Sometimes, when on holiday and visiting a foreign country, you have to take one for the team and try out the local cuisine. So, being the kind, and adventurous person I am, whilst visiting New York City, Ben and I embarked on the greatest food adventures of all in order to share with you all the wonderous foodstuffs available in this American metropolis. That is to say:
We went on a Pizza Tour!
As you could imagine, there are dozens of pizza tours that run throughout the island of Manhattan and deciding who we would allow to take us on our pizza adventure was an adventure in and of itself. Eventually, we settled with Scott’s Pizza Tours that were by far the best reviewed on various places online, and we selected their Original Crosstown Pizza Walk during which we would explore pizza from a historical perspective. Given Ben is a massive history buff (he does have a PhD in American History afterall) and the fact I am 100% foodie, this seemed like the tour for us!.
It was a cold NYC morning when we set out, bescarfed and beret’d towards Little Italy in Manhattan’s Lower East Side for our tour. Having skipped breakfast, we were excited for the pizza journey (and pizza pie!) that awaited us over the next few hours. The tour itself was to last for two and a half hours and took you across three different NYC pizzerias all set around the Little Italy area, all which had left their mark upon the NYC pizza scene over the past century.
Our host for the tour was Peter who was as friendly as you would expect a pizza-loving tour guide to be! Charismatic and full of tips, tricks, and more importantly, pizza history, he made the tour a thoroughly enjoyable and informative experience.
During the tour Peter took us to three local pizzeria’s – all of which served up delicious pizza yet in their own unique way. Our first stop served us pizza cooked in a coal fire oven that was over 100 years old, and using the same recipe that the first pizzeria that opened in 1905 had used! It was here where we enjoyed our first slice of NYC Pizza, and Peter explained to us the science of the perfect pizza crust, sauce and cheese including a brief lesson on gluten, where we got to get our hands dirty to “roll” our own pizza bases. The pizza here was delicious – the crust was firm and crisp and full of flavour, and topped with a delightfully light and tangy pizza sauce.
Top tip: Pizza bases need very little at all to ensure maximum taste!
The second pizzaria of the tour took us to a restaurant that had helped pioneer the modern pizza – cooked slow and low with oodles of yellow cheese. Here we learned how in the 1950’s and 60’s pizza changed dramatically from it’s origins of Italy and became more of a family friendly fast food. This pizza, I must admit, wasn’t my favourite! It reminded me somewhat of the Chippie Pizzas found all throughout Scotland and to me, a pizza shouldn’t be that greasy,
The final stop of the tour, I must admit, had me conflicted. The restaurant created pizza based on traditional Neapolitan recipes and sourced all their ingredients directly from Italy! The cheese was rich buffalo mozarella (which I adore), the sauce was intense in flavour and tingled every taste bud, but the base? Well, in what is apparently a traditional fashion it was soggy… Not my cup of tea and it ruined, in my opinion, what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable pizza!
Although not all the pizzas on the tour were my cup of tea, the tour explored the vast history of pizza and just how it has evolved and changed over the past hundred years (and more!). I’ve always said you can tell a lot about a city and its culture from its food, and the Original Crosstown Pizza Walk was definitely an insightful, and delicious, experience.
You’ll notice that I haven’t listed the pizzerias we visited and that’s because I would recommend visiting them via Scott’s Pizza Tours and learning a little history whilst you eat.
If you’re a New York local, or a visitor like myself, I highly recommend joining this tour to explore the history of both Little Italy and Pizza, and then be sure to let me know your favourite pizza in the comments!