Most pizza sucks. It's overly bready—way too much bread relative to the toppings. The tomato sauce has a sickly sweet tinge to it. The cheese is super low-quality but stacked high, rubbery and flavorless. This is the combination of attributes that I personally hate in pizza, though they're more typical in New York's pizza-by-the-slice places.
I will occasionally savor some upscale, Brooklyn thin-crust Roberta's- or Paulie Gee's-style pizza—that I will eat. But again, I just feel like it's a "nothing food." I might eat pizza if it's someone's birthday and it's the easiest option. But I would never actively pursue it.
First of all, it's unhealthy, but also I almost always see something better on the menu than bread with cheese. It just seems like a cop-out. Most pizza is food for an underdeveloped palate. To me, the reason kids like pizza is the same reason they like Kraft macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches. Because there isn't a lot to it.
I moved from San Francisco to New York about five years ago, with the memories of SF's great street food—burritos, for example. I thought, Maybe pizza could be a really good substitute. To be fair, pizza in New York is said to be significantly better than anything you can get on the West Coast. At first, I would get it all the time. It's easier and cheaper to get a $2 slice of pizza that tastes decent than a salad that costs $12 in Midtown.
But I feel like the kind of person that's really "into pizza" is the same kind of person that was really into donuts with bacon on them a while back. When someone currently has the word "pizza" in their Instagram username, I think of someone wearing an Urban Outfitters sweatshirt with pizza printed all over it, and they want to take you to a Steve Aoki concert. A late adopter who claims they're into cocktails, but only knows one cocktail and it's an Old Fashioned that they saw on Mad Men.
I think there's a market for it right now, like there was one for bacon a few years ago, where people think that it somehow represents them. Like, "I'm fun! I don't care about my health! I like this thing that makes you feel young or alive," or something like that. But it's just really oversaturated. Just now, out of curiosity, I searched the hashtag "#pizza" just to see what would come up. And it was all people I did not want to meet. With a limited amount of time on Earth, I would rather talk to people who are observant enough to pursue their own interests beyond cultural trends for the sake of cultural trends. It's become this absolute lowest common denominator meme.
It makes people feel like an archetype, much like those who love saying that they drink whiskey. Sometimes, I'll look through my male friends' Tinder matches and notice that a lot of girls—and I'll admit that maybe this is an overstep—are trying to attract men by choosing things that they think are masculine. They'll say, "I like Tarantino films and whiskey." They think that this makes them sound like fun people, or that these things they consume define them somehow as an individual. But while they may think they're so original, I'll see three profiles out of ten like that.
They want to be seen as having a laissez faire attitude because pizza is fattening, and cheap, and unpretentious. Pizza is accessible, so people think it will make them seem accessible. But who wants to be truly, totally accessible? For all of the social charms it may embody, a pizza—by definition—has no edge. It's the world's most boring thing to rally behind, like having a Foo Fighters back patch.
I understand why it's so popular. It's always going to be the lowest price point in any nice restaurant that serves it, and it's also available by the slice for $2 or whatever, which makes it attractive to any young person looking for something gives you a sort of immediate visceral satisfaction for very little money. It also represents a certain type of nostalgia, because as kids there were always pizza parties in school, or contests where if you read enough books you got a free pizza. It's associated with celebration or happiness to a lot of people. But a really nice Porterhouse represents celebration or happiness to me. I could eat bread with cheese on it any time.
In New York, I don't even really notice pizza places anymore. They really don't call to me. I've heard things like "Even the worst slice in New York is better than the best slice in California." That's not true. There is a lot of really terrible pizza here, much of which I've drunkenly sampled over the years. To me, it's just not that interesting.
I would rather have tacos. They're in the same price range, but don't leave you with that disgusting feeling after eating a slice of shitty pizza. Shitty late-night street pizza requires layering on as many of the condiments as possible to even make it taste like anything.
I think it's immature when people have clung to things like pizza as part of their identity. I worry about people, honestly, who want to define themselves by a food they eat. I would probably guess that a guy who takes a girl out to pizza has his life less together than a guy who takes his girl out to a steak dinner. That's just my guess. But maybe I'm wrong, and they are just super fun.
As told to Hilary Pollack
(Ed. note: the MUNCHIES staff loves pizza.)