I wish you would stop calling it that

I know you think you’re being genuine when you say that this pizza is New York-style. You have seen the photos, and heard the stories, and perhaps you have even been to New York personally, to sample the most famous pies and slices, and have come away with a basic understanding of what makes a “New York slice” a “New York” slice. That’s fine.

Plus, I know you have a job to do. You have to make pizza, and saying you have to make “pizza” is like saying you have to make “a sandwich.” A sandwich means so many different things. It’s meat and bread. Or is it cheese and meat and bread? Or is it veggies and cheese and mustard or mayo and bread? Or is a hot dog? Seriously, is a hot dog a sandwich? It only has one piece of bread, folded in the center, which makes me think it’s not a sandwich, but is being able to see the contents of your meal from any angle (except the top or bottom) the only thing that makes a sandwich a sandwich? Similarly, “pizza” means different things to different people, and New York-style is a short-hand for, among other things, thin crust, and not a lot of sauce, but the sauce that is there should be sweet, and the slice should be sizable (fuck out of here, Domino’s) and foldable, and the cheese should be mozzarella and melty but not TOO melty because otherwise you pick the slice up and all the shit falls right off and then you’re just eating saucy bread with a side of cheese. And that’s hard to fit all on one sign.

But you need to understand what you’re doing when you say that your pizza is New York-style and then you bring the pie out and it’s a bunch of small slices that you need to cut with a fork and knife and the sauce has the flavor of oatmeal: You’re playing with my emotions. And it has to stop.

Atlanta is big into New York-style pizza, since there are a lot of Northern transplants who come here for school or because they are tired of snow and stay for awhile. But too many places are boasting that they make pizza like New Yorkers do, in the style that drives my father nearly hysterical, his hands gesturing subtly as he describes holding a perfectly charred, crispy yet soft slice from Totonno’s and watching as it holds shape, perpendicular to the table and never hanging towards the floor, washing down each bite with a Dr. Brown’s root beer.

You don’t know what you’re doing to me when you say that your slice is New York-style. I understand you are not claiming that it is New York-quality or New York-taste. You have to differentiate it from Chicago-style and the rest of the pretenders, for marketing purposes. But when you deliver something that lacks some of the most basic hallmarks of New York pizza — not to mention the taste — you make me yearn for something I truly cannot have here.

I’m a pizza snob and fine about admitting it, but I’m not above acquiescing to the idea that there is good pizza outside New York. I know people who refuse to believe that this is possible, because OUR WATER IS SO AMAZING AND NO ONE ELSE CAN POSSIBLY MAKE GOOD PIZZA WITHOUT THIS HUDSON VALLEY WATER THAT WE GET FROM THE TAP, FROM THE FUCKIN’ TAP, AND IT HAS TO BE HAND-TOSSED BY A GENUINE I-TALIAN, OR POSSIBLY A MEXICAN OR ECUADORIAN, and all that shit. There’s good pizza in Atlanta, in fact, and the good stuff is actually more in the style (and flavor) of NYC pizza than those that claim it on their signage or menu. Ammazza. Antico’s. (There’s apparently a place called O4W Pizza by some Jersey folks that’s supposed to be good — I tried to go recently but they were closed.) Thin and flavorful and just the right amounts of cheese and sauce. And they don’t fall all over themselves to say it’s in the style that made New York famous for it’s pizza. They just do it.

And that’s the difference, to me: New York-style places make me all too aware that I’m not in New York; places that make quality pizza remind me that New York isn’t the only place to be. Food should be a comfort, not a point of consternation.

So I wish you would stop calling your pies “New York” pizza, because only pizza made in New York can make that claim. Get your own style and keep that name out of your mouth and off your Yelp page.

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