This Is What It Looks Like When You Mix Running and Pizza…

Running two miles is a breeze. Running two miles while eating a slice of pizza after every lap? That’s not so easy. The 5th Annual NYC Pizza Run this past Saturday in Thompkins Square Park proved to be surprisingly challenging. Over 130 participants showed up to run a total of four laps around the park, grabbing a slice of Pizza by Certé post laps. The rules stipulate you can’t continue to run your next lap until the entire slice of pizza is in your mouth… although you can still be chewing it.

My boyfriend Harrison and I ran it together (what a supportive bf!) and we averaged 12:28 per mile. Typically we’d run closer to 8 or 9 minute miles, but you have to stop and eat the slice fully before moving forward which accounts for the delay. Plus, once you start running again, your stomach is also trying to process the carbs and the cheese which slows you down. Close to immediately after downing the first slice my body started cramping up, a lesson that you’re definitely not supposed to eat and exert at the same time! Everyone was in it together though and for some reason seeing other people struggle to down their 2nd and 3rd slices helped make it more bearable.

I first found out about the NYC Pizza Run last year when I saw a write up in Time Out announcing the event. I sadly didn’t sign up in time but I reached out to the founder Jason Feirman (of I Dream of Pizza) to find out more about the run and how he came up with the idea. Jason and I since have gone on multiple pizza ventures to spots like Di Fara and Roberta’s and he can now count me in as an annual participant in his run.

The NYC Pizza Run brings together a subset of people that love pizza enough that they’ll table a little indigestion for a chance to come out in their most proud pizza swag including pizza socks, pizza costumes and panda pizza tees. Now that’s certainly not something you get to see everyday. And when someone asks me “What did you do this weekend?” I’ll jump at the opportunity to share.

See below for outtakes from the event.

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Jamie Miles

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D.C.’s ‘Jumbo Slice’ Pizza Proves Size Matters

There are less than a handful of times I can think of when size is a factor when considering what to eat:

1. When you’re in an office full of people and you need a birthday party treat for a staff member without spending tons of money. Universal answer: Mini cupcakes.

2. When you’re completely hungover on a weekday and need a massive bacon, egg and cheese sandwich (and Gatorade, natch).

3. When something is comically large (or small) and you need evidence you ate it — or at least a photo with it to prove its scale.

My foray into JUMBO slice pizza fits the latter category. Washington D.C. is known for its exceptionally large slices and I had seen photos and heard about how massive they were but I never heard a defining quality beyond size. Still, it was enough to feed my curiosity.

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This past weekend when I headed to D.C. I was intent on trying a jumbo slice. And unlike the usual crowds of young people that gather on a weekend evening post the bars closing, my boyfriend Harrison and I went at an off hour. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Pizza Mart, which claims to have the “FIRST jumbo slice” only had a few stray visitors, all balking at the size of the pizza and wisely taking boxes to go knowing they couldn’t polish it off.

We ordered one cheese ($5.50) and one pepperoni ($6.50) and did our best to finish one each. We failed. The pizza slices conquered us both. The pizza was heated up in an electric oven, certainly not terribly fresh, and had a greasy sheen finish. It was intimidatingly large, bigger than my head, and as for taste it wasn’t anything standout. I’d liken it to a $1 slice joint in NYC but three, if not three-and-a-half times, the size! The crust was nothing special and the sauce was almost unidentifiable under the upper layer of cheese, cheese and more cheese. On that note, don’t even think about asking for a calorie count.

While I’d never recommend a jumbo slice to someone looking for quality pizza, it’s certainly good for an experience that leaves you with a shocking photo and bragging rights all around. Maybe you’ll even end up on the Instagram account You Did Not Eat That

But guess what?! I DID (…okay, not ALL of it).

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Jamie Miles

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Luzzo’s

4slices
211 First Avenue
New York, NY 10003
212-473-7447

When people ask me for my favorite pizza in all of New York there are two places that I always mention: Di Fara and Luzzo’s. But don’t misunderstand. They could not be more different. Di Fara is unique for many reasons and is an example of true New York pizza. Dominic DeMarco is a testament to that. But Luzzo’s… Luzzo’s is truly authentic Neapolitan pizza. So much so that I didn’t even know about it until my dad returned home from Italy.

