What is So Sacred about Ordinary?

dodici pizzaSo an upscale pizza shop in New York City decides to go all out and make a pizza that sells for $38.

This week, the Sofia Pizza Shoppe, in the well-heeled Sutton Place section of Manhattan, is upping the ante, with a $38 pizza that requires an online ticket purchase and is available only a few nights each week, for a limited number of seatings. Only one pie will be made for each seating…

Thomas DeGrezia, who opened the shop last July with Matthew Porter, said he cold-fermented the dough for about three days before letting it rise in an oil-lined pan with grated cheese for 12 hours. (The name is a play on “dodici,” Italian for “12.”) It is cooked for 10 minutes without stretching the dough, resulting in a collapsed, airy crumb. The result is a six-slice pizza that Sofia will sell only by the pie…

“We use all imported flours, and we also use an imported, unfiltered, organic Sicilian olive oil,” said Mr. DeGrezia, who traces his pizza heritage to J& V Pizzeria, which his grandfather helped found in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the 1950s. “Of the four cheeses on it, one is a daily-hand-made, fresh mozzarella, and another is a 36-month red cow Parmigiano-Reggiano that gets shaved on top right before serving.”

That’s a very “New York” thing to do.  But we admire great wine, super-fast automobiles, and world-class athletes—why not excellent pizza? Well the comments on this story aren’t having any. Here’s just a sampling:

This is more of a loaf of bread with “pizza topping”. It bears no resemblance to the best of Italy let alone NYC, home of America’s best pizza.”

Now $38 for a slice of deep dish pizza which my mother has been making for decades at home sans the fancy-sounding ingredients. More power to them. For the rest of us – this is a sign of a bubble about to pop.

It won’t beat what I can get for a few singles in any local joint Brooklyn/Queens/ Jersey , 38 bucks? Really ?

Clever idea, great pr, but not pizza. Pizza is a flatbread. As for the price, a stupendous pie in Naples can be as little as 3.5 Euros.

Well that just kind of misses the point doesn’t it? The idea wasn’t to make your average New York or Neapolitan slice but to do something different and extraordinary. DeGrezia wants to make a great pizza with the best ingredients and that takes time and resources. If you don’t want to pay for it then don’t buy a ticket. But why treat this as a sin against the pizza Gods?

Why is it we admire excellence and pushing the boundaries in other areas of life but when it comes to food only the ordinary will do?

One comment

  1. I think I have lost the plot. I am not sure what you ultimately want to say here. A good number of people from all over the world value high-quality pizza, which is well-crafted with excellent ingredients. And, indeed, we admire (as you rightly point out) many objects of beauty and excellence–cars, athletes and wine. However, admiration does not always entail a purchase. I can admire a beautiful Porsche or Jaguar. I do not need to buy it. In the case of athletes, a mere 30 dollars of Time-Warner Cable allows me to admire as many athletes as my heart desires every month. Wine is a bit tricky in terms of the cost-benefit-value analysis. I will leave that discussion to pundits like you.

    Keep in mind, admiration is one thing, paying for excellence or the “extraordinary” is another thing altogether. The pizza-going New Yorkers unwilling to pay extraordinary prices–at least from their perspective–have a right to be skeptical. If you don’t like their attitude or assessment, don’t write about them. It is a two-way street. No one is asking you to be a Supreme Court Culinary Justice. I do like the concept of an exquisitely beautiful pizza with the finest ingredients. However, it does not make me a hypocrite (or philistine) if I refuse to pay 38 dollars for it. This goes for the Hearst Castle and Rolls Royces as well. In fact, it may even apply to your blogs. I admire your
    fervor, zest and passion for the aesthetics of food and wine. But I would not pay 38 dollars for it –however ordinary or extraordinary it may be (even if that was an annual fee!).

    Perhaps you need to say more about the ordinary and the extraordinary. No doubt the ordinary–whatever it means–can be extraordinary. And, vice versa, the extraordinary can be ordinary (if not over-rated). My nonna made raviolis that were ordinary in every sense of the word. Dough, ricotta, spinach, eggs, sauce, etc…But they were the most extraordinary “ordinary” raviolis one can imagine. Why? Because because like most immigrants, she was not trying to be extraordinary. And she was not boasting about how exceptional magical skills and inspired art. Was Picasso’s dove, extraordinary or ordinary? And, as Jack Nicholson pointed out, would any true artist talk about the cost of the paint? Or in the film cinema world, how much it cost to make a film?

    Mario Batali said it best: Every chef secretly wants to be a cook. “I go to bed every night and pray that people with money get taste and people with taste get money”.

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