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On Folding Pizza

July 26, 2017

Last week, something awful was brought to my attention. I almost don’t want to share it, lest the article get any further attention. But it got me so riled up that I think the only thing to do is to shine a spotlight on it, and point out all the ways it’s wrong.

It’s not an accident that today’s post follows the one on blotting the deliciousness away from pizza. Both manners of eating pizza were recently discussed in a Facebook group to which I subscribe.

But there is only so much one can do within the boundaries of a Facebook response. This is one of the times when it’s great to have your own blog.

Did you see the Thrillist post when it came out over a year ago which attempted to demonize the very reasonable practice of pizza folding? Well, here it is in all of its wrongness.

Now, let’s begin.

Perhaps, we should start with the very basics. Not all pizza was meant to be folded. In fact, very little of the pizza made around the world is even capable of performing the act. Folding pizza is reserved for New York style slices. With an exception to be made for a few related styles mostly found in and around New Jersey.

You ever try to fold a fat, doughy slice from one of the big pizza delivery chains? It’s a pointless exercise in making a mess. You don’t end up with a folded pizza, you get something closer to a pizza flavored taco.

There are a few things you need to execute a proper pizza fold.

It starts with a thin, crisp bottom crust. But it can’t be too thin and brittle like Trenton’s tomato pies, because those would just split in two. There needs to be a bit of spring in the crust right above that crisped bottom layer, which gets its perfectly textured bottom from additional time reheating on the oven floor.

And naturally, if you are going to be folding a slice in half, it has to start out pretty wide on the end-crust side to keep the entire exercise from being a pointless excuse for playing with your food. Those large New York style slices can be particularly unwieldy, making them ideal candidates for the task.

Finally, the magic of a great New York style slice is that the crust, sauce, and cheese combine to form a perfectly magical center layer where they all seem to coexist in unison. These pies are not topping heavy. At all. Because folding a heavily topped slice is just as ridiculous as folding one with a thick crust, or even one that is overly sauced. I mean, that’s a recipe for disaster.

So those are the basics. But there is a time and a place for folded pizza.

Most of the time when I’m eating a great slice of pizza, I’m actually sitting down. But that’s because I truly love pizza, and I want to take in the whole experience. My process for eating a slice often starts with taking a bite of the crust first. The thing is that I love crust so much I want to experience it on its own without any competing flavors. The second bite is the fragile tip.

Of course, I want to experience the pizza that way it was meant to be experienced. I want the smell of the burnished cheese to rise up into my olfactory centers as I bite down into the slice, while my teeth cut through all the textural layers. I want to ponder the seasonings in the sauce, and savor every last bite.

But not everyone fetishizes pizza the way I do. Pizza is also a great way to fill up, when you don’t have much time or much money. Sometimes, you just need to pull into your local slice chop and fill up the tank with one cheese to go.

Those are the times when you don’t even have time to sit and eat. This is what the fold is all about.

Folding a slice of New York style pizza is all about improving its portability. With the fold, you have a better grip on your slice, and can really choke up on that thing. You also have better control, because if you think it’s easy to get a hot, pointy, cheesy thing in your mouth while you’re walking at the brisk pace of a New Yorker weaving through tourists who are meandering down the avenues, you’ve got another think coming.

Sure, some people might suggest that the fold is a horrible way to eat and walk because it creates a “grease funnel.” Do you know what I call those people? Amateurs.

Seriously, it’s not that hard. There are two tools readily at your disposal at the pizza counter to deal with such things. One is the piece of wax paper your pizza is served upon. The other is the wad of cheap paper napkins that you grab on the way out. Through folding, and bunching, you can keep all that delicious fat on your slice. Even better, most of it will get absorbed by the end crust, so you won’t lose all that deliciousness.

That’s providing of course that you didn’t waste your napkin stash blotting away that goodness.

The problem with the Thrillist article, which I suppose I won’t be tackling point by point, seems to be the author is a clueless pizza eater who has spent his life eating bad pizza. His statement, “the crust is fundamentally the most bland… folding builds a bready cocoon around the tastier ingredients. The good stuff is hidden from your taste buds until you’ve masticated through a starchy force field” should be disqualifying on its face.

So there it is. I’ve said my piece.

Fold your pizza if you’re in a rush, and you’re eating a kind of pizza that’s actually foldable. But don’t get caught up in the crazy notion that you have to fold pizza for it to be an authentic New York style pizza experience.

The axiom should really go like this: A real New York style pizza slice can be defined by its ability to be folded. But you don’t have to fold your slice for it to be an authentic New York style pizza.

I’m happy to argue this further should anyone care to challenge these assertions. Fussy out.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. EPT permalink
    July 26, 2017 10:07 am

    No arguments here, you nailed this one!!!

  2. -R. permalink
    July 26, 2017 10:28 am

    Agreed. Had me a slice of cheese and a pepperoni slice at I Love Troy yesterday for lunch. I sat and folded both – fortuitous for the pepperoni slice as the meat was densely distributed, and with each unfolded bite, an entire slab of pepperoni was coming off. The fold nipped that in the bud.

  3. Michelle permalink
    July 26, 2017 2:25 pm

    If you are eating a slice on the go in NYC it is important to fold the slice or you end up holding your elbow at a funny angle and hitting other people as you walk. I have yet to encounter a slice here Upstate that requires folding. Also, with the orthodontic appliance one of my girls has, I’m still cutting hers up into tiny little pieces so she can eat it.

    • EPT permalink
      July 26, 2017 9:10 pm

      Paesans on Western Ave. serves a perfect slice for folding. Excellent pizza.

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