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The 10/10 Pizza

May 7, 2018

Let’s talk about love.

When you’re in love, do you see something for what it is—warts and all—and love it anyway? Or if you truly love something, do you deny its imperfections?

Because nothing is perfect.
Nobody is perfect.
And thankfully, something does not need to be perfect in order to be loved.

This applies both to human beings and to pizza.

There’s a really interesting video series that is launching on a local site called Two Buttons Deep. It’s called Upstate Old School and it features Vic Christopher in front of the camera and Jack Carpenter behind it.

For the first episode, they went to O’Scugnizzo Pizzeria in Utica.

It’s a regional institution, which has been slinging some form of tomato pie in Utica for over 100 years. I’ve heard tale of its legend, and finally made it there for the first time several months ago.

I did not love it.

I wanted to love it. I certainly respected the history, and valued the chance to take a bite of old Utica, but the pizza itself didn’t do it for me. Largely based on the crust. We don’t have to get into all the nitty gritty details here. You can read all about it over here if you like.

But let’s remember a few things.

For starters, the first time I tried New Haven coal fired pizza at Pepe’s I wasn’t terribly impressed. Closer to home, it took me years to develop a taste for those little weiners at Famous Lunch. And while I still may not love those three inch hot dogs, without a doubt, I love the place.

Vic on the other hand is a lover. He literally loves everything. It’s a kind of optimism that is required to be an entrepreneur, but can be problematic when it comes to food criticism. He’s written 45 Yelp reviews, and 44 of them are glowing five-star raves. My suspicion is the one four-star review was just the result of an errant mouse click.

Getting back to O’Scugnizzo Pizzeria, at the end of the video, Vic without any reservations declares the pizza to be a perfect 10/10. It’s a very Vic thing to do, and I love him for it. But if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m the kind of guy who sees something for what it is—warts and all—and loves it anyway.

There is a very natural impulse to rate everything on a scale. I get it. I’ve got over 800 Yelp reviews under my belt. However, not everything needs to define its worth on the basis of a rating.

Vic and Jack will continue to visit and film Upstate Old School institutions. But these places are special on their face. They have survived the test of time. They are a testament to the past. They have the power to transport us back decades and literally provide a taste of what life used to be like in the area.

These are living pieces of history that are worthy of your love and well worth a visit. Even if the pizza itself is just a 6/10 or based on Steve’s visit a 4/10. Love it or hate it, the food at places like this is important. And they won’t be around forever.

My biggest concern is that if you send people out to a place like O’Scugnizzo Pizzeria with the promise of 10/10 pizza, it’s going to backfire. Perhaps my first visit to the spot caught the shop on a bad day. So after the video came out, I decided to make a return trip, and the crust was just as pale, dense, and bready as I remembered. Clearly, that’s part of the signature experience.

Maybe, just maybe, if I kept on returning I would develop a love for the crisp bottom crust that holds the line, regardless of how many toppings you load onto the pie. Or perhaps if I lived in Utica and I had a broader sense of style this pie would be elevated a higher position at the top of the form.

Kudo’s to Vic and Jack for helping to put this legendary regional place on the map for those who may have never heard of it before. I’m looking forward to their future videos. And I’m hoping against hope they will avoid the temptation to score their finds.

We know Vic loves these places. It’s evident in his tone and enthusiasm for the history and the food. But just as it would be pointless to drag a classic like Meryl Streep out for a beauty contest, it’s unnecessary in the context of these videos to reduce these rare old school gems to a number.

It even feels a little dirty.

That said, people experience love differently. I know this to be true. What I don’t know is where other people fall on the spectrum. So what do you say? Does love make you blind? Or is that not love and just simple infatuation?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2018 11:45 am

    Hah! When I saw the 10/10 for O’Scugnizzo I immediately thought of Vic’s Yelp reviews. The guy loves a traditional spot for sure.

