The first thing that visitors notice when they come to the Big Apple: New Yorkers do some things a little differently than the rest of the world. We walk and talk faster. We can’t sleep without the honks and the hum of traffic lulling us into slumber. And we have a few rules when it comes to eating our favorite foods.
If you don’t want to stand out as an out-of-towner (or a bumbling politician), start with mastering the art of eating pizza. Sure, it may seem simple, but even our mayor did it wrong. Who can forget de Blasio’s fork-and-knife approach to a pizza pie? “Forkgate,” as the incident became known, was his very first scandal after being sworn into office.
“Don’t be a de Blasio,” scolds John Brescio, proprietor of Lombardi’s, America’s oldest pizzeria and one of NYC’s most well-regarded. Brescio wants to clear something up right away: “New Yorkers do not eat pizza with a fork and a knife,” he says, dismissing hizzoner’s defense of eating pizza as they do in his “ancestral homeland” of Italy as an excuse. The more likely reason: de Blasio’s Boston roots were showing. “If you eat pizza with a fork and knife, you’re definitely from out of town,” Brescio says.
What is the correct way to savor a slice? “Pick it up and eat it flat,” Brescio says. “Real New Yorkers really know how to use their taste buds, so they eat it flat. This way whatever toppings are on it, whatever spices are on it, you will get the full taste of it.” Folding is allowed, Brescio adds, only if you are eating on-the-run. “But if you want to enjoy the pie, eat it the way you pick it up: flat.”
Brescio should know: New York-style pizza was born at Lombardi’s in 1897. “Our pizza is not paper-thin, and it’s not thick like Chicago-style. New York-style is right in between,” Brescio says. Lombardi’s pizza is made in a coal oven, but Brescio allows that it is not a requirement for good New York pizza. “You can have a great pizza without a coal oven, as long as you are using the top-quality, fresh toppings and you know how to cook it at the right heat. You can make a beautiful pie in a coal oven, gas oven, wood oven or even an electric oven.”
According to Brescio, there are a few no-nos in terms of toppings, too. “Chicken with sweet sauce on it — that is unacceptable. Pineapple is another one that is unacceptable. Lombardi’s is traditional. We stick to sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, our own roasted peppers. We make it just like Gennaro Lombardi made it 100 years ago.”
For more on the history of pizza and to find out some of New York’s other top-notch pizzerias, see our Ultimate Guide to New York’s Best Pizza.
For more New York City dining advice, check out How to Eat Ramen Like a New Yorker.
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