In Shanghai, Feast New York by the Slice
The most memorable foods in New York City are mostly tied with immigrants. Jewish Bagel, Mexican Taco, Hummus from Middle East, the often hunger inducing smell of the Greek Gyros on a food truck. Ah, don't forget the long lined The Halal Guys, a New York version of Huangmenji Rice ( “黄焖鸡米饭” ).
The most iconic one of them is probabaly my least favorite, the New York-style Pizza.
它的名字，叫New York Pizza。
Like many pizzas in the world, the New York-style pizza is a variation of Naepolitan Pizza. Inheriting the same thin-crispy crust, using local ingredients and cooking method such as coal fire instead of the original wood oven, the hand-tossed New York-style pizza is larger in size, ranging from 16 to 18 inches. The all-time best selling flavor of New York-style pizza is ketchup topped with mozzarella cheese. When it's done, look for the ketchup oozing from underneath the greasy, pliable cheese - a distinct New York-style.
The fashion of Pizza by the Slice was started in New York's Italian immigrant community, by a Little Italy grocery store called Lombardi's. Its targeted customers, mostly immigrant factory workers, could not afford a whole pie. Go by the slice is much more affordable and does not require sitting down with a knife and a fork, fits perfectly the lifestyle of a poor immigrant worker.
据说，世界上第一个按片卖Pizza的（Pizza by the Slice），是纽约小意大利的披萨店Lombardi's。厨师突发奇想，把涂满芝士和番茄酱的大圆饼，裁成片出售，掀起了一场不小的披萨革命：买不起整个披萨，也可以买一片，还不用刀叉，手一抓就能吃！
Holding the giant thin slice of pizza with one hand without dropping the topping, requires practice. The answer is, fold it. This technique not only allows you to enjoy your slice avoiding the mess but also doubles the amount of pizza you can eat with one bite...
Well Julia Roberts knows her way of being elegant but extra point for Mr Gosling, a native Canadian, for harnessing the arts of eating a slice of New York-style pizza.
Also, thanks to the slice, legions of workers were fed, generations of nolstagia, appeased.
I've passed by Lomardi's many times when I lived in New York. The hundred year old establishment is now serving mostly foreign visitors, hoarded together by travel guides written in many different languages, for a pilgram of the earliest and most authentic New York-style pizza.
The locals who live paycheck-to-paychek don't go to Lombardi's anymore, instead they frequent the $1 or 99 cents pizza joints. The kind of place where a slice is sold at the price of a dollor or 99 cents.
This sort of pizza joints is everywehre in New York and can be spotted easily: from several blocks away, you won't miss the strong smell; a shining neon-lit sign of "pizza" and "$1 per slice" never goes out; Diving in, you were quickly surrounded by hot and humid cooking fume due to poor ventilation; A very basic design of the dining room, or simply no design, few chairs, all set up for a quick bite standing on your feet.
Fresh out of the oven, the pizza was cut by a special pizza cutter into 8 pieces, served in a white, round paper plate with a napkin tucked underneath, with a sprinkle of chili flakes, it's ready to eat!
For the quality of the ingredients, it's not fair to compare a dollar joint to a beloved family-run pizzaria. But the low cost serves its own purpose and feed its customers accordingly.
The cheapest opiton is the classic ketchup and cheese, priced at 99 cents or a dollar. An addtion of Pepperoni doubles the cost. The most popular combo, $2.75 for 2 slices of pizza and a can of soda(or water), is a budget choice for lunch that make ends meet. It's 50% cheaper than 4 picks and 1 soup in Chinatown!
The everyday pizza is the pizza in the street, is the staple for the poor, is the New York version of Qian Li Xiang (千里香)。
If we have to talk about nutrients. Well the sitting-down-with-knife-and-fork pizzaria, even with its better quality ingredients, cannot alter the fact of high calories...truth is, pizza, just like fried chicken (and many other junkfoods), fits into all kinds of circumstances: a quick bite before class, together with friends watching TV, lonely, sad (and awkward) moments after a break-up...pizza is always there for you.
A slice of pizza fixes everything. If not, take two.
