Seriously. If we are ever having a conversation, and at some point during this conversation you claim not to like pizza, I will look askance on any subsequent statements you make. Because you’re either a posing contrarian — in which j’accuse, dammit! — or your life experiences are so woefully extrinsic to my own that they cast a light of uncertainty onto all of our future interactions. Pizza is a pleasant constant, like sunshine or morning tumescence. If you don’t like it, there’s a good chance you’re part of the scouting vanguard of an impending alien invasion, and there are some things about humans you just can’t mimic. Nice try, you Cylon bastard.
I’m much more forgiving of people who don’t like good pizza, which is why I still have friends. I know guys from Cincinnati who think pizza should never flop over when you pick it up from the plate. I have friends from central Pennsylvania who think Pizza Hut is an acceptable option. I even have a native Texan friend who eats pizza by scraping the toppings off the crust with a fork. Whatever. Opinions differ.
Which is why I managed to retain my cool when my friend — we’ll call her “Heidi” to protect her anonymity, though just between us it’s her real name — struck up a conversation with my girlfriend Alanna and I the other day with this deceptively predicateless subject:
“So, guys, Mulberry Street Pizza…”
Knowing that Mulberry Street is generally — and wisely — agreed upon as the best pizza in Los Angeles, Alanna and I finished her sentence in unison:
“…I know, is awesome, right? Yes!”
And then, Heidi:
“…I was gonna say it sucked.”
Now, I like Heidi. I consider Heidi a good friend and a talented actress, which is why I initially thought she was putting us on. You know, actors like to practice their craft whenever they get a chance, and I thought she was simply playing an improvisational character with inadvisable taste in pizza. But no. She really didn’t like it. Which, as I’ve said, is cool; it’s not like she hates pizza altogether or anything. She’s no Cylon.
What followed, of course, was the conversation that always follows when someone expresses a strong opinion on a local pizza joint; three more people entered the conversation and injected their own feelings on the matter. Here, for your reading pleasure, are the highlights of that conversation.
Mulberry Street. Lots of people call this the gold standard for east coast pizza in LA, since it matches typical thin-crust pizzeria pizza from Boston on down to Philly. Some people will try to get you to call this “New York style pizza;” these people are likely New Yorkers themselves and should be stopped at all costs.
Vito’s. Alanna is a fan, though she claims that every time she’s had the chance to have Vito’s pizza it’s been three hours cold.
Garage Pizza. Another thin-crust wonder, the namesake pizza here is a cheeseburger pie topped with ground beef, pickles and Roma tomato slices. Much, much better than it sounds.
Damiano Mr. Pizza. The pride of Fairfax, this is another east coast pizza Mecca in LA.
Palermo’s. For fans of thicker crust, this is the place. Palermo’s piles on the cheese and toppings, so you may need to tackle this with a knife and fork.
Hard Times Pizza. Another thin-crust pizza, Hard Times again claims it serves “New York style pizza.” This is the way New York gets credit for everything: Once someone invents a dish, the New Yorkers come screaming up and name it. “This is some delicious New York style coq au vin!” you’ll hear them say. Or, “What a wonderful New York style Philly cheesesteak!”
Now, I’m not endorsing all of these places; I’ve actually never been to Vito’s, Hard Times or, despite my best efforts, Damiano. But this is what came up. My favorite, of course, is Mulberry Street, but as it’s in Beverly Hills and I live in Los Feliz, I tend to hit Garage Pizza more frequently (though Palermo’s is cheaper). But there they are.
So: When you get into the inevitable pizza conversation, what place do you mention first? What place is overrated?