"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Taster’s Cherce

It was getting late, well past lunch, and I still hadn’t eaten anything. The sun was out yesterday but it was cold. I got off the subway on 231st street and walked due west to the barber shop. On the way, I passed Sam’s Pizza, a hole-in-the-wall in Kingsbridge.

I’m not a pizza groupie but I probably eat it as a stand-by more than any other street food. Sometimes, it’s just the perfect food–enough to satiate your hunger but not enough to make you full. I walked into the place and that New York City pizza smell enveloped me (who knows, maybe you get the same smell in Philly too). I can’t explain what the smell is exactly, but I know it when I smell it–it is the scent that immediately authenticates a pizzeria in this city.

Iniside, the place was small with no-frills. The front window was big, and opened during the summer; a gumball machine rested on the counter as you walked in. A kid was standing at the counter eating a slice and a thin but strong-looking man worked behind it. The soda fountain had an “Out of Order” sign on it. There were a few tables in the back, the walls covered in fake wood. An old Coca Cola sign hung on the back wall.

I ordered a slice. Three short, round-faced, Spanish kids came in and each ordered a slice too. A fat woman and her daughter ordered a pie. The pizza man moved deliberately. He smiled and had some charming words for the women. Otherwise he was, if not sullen, blank.

The slice was good, thin at the tip and then doughy–but not too doughy–at the crust. I soaked the grease with cheese, garlic powder and hot pepper flakes. Before I finished it I ordered another one. The pizza man was making a fresh pie. He clapped his hands clean of flower, took my bill with the tips of his fingers, and gave me change. I asked him if he always worked alone. He said that he did.

“Wow, that’s a lot of work, bro.”

“I got no choice,” he said without self-pity, just resignation.

I ate the second slice. The kid next to me ate too and didn’t say anything. The three Spanish kids stood in the back, talking softly. The mother and her daughter waited in silence. It was warm. My stomach felt warm too, which was comforting because the wind cut through me when I walked out of the door.

[photo credit: dM: nyc]

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Taster's Cherce

Tags:  Food  pizza

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1 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 22, 2010 2:20 pm

this was my spot when I lived on Godwin, its the definition of "no frills" but for a slice and a coke you could do a hell of a lot worse.

Salvatore's up on Riverdale is still the best in the neighborhood though

2 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 22, 2010 2:22 pm

Sal's is my regular spot. I just loved the no-frills comforting goodness of Sam's. Right on the money.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 22, 2010 2:29 pm

I hear ya, Sam's definitely has a "Sal's Famous" feel...all thats missing is a Wall of Fame and Radio Raheem.

that and I'm pretty sure Sam is Albanian, but thats ok.

4 rbj   ~  Feb 22, 2010 3:08 pm

I am so jealous. Real NY pizza. Nothing like anywhere else in the world.

5 hiscross   ~  Feb 22, 2010 4:20 pm

Producers work alone. They are the heart and soul of this country. NY Pizza is the best in the
world, with Connecticut a close 2rd.

6 ny2ca2dc   ~  Feb 22, 2010 4:57 pm

I was in NYC for 36 hours or so over the weekend. Took the MegaBus from DC. Wanted some pizza on Sunday afternoon but didn't have time. When we got home to DC, starving at about 8pm, we ordered Dominoes because they have an online ordering system that takes like 2 seconds and we were tired. And now Alex Belth has to go and add insult to the missed-NYC-pizza injury. sheesh!

Any good pizza in midtown (or anywhere in Manhattan), for the next time I'm there?

7 thelarmis   ~  Feb 22, 2010 7:44 pm

pizza IS the perfect food! and my favorite. it definitely fills me up though. i have a great pizza joint here in atlanta. 2 full slices and an excellent salad. that, and endless refills of barq's root beer and i'm super full. i'm looking forward to real NY pizza this weekend though! : )

sam's sounds like my kinda place. i see a coca-cola sign before the counter, but it also looks like there are pepsi products on display, just below it.

if the pizza alone doesn't fill you up, some places have good breadsticks... i sprinkle parm cheese, garlic powder (sometimes) and cover my slices in hot crushed red pepper. mmmm, spicy!

8 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 22, 2010 8:06 pm

Oh god, it's 10am here and now I am consumed with thoughts of New York pizza...though it's got to be from Brooklyn (well, MAYBE the Bronx, but definately NOT Mangattan..)

9 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 22, 2010 9:57 pm

"New York pizza sucks."

Rob Neyer/ ESPN Food Critic

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 23, 2010 12:06 am

[9] :) Can we get this game going through the whole season?

"It's pretty obvious that Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO should stop for a miso-ramen on the way home. After all, after 4 bottles of nihonshu, the ramen is sure to settle him down and in no way make him ill in the middle of the night"

Rob Neyer, ESPN Japan Analyst

(inside joke for Boatzilla if he's out there reading!)

11 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 23, 2010 1:03 am

[6] Mariella's Pizza, Eight Avenue between W56th-57th on the east side of the street. Crowded space, but good pizza. There's another one on Lexington @ E70th by Hunter College. Also Original Ray's on the corner of 3rd Ave and St. Mark's Place in East Village (by Cooper Union) is good. Then there's a place on Broadway @ W88th that's tight. Unfortunately, most of the good pizza makers have retired and/or moved out of town, so it's hard to find great pizza in Manhattan anymore.

12 ehmccauley   ~  Feb 23, 2010 9:36 am

(Thel, I see that I never got back to you about Joba apparel, or anything Joba-related in these parts. There is nothing about any individual players; I have seen some Jeter t-shirts and plenty of Yankees hats and that's about it. That said, a lot of the college boys in this town have NY or Boston hats probably because they're fashionable. I have met one young woman--she has a blue Prius with a Yankees license-plate frame, exactly like our blue Prius--who regularly goes to Yanks games in KC and Arlington.)

Our quest for New York-style pizza brought us to Broken Arrow, where we met Larry, the owner of Uncle Vinny's Pizzeria. Yankees memorabilia, photos of NYC, and Frank Sinatra songs on the jukebox were good signs, but even better was talking to Larry, who is a native of Connecticut. Before I met my wife, she lived in New Haven and went to Modern Apizza on State about once a week. Anyway, Larry was a character. He asked, "What brought youse guys out here?" It was so nice to hear that after, ah, listening to the dialect here for the past six months. Some fool student of my wife's actually told her that she had "an accent."

Uncle Vinny's was no Modern A, but it was pretty darn good for Oklahoma, where people seem to like their pizzas doughy and way cheesy (the antithesis of NY style). Larry gave us a cannoli on the house.


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