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Fat Guy

Alan Richman's Top 25 Pizzas GQ Article

72 posts in this topic

I'm writing to you from my home away from home, the number 6 subway, en route to an historic event: the blogger preview party for Alan Richman's forthcoming pizza feature, to be published in GQ magazine imminently. I'm not really a blogger but that doesn't stop me from being invited to blogger preview events, teaching about blogging, appearing on blogging panels and being called by reporters when they need quotes for their blogging stories. This is because, lucky for me, the relevant decisionmakers comprehend everything online as a blog, and also probably because it would be inefficient to host a whole additional "guys who aren't bloggers but post a lot on message boards" event.

As I've mentioned elsewhere in my oeuvre, Alan Richman and I are best friends. Or at least, I'm his best friend on account of being the one person with whom he's not feuding at the moment. We're also professional colleagues at the International Culinary Center (parent entity of the French Culinary Institute), where he is Dean of Food Journalism and I am Director of New New Media Studies. As a result I always 1- refer to him as Dean Richman, and 2- tell people that Director is a higher rank than Dean. Both of these things have started to irritate him more as I've repeated them over and over.

The event and article have been shrouded in secrecy and mystery. The person at GQ who handled the invitations said only "At dinner, Alan will be discussing and answering questions about his new Pizzas article, which will be appearing in the June issue of GQ. Sorry that I can’t tell you more, but we’re trying to keep this under wraps!" (The event is being held at Lucali, in Brooklyn, by the way.)

Needless to say, I know more about the article than that. After all, Alan Richman and I share not only the bond of best friends but also that of Dean and Director. Much of our pillow talk over the past few months has consisted of Dean Richman making pizza confessions, each preceded by "I shouldn't be telling you this but" and followed by "I shouldn't have told you that." I have kept the faith.

Until now. Tonight the embargo ends, or at least I think it does. We will catch a glimpse of Dean Richman's pizza follow-up to his legendary 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die feature, in which it was alleged that he traveled 23,750 miles and consumed more than 150,000 calories evaluating 162 burgers across the land.

Will the pizza feature be a worthy sequel, perhaps exceeding the original as The Empire Strikes Back did for Star Wars? Or will it be the Back to the Future II of iconic food roundups? We'll find out.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We are embargoed until after dinner but the article begins "Italians are wrong."


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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To truly appreciate Pizzeria Bianco you can't fly. You must drive. :laugh:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84954050@N00/...57600966565712/

Also I recently read a very interesting article about Great Lake on Slice. They are a husband/wife team only serving four/five pizza's using mostly local ingredient's.

No doubt this small pizzeria is on the map now.

Very good article in my opinion.

Edited to add. I seem to recall reading a quote from Chris Bianco explaining why he request customers to order all at once. I'll try to locate it but I believe it was because it is only fair to those waiting outside.


Edited by robert40 (log)

Robert R

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No Mozza (LA), no Di Fara?


"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure

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He was committed to not saying anything overtly bad on the record about any of the places he didn't include. But it sounded like he visited Mozza on what he described as "not their best day," and Di Fara he didn't seem to think was anywhere near in the running.

The article, which I've finally had the opportunity to read carefully, is divided into two parts: a main narrative full of general observations about pizza, and 25 capsule reviews of his top 25 picks. The main narrative is great stuff, vintage Richman, funny, smart and I agree with pretty much all of it. It stands alone as an excellent treatise. The capsule reviews are interesting but a little random. I mean, yes, he traveled a villion miles and tried half a villion pizzas, but it's still too big a subject to cover effectively this way. Ultimately what he's really ranking are the 25 best pies he had on his recent four-month-long (though not uninterrupted) pizza journey. An eclectic series of snapshots.

Lucali, for example, was excellent -- especially the pie with artichoke and garlic -- but I'm not sure I can see calling it the best pizzeria in New York. I personally like Patsy's East Harlem better, but it's a different style, so when you get into different styles you get apples-and-oranges comparisons. Lucali probably competes more directly with the new-school places like Co. But I'm so far out of the pizza loop I haven't been to the half dozen relatively new places that are doing pizza in sort of this style.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Two unmentioned yet strongly hinted to could be Franny's and Burts Place.


Robert R

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Yes this is most likely Burt's Place:

"At a pizzeria (I do not recommend) in Chicago, I was informed when I called that I had to order ahead of time, although there is no menu on the restaurant Web site and the lady on the telephone refused to tell me what pies were available."

And this certainly could be Franny's:

"Pizzerias now inhabit a space once occupied by snooty French restaurants, and they are smug, too. One pizzeria in Brooklyn (I do not recommend) lets you know that its pork is sustainable, its beef grass-fed, its eggs organic, and its grease converted into biofuel. (If only as much attention had been given to crusts.)"

