Manhattan has changed so much in the decade since I left the city.
Nearly all of the cool downtown rock clubs where my band used to play are gone. Nearly all the great dive bars where we used to hang are shuttered. And many of the wonderful pizza-by-the-slice joints where you could get a classic New York slice are sadly and irrevocably no more.
Does anyone remember Salvatore Bartolomeo from Rosario’s on Orchard St.? On July 14 each year (my birthday btw), our French band used to play on that corner for the Bastille Day celebration. Between sets, I would hang with Sal and he would make me an off-the-menu Neapolitan-style espresso after I washed down my slice with a can of seltzer.
During my recent trip to the city, I was determined to find a great slice since all of my favorite places are now closed.
After much painstaking research, I decided to try the “city hall” Little Italy Pizza on Park Place. Those are the slices above.
As Eater New York notes, “all Little Italy franchises are not the same. In fact, some are superb while others awful, with doughy crusts and lifeless tomato sauces. The City Hall branch is one of the great ones, and you can tell the minute you step inside and see the elated diners.”
It’s so true about being able to gauge the caliber of a by-the-slice spot by the clientele.
Little Italy (Park Place) does have a website for ordering. But check out its Facebook to get a better sense of the fare.
The slices were a little bit on the greasy side (the way you like it). This place really delivered (excuse the pun) the flavor and texture I remembered from my years in the city.
I was working all day on Friday but then Saturday I had to head up to Plattsburgh in upstate New York to see an ailing relative (long, sad story but at least he’s not in pain; we had a nice visit).
On the way back I was determined not to eat shitty New York Thruway food. And so, on a whim, I stopped at Saugerties, New York (not far from Woodstock) where I happened upon the wonderful Village Pizza (above).
They don’t have a website but they do have a Facebook (worth checking out).
Man, this place just nailed it. From the stone-faced pizzaiolo to the sullen (however polite) young lady working the counter, it had the old-school feel of the New York pizzerias of yore.
It took me about 10 minutes from the Thruway tollbooth to get there.
As I headed out, I took a puff and tuned into Woodstock Radio where I heard the most amazing country track by Steely Dan, “Brooklyn Owes the Charmer Under Me.”
It was just one of those seamless moments, a respite from the melancholy residual of my visit. The trip back to Newark airport was rainy, cold, dark, and lonely. And that pizza and the song were on my mind.