Thick or thin crust? Pepperoni and mushrooms, or just a classic margherita with tomato sauce and cheese? Fast and cheap, or artisanal with high-quality ingredients? Fresh out of the oven, or reheated the next day?
So many choices … so much to debate. How do you like your pizza?
In “The Kings of the Dollar Slice Build a Better Pizza,” Julia Moskin writes:
It’s hard to nail down the most improbable thing about Upside Pizza, a new slice joint a few blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Is it that the cooks make fresh mozzarella in the basement every morning, and that the mozzarella is just one of four cheeses on the plain pie? Is it that the chief pizza maker, Noam Grossman, positions batches of dough in front of the closed-circuit camera when he goes home at 1 a.m. in order to wake at 4 a.m. to see how much they’ve risen?
Or is it that they refuse to put a shaker of garlic powder on the counter alongside the red pepper flakes and the oregano, denying New Yorkers the right to customize their slice?
“I respect the garlic powder,” Mr. Grossman said, looking pained. “But that’s just not what we’re trying to do here.”
What Mr. Grossman and his partners are trying to do at Upside Pizza, which opened in January on Eighth Avenue at 39th Street, is to approach the New York City slice joint with the same culinary rigor associated with top-flight chefs and white-tablecloth restaurants. (In that world, the chef decides how much garlic is enough, and only garlic in its natural form would be used.)
The most improbable thing about it all is the fact that Upside Pizza is owned by the same Brooklyn natives — the brothers Eli and Oren Halali — who own the 2 Bros. dollar-slice pizza chain, prized by New Yorkers, commuters and tourists for the cheapest, fastest lunch in the city.
The article continues:
“This was always the dream,” said Eli Halali, 36, gesturing at the slowly fermented dough balls, dollops of housemade sausage and freshly roasted mushrooms that make an Upside slice so different from the 2 Bros. one. The other big difference is the price: from $3 for a plain cheese slice to $5 for a Sicilian-style rectangle with pepperoni.
“The dollar slice is a business slice, nothing wrong with that,” said Anthony Falco, the baker who helped put the artisanal pizza at Roberta’s in Bushwick, Brooklyn, on the map.
But the brothers, who are passionate about pizza, also craved respect for their product, he said. “They made the cheapest slice, and they wanted to prove they could make the best slice.”
The author compares the two pizzas owned by the Halali brothers:
How do the two pizzas compare? A 2 Bros. slice is not exactly delicious, but it is good, hot and usually — because of the nine high-traffic locations selected by the Halali brothers — fresh. It’s uniform and predictable, tasting mainly of sauce, brought together by the rich texture of cheese and the bland crunch of crust.
But each bite of an Upside slice has multiple flavors and textures: Tang from the inside of the crust, smoke from the outside, funk from the caciocavallo cheese (alongside Parmesan, fresh and low-moisture mozzarella) and warm grassiness from the olive oil are just the start.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— What’s your favorite kind of pizza? Describe your ideal pizza in detail — and try to make our mouths water!
— How picky or particular are you about pizza? Is pizza just pizza or does it have to have specific qualities to meet your tastes or standards? At Upside Pizza there is no garlic powder — only fresh garlic. What pizza “no no’s” do you abide by?
— What are your favorite and least favorite toppings? What are the most adventurous or strange toppings you have ever tried? What would you never touch even if they paid you to try it?
— How much would you be willing to pay for pizza? Is $1 for a slice too little? Is $5 too much? Which pizza described in the article do you think you would most like to try: from the fast and cheap fast 2 Bros. or the more upscale and costly Upside Pizza?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.