It seems like my life is full of New Yorkers. I love them, but as we all know, the common thread that binds people from New York City is their adamant, unshakable belief that NYC is innately superior to all other points on the map. That’s fine. Home town pride is natural. I still have a deep fondness for my home towns of Flint, MI and Lubbock, TX… even though I really shouldn’t.
The one area that New York pride really grinds on my nerves, though, is when it comes to pizza. New York-style pizza is, in my opinion, just shy of inedible, with their platonic ideal consisting of plasticky cheese and a miniscule hint of sauce scraped haphazardly across a thin, cardboard-like crust. I have eaten New York-style pizza in New York from New York pizzerias that have been canonized by New Yorkers, and that pizza was unremarkable at best, awful at worst. It’s even worse when certain unnamed people at 1UP insist on buying San Francisco-made attempts at NYC-style pizza for staff meetings and parties. Bad as New York-style pizza is, true disaster strikes when people who aren’t currently living in New York City try to mimic it.
Frankly, the whole thing put me off pizza for a few years. I’d convinced myself that I just don’t like pizza altogether… until one night last summer, when I walked past a local pizzeria called Irving Pizza and bought a slice on a whim. It was fantastic, and it reminded me that I don’t hate pizza — I just hate the oppressive fascism of New York pizza adherents.
Irving Pizza, so named because it is located on Irving Street, made me love pizza again.
The crust is thicker than New York pizza, yet it’s thinner than the Chicago tradition demands. It’s soft but not doughy, and the crust edges are reminiscent of a good ciabatta; tender and spongy inside, but crisp and brown outside.
The sauce is rich and well-seasoned. It’s not applied too heavily, but it still has enough of a presence that you can actually taste it, unlike the faint intaglio of red you see on New York pizza. I’m not entire sure what the cheese blend consists of, but it’s definitely more than just mozzarella. It’s melty and always perfectly browned, and thick enough to make you feel like you’re actually eating something substantial without giving you what Cat refers to as “cheese belly.”
The best part about Irving Pizza, however, is their lunch deal. Four bucks gets you a huge slice of pizza and a gigantic drink. (They no longer advertise the special on their menu, probably because it’s such a good deal.) Their afternoon slice selection is pretty poor — usually just cheese, pepperoni, combo, and Hawaiian — but there’s a secret. If you ask them to add a couple of toppings to a slice of cheese, they’ll send it back to the kitchen and have it tricked out to your custom specs. They accomplish this by dropping on whatever toppings you ask for, sprinkling on a bit more cheese, and running the thing through their oven again to reheat it and seal the toppings with the added cheese.
The margherita shown above is the fruit of this particular cheat; as you can see, they don’t scrimp on the toppings when you ask for a custom slice. They covered the thing with huge, fresh slices of tomato and a ton of shredded basil. Actually, this slice is a bit more meagre than normal, since they usually include a lot more cheese on the top layer. So long as the added toppings don’t fall off en route to my mouth, though, I’m not too picky.
For my money, Irving Pizza is probably the best, most satisfying pizza I’ve ever eaten. It strikes a perfect balance between taste, texture, and substance. Of course, pizza’s a matter of taste, and since BakeSpite’s co-proprietor is rather ferociously from New York City… you can probably expect a rebuttal soon. But hey, if you’re ever in San Francisco, I recommend you try Irving Pizza to decide for yourself — it’s just a block south of Golden Gate Park, right at 19th Ave.
Man, now I want some pizza.