Imagine a tall man, a shock of the blondest hair possible swept across his head, marching a large pie from one of the best joints in the Bronx across 20 or so rough blocks, destined for a park bench where he can munch while listening to opera. Or, a young Latvian immigrant, recently arrived in Southern California, listening excitedly as a friend talks about this amazing pie, “with MEAT on top.” Or a kid growing up in Mid-Michigan, amidst a pizza culture dominated by the local chains Domino’s and Little Caesars, finding that there’s something unique and special in the thick dough and delectable sausage of the pies made at DeLuca’s, the local family Italian restaurant. Or a transplant to Manhattan who is happy that he lives within delivery distance of the restaurant in which we sit, but who will not have a pie delivered because of what it loses in transit.
Last night at Lombardi‘s, while the San Gennaro Festival raged outside, I shared stories and two larges with the other charter members of CUNY Pie– Boone Gorges, Matt Gold, and Mikhail Gershovich. The pies–one plain, one sausage and spinach–were very good, though not great. I got the sense that there wasn’t much craft in them, that they were a product of practiced motion more than passion. That’s a totally understandable result from a place that’s been operating for more than 100 years, that serves locals, but also serves a lot of tourists. I was most impressed with the sauce, in both its sweetness and the nature of its spread. There was just the right quantity for it to gather when I folded my slice, which nicely concentrated its flavor. The crust– though Boone argued that it could use “another 30 seconds”– brought the right amount of crunch. The sausage was forgettable. Perhaps the plain could have used a touch more fresh basil. I won’t complain, it was satisfying.
So was the conversation. Beyond sharing our individual histories with pizza, we talked about parenthood, family, and future locations for our meetups. Tontonno’s in Coney Island? Yes. A spot to be named in Jersey? Perhaps. Neopolitan in New Haven? Not me. (Let the Yalies eat it, I say). Mostly, though, we talked about CUNY, the edtech universe, and our various projects. We criticized, confessed, and we praised. We stayed long after I finished that last slice (which happened to be the smallest of the plain pie… thanks, guys!), and the thought of ordering another pie to scarf down before departing probably crossed each of our minds. Perhaps we should have.
Next time. And, hopefully, you’ll join us.