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Electric City Pizza Static

April 12, 2018

What would the Internet be without conflict? I mean, it would probably be nothing but pictures of cats. For the record, I’m not a fan of cats. Yes, Mrs. Fussy and I got one after we were married, but that was totally her cat. And let’s just say it didn’t end well.

Food, which can also be a great connecter of people, can also be the source of tremendous conflict. I mean, look at David Chang’s Netflix show, Ugly Delicious. Is this BBQ? That’s not BBQ? Why can’t X be BBQ? Z is totally BBQ.

Barbecue is bad. But pizza? Pizza is a problem. Chang tackles this in the first episode.

There are a few ideas floating around about why people have such different preferences on pizza. Jon in Albany preaches the Pizza Cognition Theory. And I’m paraphrasing here, but it asserts that the style of pizza you grew up eating, is the style of pizza you love the most.

I take exception to this theory, because it seems to be based on a premise that our preferences are fixed, whereas I firmly believe that our tastes can evolve and grow over time. Of course, that involves keeping an open mind, and trying new things. But the only way that works is by tasting a lot of pizza. And that’s different from simply eating a lot of pizza, because most people eat without really tasting.

Armed with this background knowledge, are you ready for the current pizza predicament?

Let’s go back to the first Tour de Slice. We went to Schenectady. Pizza King won. I Love on Union Street was a very close second. You can click here and read the full official report of the day if you like. But there are just a few things I want to make sure are captured for the sake of today’s post.

One of the things that struck me the most was the variability of the slices at the same shop.

For example, all the slices at PIzza King shared commonalities. And by that I mean, If you laid out pictures of all the slices from the tour, I would be able to point to the ones that came from Pizza King. However, some had crispier bottoms than others.

At Nico’s the cheese on my cheese slice looked entirely different from the cheese on Steve N’s cheese slice.

At I Love the topped slices had an edge over the straight-up cheese ones. The winner of the tour may have been different if more people had been evaluating slices with toppings. So it’s no surprise that someone who was looking at pepperoni slices picked I Love as their top shop.

But here’s an amazing thing. Each of the stops earned at least one person’s vote for best slice of the day. And I walked away from the event feeling pretty good about how it all went down.

At Pizza King we tasted delicious buttery cheese and some amazing end crust.
At Nico’s we experienced some incredibly thin crust and the platonic ideal NY style pizza ratios.
At I Love we encountered a bottom crust so crisp it made an audible crack when folded.

As basic as these may seem, the simple elements of a great NY style slice are rare and hard to find. And with the knowledge gained from the tour, anyone should be able to grab an enjoyable NY Style slice from any of these three places. At Pizza King you just need to insist on a reheat for a slice with a crispy bottom. At Nico’s you need to apply the shakers to overcome its relative blandness. And at I Love you simply need to order a slice with toppings.

Except apparently Jack from Two Buttons Deep didn’t see it quite the same way.

Now I have nothing against Jack. I love Jack and what he does. However, I would have liked the chance to go on the record before he published a post called Hard Fact: Schenectady Has The Worst Pizza in the Capital Region.

Because it doesn’t. I still contend that Schenectady has the best pizza in the Capital Region. But that’s beside the point for right now. We’ll come back to it in a moment.

Jack used Katie’s video evaluation of her slices on the Tour de Slice as part of his proof text. Additionally, he cited the absence of any Schenectady pizza place on the TU’s Best of the Capital Region poll results as another argument against the pizza from the Electric City.

Dios mio.

For those not from around these parts, the “TU” is short for the Times Union. It’s the major paper of the region, but it’s the Albany paper. Schenectady has The Gazette. Troy has The Record.

It’s not surprising that the TU poll would under-represent the best places in Schenectady. When you as TU readers about who the best bloggers are in the region, they also choose the ones who have blogs on the paper’s website. There is a built in bias based on the audience.

Heck, the best wings in the region these days can be found at Schenectady’s 20 North Broadway Tavern, and in the TU poll results this venerable institution came behind The Rusty Nail and Wings Over Albany (which is a regional outpost of a national chain). The Rusty Nail makes fine wings, but it’s insanely popular because they give you free wings on your birthday.

The TUs top three picks for pizza were Kay’s, DCs, and Red Front.

Marino’s in Schenectady is better than them all. Heck, even the pies I got delivered in January from Nico’s in Schenectady were better than the best dine-in pies I’ve had from either of those three places the Times Union readers’ think are our best. And you know what? I’d be willing to put Marino’s and Nico’s head to head with Pies from Kay’s, DCs, and Red Front.

