Fat Boys + Pizza

The Fat Boys were a hip hop trio that had a good run in the ’80s putting out records in a similar vein as Run DMC, Biz Markie, Beastie Boys, etc. Like many such rappers of the time, the Fat Boys’ image was based less on street toughs, with more of a focus fun stuff … like eating pizza.

Their Jail House Rap, from the 1984 self-titled album is one of my all-time favorite pizza-related songs, and the music video only solidifies that fact.

Among many pizza references, part of the video was filmed at the now-extinct La Marionetta Pizzeria, which was at 105 Greenwich Ave in Manhattan (at the corner of 12th St).

The pizzeria closed years ago, which is a shame. They had a great storefront with a hand-crafted neon sign and everything. All the accounts I’ve been able to dig up online cite it as a tasty slice shop – a fact I don’t doubt, knowing that the Fat Boys chose it for their video.

If you’re not familiar with the Fat Boys, the cover of the Jail House Rap single alone should give you an idea of how awesome and in to pizza they were. But, really, the point of this post is to introduce you to the greatness of the video. Seriously – if you only watch one video today, make it this one (it even starts with the last few seconds of an Iron Maiden song!).

… It was twelve o’clock, midnight
And I wanted a snack
So I headed downstairs
Thought the fridge was packed
But when I opened the door
What did I see?
The back of the fridge
Staring right at me
I thought to myself
I could almost die
Then an immage appeared:
A pizza pie!

So I put on Adidas
Headed out the door
As I pictured myself
Eating more and more
But the store was closed
I busted into a rage
So I went to the crib
And got the twelve-gauge
Ran back to the shop
Busted down the door
And all I saw
Was pizza galore

So I stuffed my face
I couldn’t even walk
I couldn’t laugh, smile, shake
Giggle, wiggle, or talk
So I fell asleep
With my face in my plate
And the next thing you know
I was headed upstate …

Other Fat Boys videos of interest: All You Can Eat, where they go to the  Sbarro in Times Square for a $3.99 pig-out (reminds me of my high school AYCE pizza night parties at Papa Gino’s); Fat Boys, where they head to the beach before smashing some pizza into their faces (literally); and the non-pizza-yet-still-educational Fat Boys Burger Pattern, where they teach some mathematical concepts by ordering burgers.

Saturday, January 29th, is Vegan Pizza Day

Acqua Santa

The Dell’ortolano pie at Acqua Santa

In celebration of dairy- and meat-free pizza, tomorrow has been dubbed Vegan Pizza Day. While I could probably never be vegan myself, I am vegetarian and have many vegan friends, so am happy to support an event like this. The official VPD site is pretty cool, with listings of places that have vegan pizza, run downs on vegan-safe frozen pizzas, and other such resources.

I don’t agree with the claims on the site that vegan pizza is “the most awesomest food ever”, however I have had some delicious vegan pizza in my day. Many pizzerias offer simple cheeseless pies under the name “Marinara”, with just sauce and a few other minimal condiments or toppings, like garlic, sea salt, or olive oil. If they’re not vegan-safe as is, they can usually be made so easily. These pies are often neglected because they look boring as hell on paper (i.e. on the menu), but if done right with good ingredients these pies can rival their cheese-laden counterparts.

There’s also the topic of vegan faux cheese. I have yet to have any fake cheese which really does the job for me, but if used with a bunch of other toppings, it can add something to vegan pizza that might otherwise be missing.

As far as NYC goes, there is no shortage of options for vegan pizza. Most places can make vegan pizza to order. Others, like Paulie Gee’s, Vinnie’s, and Viva Herbal, offer entire vegan menus. Heck, Scott’s Pizza Tours has even offered vegan pizza walking tours before.

New York isn’t the only place for vegan pizza though. Boston, for example, has a strictly vegan pizzeria called Peace o’ Pie. Many more options can be found on the Vegan Pizza Day listing.

So, regardless of where you are, grab your vegan friends tomorrow and chomp some non-animal-byproduct slices.