My street pizza experiences usually involve alcohol. The midnight view of 14th street and 1st Ave, or Alphabet City at 2 o'clock in the morning, with a group of drunk colleauges and friends, we swang into one of those 24 hour pizza joint, giggling and gulping down a slice or two. The next day, all details were gone, and hungover was spared.
Another type of the pizzarias that locals frequent has not much to do with the New York-style. The famed Roberta's in Bushwick, Brooklyn was a pioneer in local artisanal pizza, exploring the edge of baking techniques as well as creative flavors. The normal wait is between 2 to 3 hours. For a cool, breezy summer night, it's not bad to spend few hours talking to friends in the yard, waiting to be seated - it's part of the experience anyway.
Back to Manhattan, I've never been to Lombardi's. Not a big fan of the acclaimed Rubirosa, I‘d go for Emporio instead for its wood oven Naepolitan pizza and delicious handmade pasta; if you consider yourself qutie edgy and a trend-setter, try Denny Meyer's Marta, 9'' single pizza filled with artichokes and prosciutto, topped with a poarched egg, I cannot think of anything better than this for a hangover cure.
After relocating to Shanghai, I've missed a good bagel, I've searched vigorously for the best Hummus, but I have NEVER had the crave for New York-style pizza.
I never considered it special.
The pizza in New York is like a background music that never stops humming, a caring perosn who always gets to be the back-up or the rebound, so caring and so very common.
But it is this pizza, that made me blurt out things like "oh fuck" and couldnt stop thinking about the crispy and crunchy crust hours later...
If you miss New York, maybe it's time for a slice of pizza.
J o e ' s P i z z a
In the pizza power map of New York, stands the 40 year old, family-run pizzaria Joe's Pizza, representing Greenwhich Village. Till this date, it has been handed down three generations and opened up three locations in New York.
After 40 some years thriving in Greenwhich and the neighbourhood beyond, the first big step outside New York, was an outpost in Shanghai, thousands miles away from its original location.
在纽约Pizza版图里，营业四十载的家族式披萨店Joe's Pizza，是格林威治村（Greenwhich Village）一面屹立不倒的大旗，如今已经传到了第三代。
Joe's Pizza Shanghai (btw, if you take the "pizza" out it's the name of a famous Shanghainese restaurant in New York, 鹿鸣春), this authentic franchise from New York took over a location on Wujiang Road near N. Maoming Road. Sitting on top of 3 metro lines, embracing a number of office builidngs nearby, the business had a strong and steady start.
Funnything, the neighbour next door happens to be Subway, the American chain sandwich store around for more than 10 years.
There is a brick wall filled with photographs, this kinda trick worked well with long established institution aka lao zi hao (老字号) regardless, greatly enhancing the authenticity of the place. And it sells. They even put up two LED screens on top of the cashier, playing a video on repeat mode for a better introduction of the pizza and the family story behind.
The short video was about how the family's younger generation brought the old pizzaria to Williamsburg. Well I have to say now I missed it a little.
Extra point for this location: foreigners making pizza! This is quite normal in the expat dominated concession area, but as for Wujiang Road, admit it, this is exotic.
Peeping through the wrought iron window that reminds a little of downtown Manhattan, a few local Shanghainese stopped with a curious look on their face, staring at a few young foreign lads busy preparing pizza dough.
Menu was simple and straightforward. A slice was priced at 22 to 35 kuai, about the same level as in New York. Apart from the normal soda and water, they've got 3 flavors of Goose Island on top as the brewery happens to be around the corner.
I tried the classic, the pepperoni and the spinach snowwhite (strongly recommended by one expat staff who speaks perfect Chinese. )
Classic and Pepperoni were crispy as imagined and charred a little on the edge. The crust is rather hard and try. My dining buddy gave each no more than a bite and left a comment: "fillings not enough, and it's a bit too dry. "
On the other side, sat me eating this pizza like I couldn't stop it...
At first bite, I knew this is it.
Long time no eat.
Excuse my language. The crust is a bit too dry, and it's quite chewy. You should have known better to ask for an extra cheese (or topping). But this is exactly what I've had before, 2 o'clock in the morning, somewhere in east village, or lower east side...
Besides, the bright white lights hanging above your head, the view of the guys busy making pizzas in the open kitchen, and the sound of an old American pop song hovering over...a specific combination of flavor, texture, light and smell brought me down my memory lane, flashes of old days, in an utterly unexpected way.
