Jim Altman and Mike Piskorski
April 15, 2010
In the city known for the highest culture and society's elite, from Lower Manhattan, we've found the upper crust. Scott Wiener, yes, Wiener has a name that may conjure thoughts of hot dogs (or worse) but it's Pizza that's his passion. Wiener is the originator of the two year old "Scott's Pizza Tours".
"Scott's Pizza tour is this sort of culinary adventure where we visit significant pizzerias all over New York City," Wiener said. The culinary adventure begins on Spring Street a block from Little Italy where Wiener excitedly tells our group of two dozen from all over the world what to expect. The slice of life starts with what Wiener calls "PPI's" -- "Points of Pizza interest" and that's anything that can help me describe the history and technology and economy of pizza."
The information and pizzafication (Wiener's words) strides down Spring Street to Lombardi's, billed as the country's first licensed pizzeria, where we meet owner John Brescio and see his century old coal oven. Brescio said, "this is where pizza started and this is where it spread out though the whole country but it started on Spring Street!" The group tours the oven area then we sit at table to enjoy the Neapolitan influenced pie; sporadic cheese, lots of sauce, thin crust, and one of the best slices you'll come by.
Next we plot a course for Prince Street not to experience another piece of pizza (not yet, anyway) but a slice of Manhattan pop culture -- the actual "Original Ray's Pizza". Dozens boast to be the "Original Ray's" but Wiener provides the research citing phone book records that show the Prince Street outpost is the real McCoy.
The traditional New York slice; sturdy, orange, tarped with cheese and well doused with grease, can be enjoyed at around 2,700 pizzerias throughout the 5 boroughs, Wiener is a fan of our next stop, "Joe's" on Carmine Street. "Pizza is the food of the people," Wiener says, " you can take any topping you want; cheese, tomato, onion, whatever you want to do as long as it's a balance between salty and sweet, you're set." Tom O'Reilly, visiting with his family from Ohio said, "you definitely can't get Pizza like this in Columbus, this is New York Pizza."
The parlor games end at John's of Bleeker, where Wiener proudly shows off the Pennsylvania mined anthracite coal that the storied pizza palace uses to coal oven cook their specialty pies. It's no surprise why people travel from all over to taste John's product, which burst with tomato flavor but maintains the aforementioned balance Wiener says is crucial. Emily Henchion, from Denver, said "I didn't know half the stuff I learned about pizza, now I'm just excited, I just want to go eat pizza now!" At tour's end Wiener advises the group that there is no perfect pizza, just the pursuit of searching for a more supreme slice, "It's all about educating yourself and being a better pizza consumer", he adds, "find out if there is something you like about pizza and follow that trend and you'll be able to be happy with every slice you find."
Scotts Pizza Tour offers two tours. The walking tour is offered every day except Tuesday, the cost is $33. Scott also runs a Pizza Bus Tour on Sundays which travels to Pizza hot spots in Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, and Brooklyn. The cost is $55. For more information click on www.scottspizzatours.com