Vinnie's Pizzeria

The vegan black bean taco slice from Vinnie’s, with black beans, pico de gallo, ground “beef”, “mozzarella”, “cheddar”, and Frank’s Hot Sauce.

@Pizza_Rules on Twitter

After maintaining a personal Twitter feed for a while now, I’ve decided to finally move my pizza-related activity to a dedicated account: @Pizza_Rules. (I would have preferred @PizzaRules, with no underscore, but it was already registered by someone who doesn’t even use it.)

There were several reasons why I finally decided it would be worth maintaining a separate pizza-specific account. First of all, I wanted to display my pizza-related tweets in the sidebar of this site, and having a separate account was the easiest way to do that. Secondly, most of the activity on my personal account (@NickSherman) is related to typography / fonts, so I always felt bad for my pizza friends who had to endure all the type nerd content if they wanted to follow me on Twitter. Similarly, I found myself sometimes refraining from sharing pizza-related info, to spare my type nerd followers from an overload. Finally, I started a new pizza-related project this month (more on that later) and I figured it might be helpful to have a pizza-only account to supplement it.

My plan now is to keep my pizza-related tweets on the @Pizza_Rules account and cross-post to my personal account when it’s appropriate.

Gimme Pizza Slow

Whipped cream pour like waterfalls.

Sizzle Pie’s heavy metal pizza names

The newly opened Sizzle Pie pizzeria in Portland has what I’m going to say is my all-time favorite list of pizza names. If you’re not in to heavy metal or hardcore punk rock, most of the names will make no sense to you. But for the people who understand the joke behind the meat-stuffed “Girth Crisis” pizza, this menu is comedic gold. Some of my other favorites include the “Napalm Breath” (ref) and the “Rudimentary Penne” (ref).

I can’t believe this is an actual menu and not just a joke on some hardcore message board. The next time I’m in Portland, this will be my first stop, for sure.

It reminds me of a comment thread of Metallica-themed pizza names I had with some friends on Facebook back in August after posting a link to the Pizzallica pizzeria in Detroit:

Add Hoeks Death Metal Pizza to the list, and that makes Sizzle Pie the 3rd heavy metal themed pizzeria I know of. Are there any more?

U+1F355: “SLICE OF PIZZA” character in Unicode 6.0

Glyph map for the Symbojet font, showing the new Unicode "SLICE OF PIZZA" character

As some readers may have heard, pizza is not my only obsession. Among other things, I also have a strong affinity for typography and all things related. It was through this obsession that I discovered the following obscure topic of pizza relevance. Beware of high nerdery beyond this point.

Earlier this month, the Unicode Consortium published version 6.0.0 of their Unicode Standard – a computing standard that deals with character encoding and representation. I won’t get too far in to it, but the basic idea of Unicode is to enable people around the world to use computers in any language.

The release of Unicode 6.0 adds 2,088 characters, with over 1,000 new symbols, including the new Indian rupee symbol, and – most relevant to the topic of pizza – a set of symbols for use in text messaging. From the press release:

These emoji characters are in widespread use, especially in Japan, and have become an essential part of text messages there and elsewhere. Unicode 6.0 now provides for data interchange between different mobile vendors and across the internet. The symbols include symbols for many domains: maps and transport, phases of the moon, UI symbols (such as fast-forward) and many others

Hidden among the plethora of new symbols is none other than a slice of pizza! This means that once the Unicode Standard 6.0 catches on, you can theoretically have a button on your keyboard for typing a pizza symbol.

Food-related symbols from the iPhone emoji keyboard. (Note: no pizza)

Those of you with iPhones may be familiar with the special emoji keyboard that allows you to type a variety of pre-made pictograms along with your normal text. The iPhone emoji includes many food-related icons (and even a smiling piece of poop … for real), but it doesn’t offer a slice of pizza – probably because it was intended for an Asian user-base where pizza is less prevalent than, say, rice or sushi. Even if the iPhone emoji did offer a slice of pizza, the symbols don’t currently relate to Unicode standards, so you would only be able to send it to other iOS users.