My first question to him: Did you make it to Naples? And, for several reasons including a few of which the New York Times hit on weeks ago, he did not. But he did come back with was a recommendation from Italian locals to check out a place in New York City that matched the style of pizza found in Naples. He was given a business card for Luzzo’s and this past October we went there for the first time and I’ve already gone back two times since! Once with my boyfriend on a quest to get him to agree it’s the “best ever” and once again this past weekend with my dad and step mom who love it so much we had to return. Take a look and you’ll see why…

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Upon walking into the unassuming restaurant off First Avenue this past Sunday, we were greeted by a server originally from Naples and an older Italian gentleman who’s been seated in the first booth to the left every time I’ve returned as if he’s a mainstay. Even the television had an Italian soap opera playing with subtitles for the American patrons — a smart staging strategy to feign authenticity, but the food was the true mark of the restaurant’s Italian ownership.

It’s the pizza you come here for and it’s the pizza that keeps you coming back. We ordered two large 16” pizzas to share among the three of us: one tartufata with tomato sauce, mozzarella, truffle pate and basil and one bufala with tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala and basil. The pies tasted of the freshest ingredients, which are imported from Italy, and just looking at them made you salivate. The truffle pizza is especially notable and a must to order. While I’ve had many pizzas with truffle oil (I’m looking at you, Toby’s), this one masters the act of balancing the richness of the truffle pate with fresh tomato sauce and a charred yet chewy thin crust that leaves a perfect finish in your mouth. It’s like a fine wine that has a flavorful palette and a smooth finish that encourages another sip, or wait, maybe that was the Montepulciano we paired it with… the perfect partner.

By the end of the meal, nothing but compliments escaped our lips. “This is delicious,” my dad said mid-bite. “It feels good to chew it,” my step mom said of the crust. “It’s perfectly charred,” I couldn’t help but offer up. Even in the absence of words you could tell we were all in a euphoric state of satisfaction. Our eyes did the talking as we strategically placed a target on our next slice.

The executive pizzaiolo Michele Luliano deserves full credit for the perfect pies being churned out at Luzzo’s. Luliano emigrated from Italy to New York in 2000 and brought with him the techniques and recipes of his Italian heritage with the goal of transforming the city’s food scene with true-to-form Neapolitan dishes. Since opening Luzzo’s, he’s since opened a few other authentic Italian restaurants Da Mikele, Ovest Pizzoteca, Luzzo’s BK and Bar Trenta. Luzzo’s was the first to open though and their 100-year-old coal oven makes Luzzo’s stand out among other New York pizzerias where $1 slices are reheated in electric ovens or wood-burning ovens are winning out.

Luzzo’s pizza is truly heavenly. And the best part? You don’t have to travel beyond the East Village to get a slice of Naples.

Jamie Miles

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Roberta’s

3.5slices
261 Moore St.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11206
718-417-1118

Well, I have to say, the timing was right on this one. Jason Feirman (Remember him?) and I ventured to Bushwick last night to experience the culinary joys of Roberta’s, another of Brooklyn’s reputable pizza joints. Funny enough, the New York Times ran a piece that same day sharing the secrets behind making great pizza dough at home and their recipe of choice came straight from Roberta’s which dining editor Sam Sifton claims is “superlative dough: thin and pliant, tender and chewy, with excellent flavor.”

He’s quite right, and he makes a good point when he says that:

Very little pizza is made at home, from scratch.

I am here to say: You can make pizza at home. You can make pizza at home that will be the equal of some of the best pizzas available on the planet. With a minimal amount of planning and practice, you can get good at it, even if you are a relatively novice cook.

Sure, you can make pizza at home. Not just that, but if you’re well practiced you may even become pretty great at it. However, what you won’t get is the communal experience, the grunge atmosphere and the old school hip hop vibes which, in the case of Roberta’s, are a large part of the appeal. Roberta’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, it looks more so like a graffitied garage where band mates practice after-hours without receiving complaints from pissed off neighbors.

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As you enter the front room, you immediately feel the comforts equivalent to middle school days when you went to hang out after classes finished in your friend’s basement. Picnic tables host laid back patrons and the staff, along with the fresh tomato sauce aromas, are particularly welcoming.

