New York and the quest for the perfect pizza

Are you planning a trip to New York City? Do you enjoy your guided tours with a twist? Do you like pizza? (Not that we’d contemplate a world in which people do not like pizza.) We’ve got the right guy for you to hook up with. Meet Scott, the person behind one of the most unconventional tours we have ever come across: Scott’s Pizza Tour.

Scott is a young American who organises tours of the best pizzerias in the Big Apple. He is passionate about pizza, and he knows how to transform your tour of the city into something unforgettable. You can find the website with all the info and details of the tours here.

NBM: How did you come up with the idea of a pizza tour?

SP: I have always been a huge pizza fan, but my love really developed when I used to tour with my rock and roll band during college. We traveled around the USA and ate lots of different types of pizza. I wondered why there were so many different types of pizza, so I started doing some research. I learned so much about pizza that friends started asking me to teach them. The best way to learn about pizza is by eating it any paying attention, so that’s just what we did. I’d drive to Brooklyn or Queens or Philadelphia to visit pizzerias with my friends on the weekends, but it was so much fun they told me I should offer it as a tour as a business. After ignoring them for a few months, I finally decided to start the company and now I’ve been running it for almost four years. It doesn’t feel like work because I’m doing exactly what I love!

NBM: Who are the tour guides? how do you select them?

SP: I only have one tour guide, JoAnne, and I chose her because she has a deep passion for food, culture, history and people. She truly loves telling people how ovens work and why some crusts are thin while others are thick. I haven’t hired more because I haven’t met anyone who feels the same way and has the ability to talk to complete strangers for several hours. It’s a very special combination.

NBM: Now that you have a pizza tour company, are you still into pizza?

SP: My friends asked me this right after I started and I worried that I would lose my love for pizza but the exact opposite has happened. I am far more into pizza now than I was 4 years ago. When you learn more about any subject, you realize how little you actually know. So the more I learn, the more questions I have. I used to enjoy pizza, now I live it.

NBM: Name 3 of your all time favourite pizzas and your top 5 pizza places in NY

SP: That’s a hard one because there are so many styles of pizza available. There are also lots of ways to interpret your question. I’ll start by answering part 1 about three of my all time favorite pizzas. I take this to mean actual pizzas that I have eaten rather than styles or places. One was at a place called Pizza House in Cranford, NJ. It’s the place I grew up with and I have always thought of it as my home base pizza. They do a really thick cheese pizza that isn’t fancy or delicate in any way. My second all-time favorite is the first pie I ever had at Grimaldi’s in New York. It completely changed my definition of the word pizza and opened my eyes to the food’s potential. The pizza was so simple and balanced, making it lighter and tastier than anything I had ever had previously. My third favorite pizza was a pizza marinara at Pizzeria Da Michele in Napoli I ate in 2009. With only tomato, oil, garlic and oregano this was just an amazing punch of flavor. It was sublime.

It’s very hard for me to determine my top 5 pizza places in New York because there are just too many that I love. I’ll answer with pizzerias whose food is as wonderful as the place itself. I love John’s of Bleecker Street because the pizza is very well defined and the room is extremely comfortable. NY Pizza Suprema is a classic New York slice shop and the people there are incredibly nice. Keste is a wonderful Neapolitan pizzeria that makes some incredible pizza made by people who obviously care about their product. Sam’s in Brooklyn is another great place to hang out and eat a truly wonderful and honest pizza. Finally, I really love Louie and Ernie’s in the Bronx. They are a neighborhood slice shop that makes a great pie with no pretense.

NBM: Who are the people who join your tours? Lots of tourists or more New Yorkers?

SP: I get lots of people from around the US but mostly locals on the weekends. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people from Australia, Europe and Canada. I often get Italians and that is a real treat because we teach each other so much about pizza!

NBM: What’s the craziest tour you had the chance to lead?

SP: I’ve had a couple huge groups of high school students, sometimes over 60 of them, and that’s really fun. They are so excited to be on a field trip where they get to eat pizza but they learn so much about history, science, food and culture without even knowing it! I also had someone get engaged on a tour, that was a real blast. Last month, we took a tour to my friend’s house. He built a pizza oven in his back yard so we went there to make some pizza with him. It was incredible!

NBM: What are the features that make a pizza perfect?

SP: It’s all about balance. I don’t believe in a right or wrong cheese, tomato, topping, crust recipe… As long as the elements are in balance I’ll be happy to eat it.

NBM: You mentioned you had one of your top 5 five pizza in Naples. Tell us about your experience there.

SP: I have been to Italy three times. My last two trips centered around Naples, where I studied tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, ovens and olive oil. The pizza in Naples is truly fantastic and I can’t wait to go back for more. I learn so much with every bite I take.

NBM: Do you also offer vegan pizza tours/ gluten free pizza tours?

SP: I recently started offering vegan and gluten free tours because there are so many people who can’t eat standard pizza but still long for it. I try to bring them to places that are doing it well.

NBM: What do you think of people who dislike pizza?

SP: I haven’t met many people who dislike pizza, but I think they just haven’t had the right one yet. Maybe I can introduce them to the pizza that changes their mind.

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The photo above and in homepage is by LibraryatNight. The first photo published in the post is by Ellen Roth.