Luckily, the new Unicode 6.0 standard will enable previously-impossible advances in device-independent pizza-communication capabilities. Because, really, what kind of a world do we live in where you can’t text message a pizza pictogram to your non-iPhone-having friends?

Of course, such advances will require fonts or other software that actually include a pizza symbol that is properly mapped the the designated “SLICE OF PIZZA” codepoint (i.e. U+1F355). There are plenty of existing “dingbat” fonts that contain a pizza glyph (for example FF Dingbats), but the only one I know of so far that has a glyph properly mapped to the new Unicode codepoint is a recently-released font called Symbojet.

Hopefully more and more fonts will adopt the new pizza character over the coming months and years as Unicode 6.0 becomes more prevalent. When they do, a single character will enable you to type a slice in your tweets, e-mails, text messages, etc. Until that day, perhaps you can make due with my own emoticon-style shorthand for representing a slice of pizza (>

Pizza Month 2010: Complete

Pizza Month 2010: Complete

I’m glad to report that I successfully achieved my Pizza Month goal of eating nothing but pizza for the entire month of April. I already addressed some of the biggest issues early on in the month, but I figured it’d be worth taking a look back to share a few thoughts and answer some of the most common questions I’m asked about the experience. It’s also a good excuse to make some lists.

First of all: no, I’m not sick of pizza. It helps to understand that I eat a lot of pizza anyway; it isn’t uncommon for me to eat pizza everyday for a week at a time. This doesn’t mean that the whole endeavor wasn’t hard though. On the contrary, it was much harder than I expected. Consider, for instance, the following situations (all of which happened to me during the month):

  • You attend a business lunch, but end up having to order nothing and watch every one else eat because the restaurant doesn’t serve pizza. This of course also involves trying not to come across as a total dick while you explain to everyone why you’re not eating with them.
  • It is the warmest, most beautiful day of the year in New York City and you can’t eat an ice cream cone.
  • You are on Martha’s Vineyard for an extended trip and end up needing to scrape the bottom of the local pizzeria barrel in order to fulfill your daily quota for new pizza.
  • While on Martha’s Vineyard, you are staying for a week with your boss, whose wife is the editor of a magazine that focuses on local food. You can’t eat their undoubtedly delicious home-cooked meals or act on recommendations for the best local restaurants (unless they serve pizza).
  • You attend a catered dinner with tons of amazing food that is also free, but you can only eat an undercooked pizza which you picked up beforehand.

I could go on, but you get the general idea.

To only cite difficult situations would be unfair, though. I had many outstanding experiences throughout the month which probably wouldn’t have taken place if I were eating a normal diet. For example:

  • Doing an interview for the local news which would be re-broadcast on stations around North America
  • Appearing in the news in other forms around the country, including interviews for the Chicago Tribune and a conservative fundamentalist right-wing talk radio show in Alabama (?!)
  • Visiting 18 pizzerias that I have never been to before in my life, many of which were a pleasant surprise
  • Hearing or reading feedback from people who thought my plan was entertaining, admirable, stupid, or otherwise thought-provoking
  • Losing 2 pounds (yes, I lost weight)
  • Having an easy conversation topic to fill awkward silences
  • Receiving an e-mail from a girl I’d never met, asking if I wanted to go on a pizza date with her

Since writing about every single slice I ate all month would take forever, I will instead name some superlatives, yearbook style:

  • Pre-gamer – Pizza I ate the night before Pizza Month started to get psyched up: Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem, Manhattan
  • Hidden Gem – Previously unexplored pizza I wished I had known about earlier: Bacci & Abracci in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Letdown – Most disappointing pizza based on the amount I expected to enjoy it and the amount I actually enjoyed it: Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria in Lower East Side, Manhattan
  • Surprisingly Good – Most impressive pizza based on the amount I expected to enjoy it and the amount I actually enjoyed it: a Vegan Macaroni & Ground “Beef” slice from Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Healthiest – Pizza which probably provided the most nutrients I was missing out on elsewhere: a Dell’ortolano pie from Acqua Santa in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Worst – Pizza I enjoyed the least: Vox Populi in Back Bay, Boston
  • Best – Pizza I enjoyed the most: a tough call, but I’m gonna go with the Greenpointer pie from Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
  • Out with a fizzle – last pizza I ate during pizza month (also the runner up for pizza I enjoyed the least): Fresh Pasta Shoppe in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