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As Jason and I waited not more than 20 minutes at the back bar (usually it’s closer to an hour plus), we ordered a few beers poured in none other than mason jars, a nod to hipsterdom. Once seated, we reviewed the menu and struggled to narrow it down to just two pies. We finally settled on the Famous Original with tomato, mozzarella, caciocavallo, oregano and chile and the Axl Rosenberg with tomato, mozzarella, sopressata, garlic, jalapeños and mushrooms. No two pies were even close to the same though and Jason informed me the menu is forever shifting based on seasonality. In fact, the reason for the change in menu is thanks to the restaurant’s locally sourced herbs and produce grown as close as their own backyard. The fresh tomatoes and basil don’t go unnoticed and both pies we chose had a bit of a kick to them thanks to the chile and jalapeños I also suspect were grown out back, or in the rooftop garden.

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The crust had a charred wood-flavor and each pie had a fiery finish. The Axl Rosenberg in particular suited my taste as I’m always one to reach for the hot sauce. The spice provided the perfect warmth on an otherwise damp night, similar to tasting whiskey and feeling the slow burning sensation. (The best kind!)

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Jason, who’s quite the at-home pizzaiola himself, said this is a place he often takes out-of-towners thanks to the unique atmosphere and of course the quality pies. And while some of us may be able to pull off a close to perfect replica of the dough, you’d be missing the experience of sitting on a picnic bench in the heart of Brooklyn enjoying “fine hipster Italian dining”.

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Oh, and the t-shirts? They’re great too! Especially one your table mate finds on the chair next to you and kindly asks if its yours. That’s the kind of Brooklyn camaraderie worth leaving your apartment for. You can’t find that at home for simply the cost of ingredients.

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Jamie Miles

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Oscars 2014: The Biggest Pizza Party on Television


With 43 million people watching, the owner of Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria Edgar Martirosyan served the most famous celebrities in Hollywood at the Oscar’s last night. The craziest thing of all? Apparently he had no idea he would appear on a live broadcast of the most watched award show in history let alone serve celebs like Martin Scorsese, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt. He was simply told he would be delivering pizza to writers then suddenly found himself on stage with host Ellen DeGeneres passing out greasy slices to glammed up celebs.

“This is the real American dream,” Edgar told Piers Morgan on tonight’s show. Obviously this sort of publicity for any business owner would be an absolute game changer (not to mention the $1,000 tip couldn’t hurt his monthly budget) but excuse me for calling this pizza party stunt out for being in poor taste.

After the slices were passed around (“Harrison, you want some pizza?” Ellen asked), the show cut to commercial then Ellen passed around Pharrell’s hat collecting hundred dollar bills that people like Harvey Weinstein threw around carelessly. Now forgive my sensitivity, but in a room of Prada-clad women and suited up male stars, looking at some of the richest people in the world have an impromptu pizza party where they think of $200 as pocket change for a pizza delivery boy is to me somewhat repulsive.

My greatest source of disappointment however comes from the the pizzeria of choice (Sorry, Edgar!). While I love the spontaneity and the casual concept at a black tie event, the producers could have at least done their research on who to employ. Why give a subpar pizzeria the level of recognition a company would pay over 5 million dollars for if we compare it to a minute and 30-second ad slot? Granted the pizza offerings in L.A. are scarce, but after talking with a few Californians (“Yeah, that’s the joint across the street from Grauman’s. Tourist street trash.”), scanning photos and reading several reviews, I’m convinced that Big Mama’s and Papa’s is far from the best L.A. has to offer.

To be fair, this place is known for its size (maxing out at 36 inches for a pie), and perhaps quality isn’t a focal point, but if it’s anything like one reviewer Adrian Robert said: “Easily one of the most painful and grotesque experiences of my life. Would happily hang myself before ingesting this bile again, no exaggeration at all. Absolutely disgusting!” I’d likely pass just like Leonardo.

A simple search for crowd-sourced reviews on TripAdvisor and write ups in regional city mags pointed me towards at least a handful of better rated pizzas: Pizzeria Mozza, 800 Degrees, Olio, Vito’s, Sotto …Westcoast friends chime in here!

But while the pizza from last night’s show doesn’t look the tastiest (just take a look at their uncensored slices on Instagram and you’ll see what I mean), the visual of spiffy celebs passing slices down the rows of Dolby Theatre made for great TV. Incase you missed it…

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This only leaves me contemplating: Who would I invite to my dream pizza dinner party and what pizza would I serve? Well… that part’s obvious.

Jamie Miles

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Filed under Picture Perfect Pizza Moment, Pizza Propaganda, Pizza, U.S.A.