However, one thing to note about Richman is that he doesn't hold the service and approach issues against places. If he loves the pizza he'll put it in his top 25 no matter how much he hates everything else about the place. For example, he ranks Sally's Apizza in New Haven in 6th place, even though he can't stand the place and his writeup is just brutal ("Sally’s should be renamed Sartre’s Apizza, home of absurdity and despair") on every point other than the pizza itself ("Out of this agonizing ambience appeared a pie of incredible finesse, a tour de force...").


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I always want to know who comes in 26th or 11th, depending on the number of places ranked.

Good to see Tacconelli's appears relatively high on the list. Having recently gotten into a wee public tiff with Ed Levine on Tacconelli's, I feared all New Yorkers, though food knowledgeable in so many ways, were similarly pizza impaired.

One Philadelphia pizza was missing, though understandably so as it was only prepared once by a now out-of-work food colunmnist at a charity function sponsored by what is now a defunct pizza parlor. It is my very own creation: Ye Olde English Pizza - brown mustard, caramelized onions and melted cheddar. I remain saddened that it never caught on.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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When he did the 20 burgers story he bemoaned the fact that he couldn't do a 21, 22, etc. For the pizza story, though, he said that the gap between 25 and 26 was so large that 25 turned out to be the exact right number.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This comes at the perfect time--just a few week before my next NYC trip!

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He must not have visited Grimaldi's right at 12 noon.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Heh. I think it's important to keep in mind that these are one person's impressions based on his preferences and priorities, and also recorded at the time he sat down.

I have a hard time understanding why he didn't love Franny's, whose crusts I have always found to my liking and which certainly get plenty of attention from he pizzaioli, and I'm sure others can't understand why Di Fara isn't on the list. I also love true Neapolitan style pizza.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I visited Di Fara's once. The regular pie was off the charts wonderful. Right up there with the best I've ever eaten. The square pie was charred black on the bottom.

And I don't mean the char that adds flavor. I mean burned black, rock hard toss in the garbage can char. If he tried the former I'm also surprised it was not added to his list. If the later then not surprised at all.


Robert R

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Again, I suppose it just depends on your priorities. I have always only found Di Fara's square pizza worth a measure of the hoopla, and have consistently found the regular pizza good steel deck oven pizza but not in any way approaching a "best in the city" level.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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For the record I have no doubt the square pie I had was not the norm.


Robert R

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It will be interesting to see if Alan's list includes a variety of styles of pies.  In the past he's said that he wasn't a fan of the Neapolitan style.

It does, including Neapolitan style. One thing not clear to me is how many times he visited the various restaurants. One time is fine if the impression was a positive one, but every place can have a bad day. It is one thing for a regular Joe to post in the eGullet forums or on a blog after one visit as opinions from those sources tend to formed from an aggregate response. It is quite another for a critic with the stature of an Alan Richman, who can make or break a place based upon what he writes.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I don't think that any of the viable candidates that didn't and up making this list is at risk of being "broken" due to not being included in Alan Richman's Top 25.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Top 10 pizza cities (extra content from the GQ blog):

http://men.style.com/gq/blogs/alanrichman

Providence 5th? Gimme a break. With a few exceptions (Al Forno when they aren't preheating the crusts, Fellini's when it's right out of the ovens), Providence pizza coasts by on reputation. Bob & Timmy's has been mediocre most times I've been, and many "famous" joints are flat-out uncaring. (You hear me, Casserta's?!?)

If Providence is in the top five, the US is in a sorry pizza state.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't think that any of the viable candidates that didn't and up making this list is at risk of being "broken" due to not being included in Alan Richman's Top 25.

Maybe not broken per se, but who is say? Clearly someone like Richman is likely to have more of an affect on the bottom line of a restaurant than all but a select few food critics. People are likely to seek out these places, especially the ones not previously on major foodar. They may be less likely to go to places that didn't make it. I'm not talking about those customers who already love certain restaurants and are loyal. Neither you nor I would not go to Frannys nor Grimaldi's because they are not on the list, but their traffic may suffer somewhat anyway. Then again, maybe those smaller places that are already as busy as they can be may try to expand to cash in, have their product suffer and the restaurant collapse. Perhaps its better to not be on a list like this. :laugh:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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If Providence is in the top five, the US is in a sorry pizza state.

Um... I don't know if you've been checking, but 99% of the pizza in America is crap.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thanks for the news flash. My point, obviously, is that ranking cities for pizza suggests quality that doesn't exist. As I said, Al Forno is hit-or-miss, at best -- and pricey to boot -- while B&Ts has been pretty lousy each time I've gone. That means that two of Richman's top 25 can't deliver consistently, even in their own dining rooms.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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