On May 1st, after eating nothing but pizza for an entire month, these are the first 3 things I ate (in order):

  • a single sunflower seed
  • a slice of cold leftover pizza
  • a sandwich with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil

In conclusion, I’m glad I went through with this year’s Pizza Month challenge, but I’m not sure I’ll do it again next year. I might return to the same challenge from previous years, to eat one slice every day from at least one different pizzeria every day. Another option I’ve considered which might be interesting is to eat from at least one pizzeria I’ve never been to in my life at least once a day. We’ll see…

Subtract 1:32 from my 15 minutes of fame

I like how it says “Pizza lover” under my name for the onscreen graphics.

Pizza Rules! gets revamped

The old and new designs of Pizza Rules! shown side by side.

I launched Pizza Rules! more than 2 years ago with what I was planning to be short-term design and technology solutions. After not too long, the blogging system I built the site on (MovableType) started to break and become tedious, especially because it was being hosted on a less-than-ideal server. If that weren’t bad enough, the commenting system was a pain to deal with and discouraged any easy dialogue. As such, my posts became less frequent and carelessly composed. As is the case with many personal labor-of-love projects (i.e. non-paying), the site took a back seat to other issues in my life.

Now, partially inspired by this year’s Pizza Month challenge, it brings me great pleasure to announce that I’ve totally revamped the site with a new blogging system (WordPress), a better hosting service, and a newly updated design! The site now offers new functionality which I never got around to implementing in the first version, and should be generally easier to browse.

Internet pizza dorks may get a familiar tingle from the new red and white checkered background here on Pizza Rules! … it serves as a nod to an old design for Slice – “America’s favorite pizza weblog” (I would argue the world’s favorite) – which has since been rebranded, sans-checkers. With kind encouragement from Slice‘s frontman, Adam Kuban, I’ve carried on the tablecloth theme here with my own cruder, brighter, and more literal take on the concept.

As with any relaunch, there are bound to be a few bugs kicking around, and I’ll likely continue to tweak design elements on a continuing basis. If you see anything that seems broken, please drop me a note in the comments or at nick@nicksherman.com. Also feel free to let me know about any site features you’d like to see added in the future, or design tweaks you think might improve the experience.

Here’s to another 2 years!

Pulino’s: an early impression

I’ve gradually moved away from writing reviews on Pizza Rules! because I find that many pizzerias have been sufficiently covered already. Over the past few months, the site has grown to focus more on pizza-related cultural topics, specifically those that exist in the realm of the artistic and/or weird. However, I will continue to write up various pizza reviews when I think there is something to be said that hasn’t been already.

Such is the case with Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria, which just opened in Manhattan, on the corner of Bowery and Houston. I kicked off my month-long pizza-only diet at Pulino’s last week and thought I would share my experience for those who are still seeking opinions.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

I was definitely excited when I first heard about Pulino’s because it’s a project of Keith McNally. I don’t personally know McNally or really anything about him, but one of his other restaurants, Schiller’s Liquor Bar, is one of my favorite brunch spots in the city (their french toast is so good!). The Schiller’s connection is definitely felt in the interior of Pulino’s; in fact, many of the same exact architectural elements have been brought over (bottles on the wall, tiled and mirrored pillars, same doors, same lights, etc).

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

Given my enthusiasm for lettering and typography, I’m somewhat biased, but one thing I must admit I was disappointed about with the design of Pulino’s is their “famous exterior” signage. They almost got it right with a classic format of fabricated three-dimensional neon lettering, but the choice of Helvetica as the typeface in which to render the name seems so default and unispired. I might not usually mention such a point, but it’s so disappointing when considering the lovely lettering styles at Schiller’s, which are much more closely connected to the traditional styles of architectural lettering in New York that give the city its distinct flavor. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that goes a long way for exuding a sense of authenticity (which seems to be a goal for Pulino’s).

