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Spike Lee's Simple Rules for Eating Pizza in New York

When you do the slice thing, don't even think about using a knife and fork.

by Jonah Bayer
May 2 2018, 1:15pm

Photos courtesy of JetBlue

While he’s best known as a critically acclaimed director, Spike Lee is also a pizza aficionado. After all, one of his most memorable cinematic locations is Sal’s Pizzeria from his 1989 film classic, Do The Right Thing.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that JetBlue has enlisted Lee to be the face of its“Pie In The Sky” program, which will fly New York City’s most famous foodstuff from East Harlem’s Patsy’s Pizzeria to Los Angeles from May 9 to May 11. In other words, for a limited time, all your friends who moved to the West Coast can enjoy authentic New York pizza and be spared the subway rats.

We caught up with the denim-clad director at Patsy’s to learn more about his love affair with the pie, his approach on the perfect way to eat a New York slice, and his views on fake weed being used as a pizza topping.

MUNCHIES: Hi, Spike. How do you approach choosing and eating a slice, and what’s the biggest mistake you see people make?
Spike Lee: Well, number one, if you grew up in New York City, you know there’s a way to do it. That’s not to say that people who eat pizza other places in the world are wrong, but when you’re in New York, you look at people funny if they’re using a fork and a knife. That’s the biggest no-no.

But we’re just having fun; pizza is a big, big part of the culture and always has been here in New York City, so much that a pizzeria was the main location in one of my films, [ Do The Right Thing]. So it’s great that we were able to shoot this piece here, in the world famous Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem. This establishment has been here since 1933, and it’s some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life.

There’s famously a wall of fame in the pizza place in Do The Right Thing. Are you in any pizza wall of fames in New York?
Grimaldi’s, I think. You know the Grimaldi’s I’m talking about in DUMBO? That building, that’s where Nola’s loft was in She’s Gotta Have It, the film. There was a restaurant called The Ferrybank Restaurant, and the second floor, that’s where we shot Noah’s loft. We shot She’s Gotta Have It for 12 days in July, 1985, over two six-day weeks. Now, it’s Grimaldi’s pizza.That was before it was even called DUMBO.

How big of a part of your life was pizza when you were growing up in Brooklyn?
I went to PS 29 in Cobble Hill, and my mother would give me what we called 29s—this was in the 60s. My mother would give me a quarter for lunch, and with the quarter, I would get a slice of pizza—which was 15 cents—and a Coke, which was 10 cents. Lunch would cost 25 cents back in the day. A quarter!

Do you ever eat pizza outside of New York?
I try not to, because I just can’t hang with the deep dish. I mean, eat pizza with a fork and knife? Can’t do it. That’s like a meal, that’s like a real meal. And look, if you want to eat deep dish pizza, it’s America, but for me, eh.

What do you think about controversial toppings like pineapple?
Look, they could do what they want to do. If you want to put K2 [synthetic cannabis] on your pizza go ahead and kill yourself. Yes, we have a new pizza, seasoned with K2. [ Laughs.] You’ll really wig out.

Thanks for speaking with us, Spike.

You can learn more about the Pie In The Sky program at www.jetblue.pizza.