In this slice of New York-style pizza I've never crave, lives the city and my past.
I would not recommend the snowwhite unless you season it with an extra sprinkle of chili flakes. And the crust was too soft as a result of an overload of ricotta.
To pick a key factor among all things matter. Crust is everything. Chewy, cripsy, and DRY, together they make the perfect New York pizza as far as I am concerned. The amount of water added, the way you toss your dough, looks simple but takes years of practice. I noticed one of the cooks was possibly Mexican, obviously brought here by the owner straight from New York.
The best pizza masters in New York is not Italian, they are Mexican.
We met at the door when I was leaving and I told him:
"I love the pizza, it's exactly the same as I had in New York. "
H o m e s l i c e
I got to know this place through a chef friend, a much trustworthy source of new restaurant openings.
"I know 25 kuai sounds expensive but the toppings were generous, and they got the seasoning right. "
And 25 is actually quite cheap, consider it's Shanghai. I bumped into Beef & Liberty's Uwe Opocensky(who currrently takes care of a series of resturants across Hong Kong and Shanghai, such as Beef & Liberty), a self-claimed pizza lover, obviously loved what he just had.
探店的当晚，在餐厅里遇到了采访过的Beef & Liberty新任总厨Uwe Opocensky，对此地的Pizza，自诩Pizza党的他，亦是举双手推荐。
Compared to Joe's, this place is SWAG. The designer decoratd the wall with New York Metro Lines and the entrance was modeled after the Astor Place metro station.
Even the opening poster adpoted the same style of a service change notification :D
比起Joe's，这家店的装修可时髦多了。设计师选用了按颜色标注的纽约地铁线路图作为装修灵感，店门仿造纽约Astor Place地铁站外形，仔细看看，还真有那么点意思~ （插句题外话，很多人是按颜色来记的，黄线、橙线、蓝线等，我是按字母记的，NQR、BDFM、ACE……估计这里面也有很多思维习惯的差异吧~）
Being a New York-style pizzaria, the owner is a British restaurateur known for Fulton place and Pop-up restaurant project Yangjingbang. As opposed to the prime location of Joe's, Found 158 (大同坊) is much less known to any local foodie (or anyone lives in Shanghai). But the mention of JZ club might change your view, and Homeslice is gearing up a partnership with Sherpa's at the end of Febuary. Stay tuned and rejoice!
Price is 10% cheaper than Joe's in general. A drinking list consists of a number of Italian apertif cocktails such as Negroni、Aperol Spritz and Americano priced at 40 kaui on average, plus a loft spce much more comfortable, with an additoin of decent salad, I'd be happy to hang out here with friends.
We've seen a few people swinging by to get a whole pie and I'm pretty sure people will do take-outs when delivery service is in place.
Ah, and the drinks were good.
The pizza master Rock is a local Chinese. I found it very impressive when I learned he gained his skill self-taught.
I tried also 3 different flavors: White，Meat，and Sausage; The White pizza, with a mixed topping of Mozzarella, Ricotta and Parmesan, was full of flavor and delightful. The owner made an effort to ensure only quality ingredients was used, including making their own sausages.
As for the crust, it's a tie between the two institutions for level of chewiness. The crust here is a little thinner than Joe's, and greasier (not neccessarily a bad thing. ) The presence of a little more oil made it easier to chew and digest. As for toppings and seasoning, Homeslice is undoubtedly the winner. (My friend, Catherine, was obviously in favor of homeslice as she devoured a whole slice. )
I am definitely not the first one who pitted Joe's against Homeslice. In a town like Shanghai, people loved such games.
Here comes my little survey. Among my friends who have dined at both places, those who have never lived or even been to New York all picked homeslice as the winner (fillings, quality, overall. ) Whilethe ones who spent some days in New York (including myself) found it difficult to resist the thought of going back to Joe's for another slice, even though it's on the rough side.
We have to come to this conclusion, most of the times, eating is all about personal choice. For a slice of pizza, I believe Homeslice is better. However, I couldn't help but gave in as I recognized the most important ingredient in Joe's pizza.
That ingredient is called New York.