East Meets West
By Matt Tapia
Considering that I recently spent a few days enjoying the cultural and edible delights of New York City (thank you, Gramercy Park Hotel!), you can bet that I made damn sure to clock in some time to indulge in some of Gotham’s touted and fabled foodie delights. Yes, I sampled Pommes Frites on 2nd Avenue. Sorry, France, make my fries Belgian from here on out. Those insanely delicious pastrami sandwiches (with your choice of two styles of pickles) at Katz’s? Yup, had those, too. And don’t even get me started on those planks of porky goodness that Peter Luger’s likes to call “bacon.” That word just doesn’t say enough.
So, it’s kind of odd that I failed to try a couple of the things that are quintessentially New York: One, a falafel sandwich and two, pizza!
So, when a Riverside pizzeria—that I’ve known about since I was in fifth grade (god, I’m old), but yet never bothered to try out—has the balls to call itself “New York Pizza,” you better be damn sure you’re delivering a slice of something that sports an attitude and a divinely thin crust. Well, it wasn’t exactly Midtown, but this eatery on Van Buren Boulevard (mere yards away from the 91 Freeway, by the by) most assuredly knows its guilty-pleasure, big-city pies. Never mind the cheesy images of New York icons (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, et. al.) painted on this place’s windows or the sounds of cement mixers and big rigs flying by your table at ungodly speeds.
First, let’s chat about the crust. It’s a thin, crispy, nicely baked surface on the underside—it’s what people mean when they talk about “New York style.” For lunch, we ordered the “giant” slice. Aptly named, the slices were big enough to either a) form their own pizza or b) declare sovereignty and cuddle up to the United Nations. And despite their size, the pizza slices were nice and wide and foldable; again, the hallmarks of any respectable Gotham lunch-on-the-go.
We stuck with pepperoni to keep things simple. The sauce and toppings were exactly what I expected: hot, melty, savory and greasy. The kind of stuff that sticks to your ribs and asks for another slice. The kind of food that just sits and begs for someone with a hangover in search of relief.
Don’t expect this place to land on Food Paradise any time soon, but if a by-the-numbers clone of an East Coast pie fit for—maybe not a king—a working man, a plumber or a handyman is what you’re looking for, then NY Pizza should be added to the bottom of your short list. I mean, with a crust as thin as Keira Knightly, this place is serious about credibility!
Just to be fair, we also tried one of their House Subs, specifically the Pastrami Italian. Points! Points! Served up hot on a toasted roll, garnished with sautéed red peppers, slathered in mozzarella cheese and topped with a pickle spear, this was a real-deal sandwich. The tart bite of the pickle complemented the hearty (and decadent) mélange of meat and cheese. Don’t even get me started on the crunchy, golden-brown crust on the bread.
Sure, everything was served up on a plain white paper plate, but that’s the magic of lo-fi, back-to-basics street food, right?
Now excuse me because I’ve got a date with a hangover . . . and I think New York Pizza’s got the cure.
And I’m all out of menudo.
New York Pizza, 3570 Van Buren Blvd., Riverside, (951) 688-4000; www.newyorkpizzariverside.com. MC, V.