Like a lot of New Yorkers, Ian Manheimer, Corey Mintz, Tim Reitzes, Gabe Zimmer, and Nick Johnson have a favorite neighborhood pizzeria.
They don’t share the same go-to spot. But each of them serve pizza by the slice. The slices cost more than a buck. And they don’t do fancy “hipster pizza.” In short, they’re real New York pizzerias. And, as the guys put it, they represent all that makes the city special.
“For us, there is nothing more New York than the slice of pizza, and the neighborhood pizzerias that serve them. They provide reliable, inexpensive, and overwhelmingly delicious food for around the cost of a single subway ride, which makes them one of the places that caters to the entire melting pot of New Yorkers,” said Reitzes via email.
In 2010, they decided to honor those places. So they started traveling around the five boroughs after work and on the weekends, photographing and interviewing the people who work and eat at the kind of authentic slice joints they’ve long known and loved. Their work is collected in a book,The New York Pizza Project, which is available online and at stores around New York City.
“Some of these shops have been in their neighborhood for 40 or 50 years—a lifetime in the current business climate of New York. When you start to think about why they've been able to sustain, you stumble upon a side of New York that has nothing to do with Times Square or the luxury stores on Madison Avenue or the banks on Wall Street—the larger-than-life things that many people outside (and even some inside) of the city deem as essential New York culture. They're still standing because of the incredible sense of community and tradition that is often overlooked in this city,” Johnson said via email.
Their book is both a celebration of this culture and an appeal to preserve it. As rents rise and dollar slice joints and trendy Neapolitan-style pie restaurants grow in popularity, old-school slice joints have disappeared.
As they continue eating and documenting their way through the last bastions of true New York pizza, the Pizza Project guys hope the attention will prove why these places deserve to stick around. “Truth is, the newcomers are only a threat if we, as New Yorkers, make them a threat. It's up to us. If we'd rather wait two hours for a table at a pizzeria in Williamsburg instead of grabbing a few slices down the block, we run the risk of ostracizing an important part of our food culture. The same goes for dollar slices. If we're willing to skimp on quality for the sake of saving a few bucks, we're going to see more and more classic pizza shops shuttering their doors. Personally, I think there's room for all three to thrive in New York, but it's up to us to keep the balance and respect the institution that put pizza on the map,” Johnson said.