  2. KingOfBeacon permalink
    May 7, 2018 12:02 pm

    I’m in shock over how he gives literally everything 5 stars. Red Front? Their ketchup pizza is still literally the worst pizza I’ve ever had in my life. In fact, using Trader Joe’s ketchup instead of their “sauce” would be a step up. Horrid.

    • David Nardolillo permalink
      May 8, 2018 7:59 am

      You are lucky to have avoided many bad pizza places in the Capital District. I wouldn’t claim Red Front to be the best, but it is far from the worst.

  3. May 7, 2018 12:19 pm

    There’s a problem with always giving glowing reviews and hyperbolic praise; you are taken less seriously.

    And of course, when everything is special, nothing is special.

  4. RogerK permalink
    May 7, 2018 12:58 pm

    But when a person only gives a top rating in every review, isn’t it fair to assume that all the other places that this person has patronized were therefore not worthy of such a rating by their standards? While we may not agree with some, or any, of the reviews they’ve written, I believe it simply provides a window into this person’s likes, choices, preferences, and expectations. It is not their intention to tell you about their disappointments, dislikes, hatreds or even average encounters.

    • May 7, 2018 1:01 pm

      True dat. If a place is worthy of five stars I so rate it, but the vast majority of my reviews are four stars meaning this is pretty good, you won’t be sorry if you try it. If it’s going to be a three star or worse I generally don’t write a review unless I want to advise people of mediocrity (3 stars) or to stay away (2 or 1 star).

      • May 7, 2018 8:16 pm

        I disagree.

        As a reviewer, it’s my job inform people, good or bad. We don’t live in a utopia. While it’s important to be respectful, it’s also important to be forthright and share the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Hiding the truth helps no one, neither the business nor its potential patrons. And that’s what you do when you avoid writing negative reviews, you conceal information from your followers.

        As it regards O’Scug’s, Daniel is right. It’s unfair to send the message the pizza there is “OMG!”, when, in fact, it’s flawed. Vic is doing a disservice to his audience and the business. He can still praise the business, without being disingenuous about the pizza.

    • albanylandlord permalink
      May 7, 2018 2:10 pm

      I would say that some people do only rate their favorites but it is disrespectful to the Yelp system. If everyone who loved a place rated it 5 stars and the 70% of people (or whatever number) who didn’t love it didn’t bother to rate it then Yelp would show it as 5 stars.
      I feel a personal obligation to rate everything as I think that is what makes the system work. If we only have 5 star and 1 star reviews (from people who were pissed off) there wouldn’t be much value in the Yelp star ratings.

      • Buffsoulja permalink
        May 7, 2018 10:32 pm

        O’scnitz (as the locals call it) easily gets five stars for me – I love it! I also love Red Front. Sad you all didn’t.

      • May 7, 2018 10:46 pm

        Actually, given your love for The Fountain, this does not surprise me. As I think more about this pie, I think it may benefit from resting for a spell before digging in.

        There was an older gentleman in the dining area while we were there. His pie was delivered, and he made no movement towards it. The two just sat there at the table, staring each other down.

  5. David Nardolillo permalink
    May 8, 2018 8:50 am

    I think you can give Vic and Two Buttons Deep a a bit of a pass on this one. The project is designed to be a bit of a fun puff/pr piece on Upstate eateries, and won’t be confused with an attempt at objective food criticism. Besides, I am not the only one who has been burned by recommendations for pizza locally that don’t come with fancy videos hosted by successful local entrepreneurs. People’s preferences for pizza just vary too widely, and nostalgia can impact opinions for some and not others; I’ve learned to factor that it when trying a new pizza place.

    Plus, it is a little ironic to see people give Vic a hard time for being too positive. If you followed the news coverage around the failed 2016 Uber legislation or Monument Square, you would have seen him employ a far less benevolent tone to get his point across. Suffice it to say, I prefer the O’Scugnizzo’s Positive Vic.

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