DAY 31: OCTOBER 31st, 2010
LOCATION: Scott's Pizza Tour (Brooklyn)
ORDER: 4 slices of pizza at 4 different pizzerias including Lombardi's, Totonno's, J&V Pizzeria, and Sam's Restaurant
GUEST: Scott Wiener, Ronnie Palmer, various pizza tourists
Eat your way through pizza history.
Rarely are New York City tours both informative AND delicious. Scott's Pizza Tours tosses aside the "look, don't touch" philosophy and replaces it with the much more fun "learn it then eat it" philosophy. Whether by bus or by foot, Scott takes his tours to historically significant pizza related institutions that have created, redefined, and perfected New York pizza over the past century.
A true expert in all things pizza, Scott articulates facts about pizzerias, owners, ovens, timelines, and ingredients. He even answered the age-old question of why certain cheeses burn the roof of your mouth.
"The cheese is not what's burning the roof of your mouth," Scott explains, "it's the oil within the cheese." He went on to point out that fresh mozzarella, since it is filled with water, does not pose the same danger as the "aged" or 'low moisture' mozzarella. The oil contain within them, while making the cheese more resilient (and easier to transport), retains much more heat than water, thusly, putting your mouth at risk. Be warned as most pizzerias use aged mozzarella.
All the tours begin where it all began, at Lombardi's, New York's first pizzeria. Here Scott distributes his Pizza Survival kit which contains a small notepad for recording pros and cons of each slice. There are also lemon candies for pallate cleansing between slices and a wet nap "if you get schmutz on you." And finally, each goodie bag contains a gummi pizza that Scott refers to as an "emergency pizza."
Soon enough, the whole group gets to taste a slice of Lombardi's pizza. While we eat, Scott breaks down the composition of this (and every) slice along the tour. His fascination with each component from heat source to eating technique is contagious. By the time the tour leaves Lombardi's, Scott is leading more than a dozen pizza connoisseurs into the streets of New York.
Here's where you have two options - outer borough by bus or Manhattan by foot. We signed up for the Brooklyn by bus tour, so we boarded the cheesewagon (school bus) driven by Ronnie Palmer, a New York area road warrior.
First stop, Totonno's in Coney Island. With the help of the bus's Public Address system, Scott's pizza knowledge continues to flow. Tomatoes, Protected Designation of Origin, and the canning process all become interesting when Scott speaks. Then comes the trivia and the interactive discussion. It's like a road trip and a tour in one! Before long, we're there!
And our pizza is there too, having just exited the oven. Slices are consumed, notes are made, pictures are taken, and then it's back to the bus. Next stop, J&V.
The road trip resumes with Scott and Ronnie at the helm. Each place offers a different version of the same thing that we all love. Conversation amongst the fellow passengers organically pop up and, before long, we're all a happy bunch of friends eating pizza together - a testament to Scott and to pizza, in general.
Despite having already eaten three slices, the bus pulls up to a fourth. It's Sam's Restaurant. We make our way to the back, ushered by Louie, the current owner. Waiting for us is a long table with a red checkered tablecloth, plates, and water. We sit down, find room for our final slice and discuss the differences between all the pizza we have consumed.
Inevitably, according to Scott, one person's favorite component of a slice will be someone else's least favorite. These disagreements often spark friendly debates but, in the end, there is no "bad pizza," especially on Scott's tour.
Everyone will leave Scott's pizza tour happy and full...full of knowledge, full of New York, and full of pizza.
If it's not clear already, I recommend going on one of Scott's Pizza Tours.
5 out of 5
1. Scott Wiener has a pizza slice costume he let me wear.
2. Scott has an awesome website and is on TV all the time. Check out his website here: ScottsPizzaTours.COM