After a morning business meeting in midtown Manhattan, I became unexpectedly free for lunch. Being the lovely early summer day that it was, I thought I would wander about and continue my mission of “trying to save the world from bad pizza.” The source of my pessimistic sentiment was the fact that this part of the Pizza City has typically let me down when it comes to finding a decent slice of pizza. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it doesn’t take much to please the Times Square tourists?
In searching for destinations this time, I decided to think like an office worker looking for a good lunch place. While this similar approach in the past led me to the great square slice at Harry’s Italian, today’s results were not as satisfying.
My first stop was the “world famous” (not to me) Little Italy Pizza whose storefront sits on the top side of 45th Street. It was nearing the end of the lunch hour. Things though in the area were still quite hopping courtesy of a Billy Joel tribute band rocking out in the adjacent courtyard. I also took an interest in the great Book-Off shop on the other side of Little Italy–a fab place to browse for cheap books, CDs and DVDs.
Inside Little Italy, things were still hopping too. The busy late lunch hour crowd took up most of the seating in the long narrow front room while a long line meandered from the counter in the rear all the way back into the front space. The line however moved quick and orderly, and I even found a seat when it was my time to munch.
After getting to the counter, I was taken by the ton of different types of slices they offered. In addition to those that were pre-made, there were 19 different toppings from which to choose. And in a first for me in NYC—they even sold Chicago-style pizza in addition to normal pizza!
Making my way down the assembly line, I stuck with my basic cheese slice which cost me $2.75. Reheated and delivered to me while I paid at the cash register, my first reaction was that it looked OK, but wasn’t anything spectacular. The consumption of my slice would soon prove my initial impression to be right on target.
The slice had a glaze of oil atop the cheese. Its overall dimensions seemed close to correct, but was somewhat on the thicker side. Taste wise it left me flat. It just struck me as somewhat dull, pedestrian and boring. There was nothing exciting about this rather ordinary slice of pizza. I also found the crust rather doughy. Lacking any real crispness, it wound up giving my jaw a good workout.
On the plus side, it did have the look, style and decent ingredients. Cook it up a bit crisper and spice it up a bit and there could be something here. While I think it just needs some work, I bet topping-lovers find just what they are looking for.
Little Italy Pizza may be a great slice if it were in Des Moines, Iowa. However, it’s far though from being one of the best in the Pizza City let alone being world famous. For my money, Harry’s Italian is still the best slice Midtown has to offer.
PIZZA SNOB RATING ***1/2 Working on a Good Thing
The World Famous Little Italy Pizza
55 West 45th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036