New York, NY, February 21, 2004 — I'll admit that I don't
have the deep and abiding love for pizza that some people do. For them
pizza is like sex. Even bad pizza is preferable to none at all. That
said, The unique combination that is dough, tomato, and cheese is quite
compelling. And even moreso when done to perfection at
on Coney Island in Brooklyn. I'd had decent pizza, but theirs was simply
the best I've ever had. Needless to say, given that we've already gone
all the way to Manhattan (from our basically pizza-less Seattle homebase)
the trip to Coney Island seems like a long haul. Given our laziness we
were excited that another
Totonno's existed in Manhattan. Wondering if
it was possible to replicate perfection a few miles away we were eager
to try it out. We even asked on Coney Island how similar the pizza was.
They assured us that it was identical. They were wrong.
We should have known that things were not
going to go well when on the phone I asked the Manhattan folks if they
were related to the Totonno's on Coney Island, and the woman answering
the phone had never even heard of it. Oh oh. But we thought to ourselves
that we had a secret that would save the day. The last time Steve and
Kira went to the Coney Island Totonno's they were told that if they went
to Manhattan, they should order their pizza "Coney Island style". This
apparently means more burnt on the bottom. Apparently the New Yorkers in
Manhattan freak out at a little charring, while the more hardy
Brooklynites (Brooklynians?) know that this is how their pizza comes out
best. With that little tidbit in our arsenal we ordered one cheese
pizza, Coney Island style.
And while it was nicely roasted with charred
edges, it was just not the same. The sauce in Manhattan was definitely
the same - robust, flavorful, and delicious. But the pizza didn't come
out the same. Was it the cheese? The dough? The water? The oven? Was it
the fact that it wasn't a descendant of the founder personally making
the pizza? The waitress claimed that the owners were the same, but she
seemed to lack conviction, and her answers were suspect. I suspect but
can't confirm that the Manhattan Totonno's is the result of some ancient
licensing arrangement with the original (I have no proof of this, just a
We tried a couple of other pizzas. The cheese
on the Margherita was a little too even, a little oily, and a bit salt.
Maybe they were using a different mozarella. Peyman had a neapolitan
with sauce, oregano, onion, and garlic which he thought was fantastic.
The sauce was super
present flavor-wise and the garlic was roasted to perfection. And though
it shouldn't matter, I couldn't help but be slightly oppressed by all
the St. Patrick's Day decoration giving this place more of a sports bar
feel than the atmosphere of a place where great pizza is created. Though
if the pizza were great I wouldn't have cared if they had Christmas
decorations up in April.
Perhaps the real issue is quality control.
Maybe the intangibles that make the pizza great on Coney Island simply
don't translate into a different borough. It's not the first (or last
time) that perfection doesn't scale when it comes to food.