving to Greenwich, devoted partner and I have tried our hand at local Chinese (which is perilously more expensive than your de facto local Chinese in New York - I mean when was the last time your Chinese food main course cost more than 10 bucks?) and have decided that the best option is the anonymous, neon lighted shack on Port Chester's main street whose cuisine you lovingly refer to as "dirty Chinese."

As an aside, I don't know where this handle came from, but we've been using it for quite some time. Since I think it is a personal moniker, let me explain: "drity Chinese" comes from a place with one or two molded plastic bench/table combos, optional bulletproof glass separating your from the person making your food, and frequently serves such Chinese delicacies as fried chicken. Clean Chinese a) delivers, b) has waiters, and c) does not immediately assume you intend to rob the establishment.

However, despite my near-universal pessimism, I am still idealistic when it comes to CT food - I feel like I just haven't found the excellent food, not that it doesn't exist. So this weekend, a girlfriend and I hopped in the car and drove just shy of an hour to reach New Haven where "the best pizza" is. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a New Haven institution, operating since 1925, and if you make with the google, it has an insane following of superlative gushers, touting it as the best pizza, not in CT, just THE BEST.

I like pizza. Many know that my last meal in prison prior to death sentence would be pizza. I think it's important to try as much pizza as possible. Driving an hour for pizza, especially the best pizza, seems a small sacrifice.

The good news: we managed to sneak in just shy of noon when there was no wait. Upon exiting a mere 30ish minutes later, the line was out the door and halfway down the block, forcing passers-by to imagine the best pizza is only a half-block line away.

The bad news: the "best pizza" is, for your New Yorker accustomed to an embarrassment of pizza riches, 100% average. There is nothing wrong with the pizza, but there is absolutely nothing special about it. It is thin crust pizza and if I had to rate it next to some of New York's thin crusts, it's in the Grimaldi's range (though Grimaldi's is better) and falls far short of, say, Patsy's in East Harlem (bonus note: the ONLY good thing about living in East Harlem was the proximity of Patsy's).

It's crust, which needs more salt, topped with bland but not objectionable tomato sauce, and the same cheese everyone else uses. I don't know why that gets the title "famous," but I assume it's the same kind of "famous" as Original Famous Ray's, Famous Original Ray's, Ray's Famous Original, etc. etc. The long and short of it is, it's flippin' thin crust pizza. End of story.

Having never lived in New Haven, I can't determine if it's the best pizza in New Haven, thereby earning a place in Yalies' hearts, but I do know that it would not remotely distinguish itself on the streets of New York where there is just a lot a lot of really good pizza.

Nota bene: in addition to being "famous" for their regular original famous pizza, Frank Pepe is noted for it's clam pizza. I, myself, would never eat clam pizza, nor would I judge a restaurant on it's clam pizza because if you're a pizza place, first and foremost, you need to make cheese pizza. It is the barometer. If your cheese pizza is good, one may be tempted to try your other flavors; however, if you can't make a cheese pizza, I don't care how much crap you pile on another pie, you gave failed in my eyes. However, my friend Julie DID order the clam pizza. She was unimpressed.

No comments:

Post a Comment