Di Fara Pizza

4slices
1424 Avenue J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
718-258-1367

Many people looking for great New York pizza may not venture outside Manhattan to find it. I’m even guilty of this myself. But after reading flawless reviews of Di Fara’s Pizza in Midwood, Brooklyn it was finally time to check this place out. My only regret? Not doing it sooner.

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This past week, Jason Feirman, of the blog I Dream of Pizza, and I headed out to Avenue J to experience the magic of Di Fara’s. The famous pizzeria is run by none other than Dom DeMarco who makes every pie by hand and has been doing it for the last 45(!) years. But DeMarco doesn’t just make pizza, he puts his heart and soul into every pie. Using the finest, freshest ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh hand-pulled mozzarella, grated Parmigiano, fresh basil and only the best Italian olive oil, DeMarco layers the ingredients, cuts the basil by hand and serves each pie with confidence and complete affection.

Jason and I waited only thirty minutes for a classic, plain Margherita pie which was nothing compared to wait times of two hours or more which they’ve been known to have. The space itself was closed for a private party but the take out window was open for business since we made it in time for the 6-8:30 dinner hour.

What ensued was nothing short of life-changing. The first bite was a tantalizing mix of flavors. The thin crust was perfectly cooked and the fresh basil combined with the melted mozzarella, slightly tangy tomato sauce and sprinkled Parmigiano for the most well-balanced bite. Every pie gets a drizzle of olive oil as well which added to the robust flavor — simply mouthwatering to think about even days later.

Get a preview of my first bite of Di Fara’s. Maybe this will better convey just how unbelievably tasty this pizza really is:

People ask me all the time, “What’s your favorite pizza place in New York?” and now it’s easy for me to say I’ve found it. But it’s not just the pizza that makes it my favorite. It’s the experience behind it and the passionate creator who makes this pizza worth coming back for. As Jason put it when we managed to eat an entire pie between the two of us, “No two slices are ever the same.” This is homemade New York pizza that you can’t get just anywhere and I’ve never found anything that has measured up to this.

As you wait for your pie to finish, it’s worth studying DeMarco’s moves. Every step is calculated and every move intentional, and his passion for pizza-making does not go unnoticed by his customers. You truly feel like the pizza you get was made just for you and there’s something special about knowing that the same man that made your pie this once will be the same pizzaiolo who will make it for you next time you are feeling intrepid enough to travel to Midwood for another delicious bite and an authentic New York experience. A pizza from Di Fara’s is truly a gift from DeMarco himself.

Special thanks to Jason for sharing in the adventure with me. Check him out on The Cooking Channel’s Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan for another glimpse at what makes Di Fara so delicious.

Until next time!

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Jamie Miles

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Trattoria Dell’Arte

900 7th Avenue3.5slices
New York, NY 10019
212-245-9800

Talk about a carb-tastic meal. Two of my best friends from college (and all of life for that matter) and I got together this past Saturday at Trattoria Dell’Arte for an EPIC Italian dinner.

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We started with a thin crust pepperoni and arugula pie upon recommendation by JB, the neighborhood local among the three of us. His suggestion was warranted as the three of us tore into the pizza leaving not a speck of burrata left on the plate. Yes, burrata. The pie had dollops of my fa-vor-ite cheese which added a nice additional flavor to the already tasty, crisp pizza. The pizza, while not a traditional Neapolitan style and without being baked in a specialty oven, was very good. I loved it as an appetizer but many people around us were having just that with various antipasti plates to complete their meal. It’s worth noting the restaurant has an extensive antipasti bar with over 22 side dishes boasting sicilian eggplant caponata, carmelized fennel, house made mozzarella, assorted olives and more.

In addition to the pizza, we had a Caprese salad to start and proceeded to order individual entrees. What could have been way too much food ended up being a necessary tasting tour as all of our dishes proved supreme. Laila ordered the red snapper baked in a tomato sauce while I ordered the homemade spaghetti carbonara and JB had the tortellini bolognese. But wait. We didn’t even stop there, though we probably should have. We had a delicious bottle of Montepulciano which went perfectly with our meal, from beginning (ohh, that pizza) to the end. The end? A killer melt-in-your-mouth-makes-you-want-to-have-a-Harry-Met-Sally-moment-at-the-table chocolate mousse with homemade whipped cream.

Don’t think you’ve heard the last of this place. I’ll certainly be coming back for more. And I doubt I’ll be going alone. JB and Laila, up for seconds?

Jamie Miles

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