The rise of the dollar-pizza has gained massive popularity among NYers. The most popular sell is the two slices and a soda for $2.75. NY hasn’t seen these prices in twenty-plus-years. So how do these shops get away with it? Better yet, why would a reasonably intelligent person pay almost $2 more than they have to at the more expensive pizzerias?
Remember the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it is”? Well, many would argue the dollar-slice is too good to be true. And here are the top 10 reasons why.
1. Quality of Flour. Not all flour is born from the same wheat. Most of the flour that the cheaper pizza shops use are bleached and/or refined. Which means it is cheaper and less protein-rich. In fact, bleached and enriched flour would mean there is little to no nutritional value in them.
2. Quantity of Flour. Have you noticed that those dollar-pizzas seem flatter and thinner than your more expensive pizzas? Well, they are. Some of these shops have also been accused of using frozen dough. The problem with frozen dough, in addition to inferior taste, is that they tend to contain the bottom-of-the-barrel ingredients.
3. Quality of Mozzarella: Not all brands are the same. Boars Head is generally considered among the best. But it’s expensive. The other issue is whether the pizzerias buy their mozzarella pre-shredded or in blocks. Pre-shredded is inferior in texture and taste due to the additives needed for preservation.
4. Quantity of Mozzarella: Here is the most obvious corner-cutter. Dollar-slices use the minimum amount of mozzarella to cover the pizza. The more expensive pizzas generally use 20% to 40% more mozzarella. (Unscientific estimate)
5. Raw Dough: Have you noticed that as quickly as one pizza is thrown into the oven, another comes out? That is due to volume. But in order to meet demand, the pizza isn’t cooked to its full potential. In fact, many of these dollar pizzas are almost raw, making them chewier and less flavorful. Just look at their color. Much of the mozzarella has barely had time to brown, if at all.
6. Allow Dough To Rise: Many cheap pizza shops either buy their dough pre-shaped and kneaded or they don’t allow the dough to rise for a sufficient period, hence compromising the taste and affecting gluten uniformity.
7. Cook Time: The best-tasting pizzas are the ones that have had time to cool down, which allows the flavors to settle and seep in. With the high turnover rate of dollar-pizzas, you’re eating it as soon as it comes out of the oven. When pizzas cool down to room temperature, then recooked to oven temperature, the experience can be divine.
8. To Can or Not To Can: Canned anything is doubtful. But canned tomatoes will never produce a top-ten pizza due to Bisphenol-A, a harmful chemical. To make fresh pizza sauce requires more time and man-hours. Only a few pizzerias in the City use fresh tomatoes. Also, in order to battle the acidity of the sauce, more sugar and salt is added to canned sauce.
9. Italian vs. non-Italian: There’s something to be said about a real Italian making pizza. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to get my Shrimp Fried Rice from a Jamaican. You know what I mean, Mon? I’m not being a bigot. But even pizza has its special recipe that has been nurtured for generations. I can’t imagine a first-generation pizza shop owner having a world-class recipe. I know this personally because I worked in an old-school pizzeria as a kid and remember how guarded the owner was of his recipe.
10. To Freeze or To Melt: These small dollar-pizzas have no legroom. You generally eat standing up on a sidewalk. In summer, you sweat more than the mozzarella perspires oil. In winter, you shiver.
So what is one to do with all this abundance of cheap pizza tempting you on every corner? Say hello to Fresco Pizza & Pasta. Ten years ago, owners Gus and Andre took a chance on a low-rent hood. They saw something in the urban sprawl of the South Bronx most were blind to.
Armed with vision, they opened shop on the corner of St. Anns and E149th St. They never looked back. They are among the most prosperous mom-and-pop stores in all of South Bronx. With good reason. Their pizza is the best. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Rachael Ray. She voted Fresco Pizza & Pasta #1.
What is the secret to their success? The sauce. They make it fresh every day!
This explains why their slices taste like the Rolls Royce of pizza. That and plenty of top-grade mozzarella. It also helps that their slices are thick. I’d say you get as much weight in one slice as you would in two slices of the cheap stuff.
But, hey, if someone thinks differently, I’d love to hear it.
1 LARGE PIZZA PIE
The comment with the most upvotes in 24 hours receives a free large pizza pie from Fresco Pizza & Pasta. Winner must bring a minimum of two friends and the pizza must be eaten on premises.