Actually, I’m starting to smell a bit of a pizza reckoning.

Katie already published a rebuttal piece on Two Buttons Deep. But this might not be over until we can settle the matter with a direct tasting.

We would need to have a pizza summit. There would have to be an identical selection of toppings on each pie. We would need create a set of criteria for the evaluation. And we would need to assemble a judging panel of tasters. But I think this can be done.

Jack might not accept. Talks at the summit could break down. And scheduling the event may take some time. Jack has his media empire, and I have mine.

But the gauntlet has been thrown.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. KingOfBeacon permalink
    April 12, 2018 11:06 am

    “I’m not a fan of cats” I generally agree with you on here but that one hurts me inside a little bit.

    Also, how Red Front made a top 3 list is beyond me. Worst pizza I’ve ever had. Seriously, you’d be better off buying a $1 pizza from Walmart.

  2. -R. permalink
    April 12, 2018 12:41 pm

    What? You don’t like cats? That’s rather disappointing…

  3. addiesdad permalink
    April 12, 2018 1:55 pm

    Could this be the rebirth of the Tournament of Pizza?

  4. Benjamin Maggi permalink
    April 12, 2018 3:22 pm

    Regarding the Rusty Nail’s free wings offer… my uncle and I are still trying to get our grandmother to go on her birthday. Heck, we even offered to buy her a dinner at another restaurant after. Maybe this will be the year…

  5. RogerK permalink
    April 12, 2018 3:44 pm

    What’s with all this constant comparison to “NY style” pizza?

    First of all, what is meant by “NY?” Are we talking about the State of New York? The city of New York (NYC)? If the City, only a part of NYC such as just one of the Boroughs? If a single borough, like Manhattan, is it a region of that borough, e.g., SOHO, Tribeca, Little Italy, Greenwich, etc.?

    Whatever is meant by “NY,” adding the word “style” gives me the impression that ALL pizza in that region is, or should be, exactly the same. It would be like what I would expect a cup of coffee to be like whether I went to Starbucks at 233 Broadway, 165 Broadway, 291 Broadway, 130 Fulton St., 38 Park Row, or 60 Wall St., all in lower Manhattan.

    I’m confident that customers of Motorino’s pizza in Manhattan have preferences between the various locations of this business because of noticeable differences in the pizza served at the different locations. Similarly, for the customers of the various locations of Famous Joe’s Pizza in Manhattan, I envision they may cite differences based upon location also. I’m also confident that there is a significant difference in the pizzas between these two specific Manhattan establishments even while they both have been rated among the top places for pizza in NYC.

    So how can anyone evaluate our local pizza establishments against a fictional ideal that not only doesn’t exist, but also differs in the mind of one pizza lover to another?

    It is my belief that there is no such thing as “NY style” pizza. It is simply a New York State of Mind!

  6. Marco permalink
    April 13, 2018 10:08 am

    The best pizza in the capital region is the one you make at home after about 40 years of practice. That said, some of the best pizza that I have had out in recent years was at Little Pecks in Troy.

  7. April 13, 2018 1:13 pm

    I will concede that the Pizza Cognition Theory is not perfect and I agree there is room for tastes to change. I have met a few people that grew up eating chain pizza and have aged into pizza enthusiasts chasing their own perfect pizza. That said, there’s a reason David Chang ordered Domino’s to Lucali’s.

  8. April 16, 2018 3:52 pm

    No, Schenectady does not have the worst pizza in the area, but it certainly doesn’t have the best. And after eating several different of Marino’s pies on two different occasions, why Daniel is infatuated with their average product escapes me.

    Regarding Jon’s theory, it doesn’t apply to me at all. I grew up in Schenectady eating Pizza Hut on Altamont Ave, (which I loved) and Our Original’s (Sicilian style) on Crane St., which I also loved. Today I’m a die-hard Neapolitan pizza aficionado. I didn’t even know what that was growing up.

    And I swear, one of these days, someone in Albany (or Schenectady) will open a true Neapolitan style pizza joint.

  9. David Nardolillo permalink
    April 16, 2018 8:09 pm

    Opinions on pizza styles vary so widely that trying to pick consensus winners can be a frustrating exercise, especially when judging a pizza place based on reheated slices. I’m a pie guy, to be sure, but I think it’s much harder to find a satisfying slice place.

    Marino’s is a great spot, but I skip the pizza: order the Fried Eggplant sub (they layer thin slices high) and get a side of broccoli sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

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