Last week I moved into a new apartment. Moving is a horrible task, and even though I tried to do a bunch of things that would ostensibly make my life easier during the move — renting those reusable plastic bins instead of getting moving boxes; calling around to find the mover who would give me the best quote; arranging several furniture deliveries so that things would arrive at my apartment the day I got here — life, as they say, had other plans for me. My moving bin company ghosted me. My movers lectured me on the stripped screws holding together my bedframe and told me they couldn’t reassemble it for me in my new apartment (I didn’t know!! I bought it on Craigslist!!!!) so I slept on my mattress on the floor for several nights like a 22 year old drummer living in a living room converted into a bedroom in Bushwick. I’m still waiting for the vintage dresser I bought to arrive and yet I have the gall to be offended it’s still not here, like I didn’t buy it from a stranger on Instagram.
This is all to say that at the end of moving day when I realized I didn’t know how my patio doors locked, the shower curtain rod fell down, and I found a spider crawling over the aforementioned mattress on the ground, the only thing in the world I wanted was to eat a middling slice of pizza. I went over to my boyfriend’s apartment (due to the unlockable patio doors, the fallen shower curtain, and the spider) and asked him if he wanted pizza. Specifically what I asked him was: “Do you want like a Saraghina pizza, or like, pizza place pizza?” Thankfully, he chose the latter. Then came the ordeal of looking through the pizza places on the pizza place-specific delivery app I’ve used since 2019.
I knew exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I didn’t want. In this moment, what I didn’t want was a woodfire oven baked pizza with crispy dough that came in a size that only served one person and still necessitated you buying a $17 side salad to fully satiate you. I didn’t want fancy ingredients. No pesto, artichoke, anchovy, garlic scape, or expensive cured meat would ever touch this pizza. Give me the slightly too sweet and tinny tomato sauce, the undesirably chewy crust, the perfectly pedestrian toppings. Give me the whole shebang delivered with one of those little plastic tables set in the center of the pie so the top of the pizza box doesn’t touch the pizza itself (I just learned in writing this blog that this is called a “pizza saver”). I wanted to eat two slices of this pizza hot and doused in Tapatio and feel bad and full of pizza and regret for the rest of the night.
What I ended up ordering was a “Gino’s Special Pizza” from some place on Flatbush. It contained a smattering of black olives, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, pepperoni and sausage. It arrived in a timely manner, along with the six mozzarella sticks I ordered on the side. The pizza itself was, in a word, wet. The mass of toppings and extra molten cheese on top, along with what was probably a fissure in the crust itself contributed to what I can only describe as a very soggy pizza. Just practically disintegrating as soon as you tried to pick it up and put a slice on your plate. The color of the pizza was undesirably pale. I carefully ate a couple slices by sliding the tip of the pizza off the edge of a plate and gingerly taking a bite, until the remainder of the slice had enough structural integrity that I could pick it up, fold it in half, and do my best impression of eating it like a normal, polite person. We’re trying to have a civilization here, after all.
While this specific pizza was a bit too damp to be what I needed, it was generally what I had in mind, one I could have purchased from dozens of places in Brooklyn. I thought of my completely average dream pizza again this week when my Twitter friend Jason shared this piece about “middle class pizza” written by Eric Twardzik.
I can’t speak to most of the content of the piece because it’s about Boston-area pizzerias, of which I have no first-hand knowledge, but it gets at what I’m trying to eat. “Middle class pizza is honest and affordable, a simple pleasure that costs a couple of bucks and spurs neither regret nor introspection,” Twardzik writes. “It’s what you order to reward your friends following a successful move or bring home on a Saturday when you just can’t be bothered to cook and have a Netflix pick lined-up.” My knee-jerk instinct is to recoil at the phrase “middle class pizza” but I generally pick up what Twardzik is putting down. Sometimes you want something worse than a nice pizza and better than a frozen Ellio’s warmed in a microwave.
When I was home briefly last year I stayed at my dad’s house, where we deemed Saturday evening “takeout night,” and we mostly ordered from the pizza shop of my youth, A&M Pizza. A&M is by no means a fine dining establishment, but it’s a place where you could certainly order a turkey sub on chewy Italian bread or some considerably edible chicken wings. But that’s not why you were there — what you really wanted was to sit in a booth swaddled by the comforting womb of the pizzeria’s wood paneled walls and inhale a cheese pizza and a fountain Coke with the rest of your soccer team after a game on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
For as much as I sound like all I want is to eat the worst pizza known to man, I have been known to enjoy a fancy pie. A few weeks ago I made my own pizza crust, upon which I baked a white pizza with a homemade garlic cream sauce and some sauteed ramps. But that was not my prerogative last week. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that what I was really craving in the wake of a hellish move wasn’t a pizza at all, but the familiar, almost nostalgic comfort of an unremarkable pizzeria. The pizza we ordered last week was by no means good. I feel okay saying it was pretty bad. I’d still probably try another slice from those guys the next time I’m experiencing some degree of emotional tumult, though.