I may not make it far with the Yelp! crowd, but I didn’t expect to anyway since I find myself often (ok, always) at odds with the opinion plurimus populus. Of course, this willful defiance is quite purposeful, but I diverge…
Vito’s… Hmm… Let’s start with “chewy” as a description, and–the last time I recollect, which was as recently as November 2009–there was absolutely nothing “chewy” about New York pizza. Oh, where to begin? Where to begin? Oh, yes, we began with “chewy”. *NY native clutches Madison Avenue pearls*
As I ascended the steps to my suite, I spotted a rather scrumptious fellow (Bronx Tale fantasies ran wild) with undoubtedly Italian features, wrapping up a delivery transaction with my immediate neighbor. I was compelled to ask from which company he delivered, and he was quite enthusiastic in his jovial response. He then went out of his way to get me a menu; as we struck up pleasant conversation, he lauded Vito’s Pizza as authentically New York (a challenge that always leaves me prey), and he had the New Jersey accent to back it up. I wasn’t entirely sold. New Jersey? It’s close but not close enough. Not close enough for a New Yorker who has thoroughly scoured the Village for the world’s finest pizzeria. But after two plus hours of mental anguish and Yelp! reviews and menu combing, I settled. My heart had been set by lunch time on a rival eatery, but I couldn’t take the thought of my neighbor knowing a serious NY pipeline and of me, sadly traipsing back to my usual.
(Being “out of the know” is just not an option for the uberLA. The last thing you want is to be at Le Dome and to have someone’s receptionist talking to her equally expendable friend about how she went to “____” last night, and you haven’t heard of the place. If you had heard, of course, you would be sighing or laughing or entertained or yawning or stra*gling or all. Anywho…)
So I venture to Vito’s with high hopes and a humble attitude. I mean, after the reviews I had read, I was almost certainly ready to bow down.
I pull up; there’s parking. Tuesday night but still LA. Non-competitive parking? Rarely ever. But I’m thrilled with the concept of having my choice of spaces in the city. I notice the “writer” *yawn* in front of Vito’s, the only one in 55-degree weather sitting outside, with his laptop and his pizza.
I walk in. Italian cuties galore. I’m about mid-film now. The servers and regulars were all smiles. I thought to myself, “Maybe this is real. This is it. This is Mecca.”
In fact, as I drove away, I didn’t even bother to scarf down a “test” slice as usual. I was so convicted in this pizza’s goodness that I looked forward to savoring it, so much so that I grabbed sorbet from Whole Foods as an after-treat; this was going to be an experience.
So as I’m leaving Whole Foods, I decide that I can’t delay gratification any longer and that I must sample the cheese pie I had ordered from Vito’s, and I was impressed with the immediate burst of flavor. Eureka.
And then I began to chew. And chew. And chew. And chew. And then my jaws hurt, but I was still chewing, and this wasn’t even the end-crust. New York? Seriously? I will go to my grave saying that I’ve never ever ever had “chewy” pizza in New York City. Never. Period.
The next day, I decided to give the Vito’s pie a try–cold–for breakfast. (Many of the Yelpers whined that their delivery orders were late, which left their pies cold. I would argue that they were better off having it cold anyway.) It was surprisingly delish! The chew-factor had toned down to a 3 instead of an 10, and I was much more on-board.
While I enjoy the concept of eating righteous food in dark, chlorophyll-saturated hues, when I eat pizza, I want unadulterated pizza. Now I’m no post-trans fat New Yorker (That is not said b/c I’m pro-fat; I’m pro-freedom of choice.), but I remember folding slices and holding their pointed tips over accompanying paper plates to let the grease drip off. I even recall rubbing flat slices against plates/bags in an effort to reduce the oil on my pizza. To me, this was New York pizza: dripping grease, thick cheese, hearty yet thin crusts. (I allow for greater variation in sauce.)
So how Vito’s comes close to New York, with its oil-reduced, jaw-breaking slices is beyond me. Many on Yelp! say they are from the “East Coast”, but that term is obviously useless. New York and Boston are both on the East Coast, but their pizza styles are strikingly different; so, beware, coastal claims are dubious. You know the Yelper is on the path of at least remote truth when he/she starts naming places by NYC borough, and one of these boroughs is a neighborhood in Manhattan or Brooklyn. (Anything from the Bronx requires a health inspection. Queens? For Jamaican food, yes, but we are focused on pizza here. And Long Island is hardly “the City”. LIRR’s need to go ahead and bite down on this truth.)
I also ordered the meatballs, which were flavorless and inedible. After two bites, I threw my money in the trash. Very disheartening.
I’m sticking to Vito’s top rival. But if dentures are in your horizon anyway, and you prefer eye candy with your din din… buono appetito.