Photo by Mattron on Flickr

Photo by JesC on Flickr

When I got to Pulino’s at around 1:00 last Thursday, it was rather busy but we were seated right away. The overall atmosphere inside was a bit hectic. It almost seemed that there were too many servers, and the relatively tight seating arrangement didn’t help (my menu was knocked off the table multiple times by passing waitstaff). We were also asked to order multiple times by different servers, furthering the impression of disorder. Of course this isn’t surprising for a new establishment that is still settling in to its groove.

But enough about the extraneous details; let’s move on to what really matters – the pizza. Most descriptions I’ve read of the pizza so far are pretty accurate… it’s somewhere between New Haven pizza and Midwest bar pizza: super-thin crispy crust with a decidedly dark shade of reddish orange. We got a plain margherita pie and a marinara pie which we had sprinkled with some grated parmesan (I forget if “margherita” and “marinara” are the names they use on their menu, but they generally match those styles). The crust was almost brittle at first, but as the oil and sauce settled in it became a bit more chewy in the center.

Pizza Month 2010, day 1: Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

I really enjoyed most of the pizza; the sauce/cheese/crust ratio worked well and even the sparse simplicity of the cheeseless marinara pie was delicious with the ingredients they used.

I do have some gripes though. First of all, our marinara pie had a huge scorch mark that went straight through (see photo below). I’m all for the typical charring of any pizza that is cooked in a really hot oven like this one, and actually prefer a little spotting; but this was a huge solid chunk of pure carbon that, instead of accenting the flavor, made that slice basically like biting in to a solid piece of carbon.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

Note: orange-ish pool in above photo isn’t pizza grease, but chili oil which I poured on to the pan for dipping.

My second gripe is related to the end-crust (or “cornicione”). Eating the wet part of the pie was so good, but when you got down to the “bones”, as my friend Lister calls them, the crispness that was a benefit in the middle of the pie made it become a chore to eat at the edges. Instead of complementing a crispy outer shell with softer dough inside, these end-crusts were hard all the way through, which made eating them feel like chewing on twigs. I think one of the servers even noticed me struggling with the task because they suggested the chili oil that was on the table. While the chili oil was indeed good, it was almost irrelevant for “bone”-dipping because the crust was too hard to soak any of it up.

Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria

My third and final gripe is one which I’m almost certain will be a major topic of discussion in the future in relation to Pulino’s: the cutting of the pizza into square slices instead of normal triangular ones. I get the conceptual link to this cutting style that is used for so many pizzas in the Midwest, especially in bars. It even makes sense for “party” pizzas that are too big or hefty to otherwise divide in to triangular slices. But these pizzas are neither big nor hefty, so square slices are just not practical. With this cut style, the middle “slice” is left without any natural grip area, forcing you to either resort to fork usage or sloppy grease-hands. And, as my friend Yvonne points out, the square-peg-in-a-round-hole approach just isn’t fair: if you’re splitting the pie between any number of people, there are bound to be huge inconsistencies in what each person gets from each slice. In the case of this pie, where the wet portions are notably delicious and chewy but the end-crusts are hard and comparatively low in flavor, such uneven distribution could mean the difference between perceiving the pizza as amazingly good or unpleasantly bad.

Don’t get me wrong: overall I am in favor of Pulino’s, if for no other reason than that they tried – even invented – a new style of pizza. It’s definitely worth checking out for yourself to see if it matches your style, because I can’t reasonably say “if you like this other pizzeria, you will like Pulino’s”; it’s its own thing, and I value that. Plus, any pizzeria whose chef gets arrested for carrying a knife has to be bad-ass, right?

I will be going back for a return visit as soon as tomorrow, and definitely after a few months when any early quirks will hopefully be worked out of the system. After all, this is a new venture, and it wouldn’t be fair to judge it otherwise.

Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria
282 Bowery (at Houston); New York, NY 10012 [map]

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