I’m not here to talk to you about the merits of New York thin style versus Chicago deep-dish style pizza. That’s a subjective controversy of a different nature.
The pizza I am here to discuss is not subjective and it is not bought “by-the-pie.” Yeah, I know a lot of places in the world only sell whole pizzas, but these aren’t really designed for people eating alone or on a budget (not that I can’t eat a whole pizza, mind you).
Whole pizzas are expensive because they include multiple servings. Something that a single diner can’t take advantage of on their way to class, work, the gym (my favorite), the bar, the club, the after-party, or on public transportation, after the after-party. No, whole pies don’t work in this functionality.
The pizza I am talking about—be it Chicago, New York, Grandma-style, Sicilian, or that of the sheet variety, to list a few—is sold by the slice, costs between $1 and $2, and is topping-less. That’s right—just crust, tomato sauce, cheese, and perhaps some parmesan, red chili flakes, garlic salt, oregano, or the commonly ignored as “too simple,” salt.
If your favorite pizzeria does not have a product that resembles this, you are not in a pizzeria. You are in a restaurant, and you are going to overpay for your food (and probably miss your bus home too).
Finding a Decent Place
To find the right place, be wary of a restaurant’s selection of products. If you live outside of an urban center, you might be enticed to get pizza from a nearby place that also sells hamburgers, fried chicken, Indian curry, Chinese soup dumplings, etc. These places often have the words “Palace” or “World” in their names.
Focus on places with names like “Tony’s,” “Anthony’s,” “Lil’ Tony’s,” “Marie’s,” or “Pizza Cotta Bene.” If the walls feature a mural of Mount Vesuvius, pictures from Goodfellas or The Godfather, or an autographed Joe DiMaggio baseball, you are probably in the right place.
Make sure the menu has only Italian food and mostly things cooked in a pizza oven: baked pasta, unbaked pasta, a hero with tomato sauce and melted cheese, etc. The only real exception is Buffalo wings. If a pizzeria has Buffalo wings, that should be OK, just don’t expect them to always be great. If you are lucky enough to live near a place that makes a killer slice of pizza and Buffalo wings, never move—and make sure the owners don’t either.
Finding a Great Slice
Here are a few simple tests to help you decide if your local pizzeria meets the price-to-value ratio:
- Slices: Can you order pizza by the slice? It has to be yes or you leave.
- Cost: How much do two slices and a soft drink cost? If this answer is less than a super-sized Big Mac™ or Double Quarter Pounder ™ meal, you are good.
- Choice: Do they have multiple toppings sold by the slice? If yes, this is starting to look good.
- Toppings: Do they have toppings like penne alla vodka or bacon and eggs? If yes, it might be a trap!!! Done well, these toppings can be excellent. Just be wary—non-Italian toppings could be the first indicator of potentially terrible dough and sauce.
- Buffalo style: Do they make Buffalo wing-style pizza/calzones? If they do, they are awesome and you should be proud. However, it is imperative that these items only include dough, blue cheese dressing, fried chicken, mozzarella, hot sauce, and more blue cheese on the side. If they put tomato sauce on it, they are amateurs. Be careful.
I hope these simple rules will help you find a place with pizza that’s not only cheap but also delicious. If you cannot find a local place that does these things, make your own pizza. It is even cheaper and easier than you can imagine.
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