The pits of laziness have immeasurable depth. One week you’re making a blog and churning out pithy essays, the next, you are praying for strangers on the internet to save you from 46 minutes of typing out shit jokes and references to masturbation. Will I have to sacrifice yet ANOTHER hour of replaying The Witcher 3? The weight of the situation can dishearten you.
The night is always darkest before the dawn.
This week’s hero goes by the name Goth Odell, presumably because he lost a fiddle duel with Satan and witnessing the shame of using this moniker was worth more to him than another soul. Thank you for your service.
Donna Bella is dead. Or dead-ish; more on that later. My go-to takeout spot is gone. This is important.
There’s something of a class crisis going on in America. The disparity between rich and poor grows every year. Making ends meet can now mean driving to the airport through an app for peanuts. Multi-generational working class families get pushed out of their homes so software developers and chief optimism officers can move in with their dogs. It’s all very sad. But I assure you that the most heartbreaking impact of this, dear reader, is the obliteration of the middle class of pizzerias.
This is a bad post about the state of the NYC Metro Area Pizzeria, or as I like to call it, the Pizza Hole.
There’s three classes of pizza. At the bottom, you have your fast food chains, otherwise known as the “trash pizza”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna trip over myself to tell you it’s not ReAl PiZzA. Domino’s is borderline free because there are always a million coupons available, and when you’re very drunk and/or high, the bottom-tier stuff is satisfying in that very gross, uniquely fast-foody way (see also: McNuggets, Taco Bell, and Famous MAGA Bowl at KFC).
I don’t eat from these places often, but there are zero problems at this end of the hierarchy (garbage executives aside). The trash pizza knows what it is. The trash pizza does not put on airs. An honorable mention in this category is the Manhattan dollar slice. This too, is just fine.
Someone who’s good at art please make me a version of this with pizza places
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the real neo-Gilded Age stuff. These are in no short supply in JC. You got Porta. Razza. Trattoria Gentrifficaccio. These places want to turn pizza into a Real Culinary Experience(™) and are decorated to look like a TV set of a sitcom set in Bushwick.
Pizza at these locations does not come in slices. Slices are for rubes. These come in misshapen ovals, like a real artisan! You want pepperoni? Do you even make six figures? They have toppings that include ::in extremely Super Mario voice:: Prosciutto Cotto, Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s also as much for an entree as it is for an entire pizza and wings at the pizza holes of old.
These taste good, but only because salt, cheese, and bread are really hard to screw up. People love rustic wooden tables and string lights. This is a historically casual food. These places are supposed to be casual as well, but with a deliberately sophisticated twist. These places are a corporate executive lounging in the Hamptons, but you know he’s in “chill mode” because he’s wearing a distressed baseball cap.
Your average downtown resident
I was born and raised in North Jersey, so you’ll forgive me for lording pizza opinions on you, especially if you’re a transplant. Look, it’s all I’ve got. The Sopranos ended 11 years ago.
The sweet spot between these realms is where the Pizza Hole lives. No matter where you grew up in this part of New Jersey, there are tons of little unassuming holes-in-the-wall places with generic names. Nicky’s Pizza. Brother’s Pizza. Vinnie’s.
They are almost always undecorated, except for maybe a TV playing SportsCenter or a sun-faded portrait of Derek Jeter. You’re not there for atmosphere. You’re not even really there to eat; you usually either take this food home or get it delivered. You’re there for a solid, perfectly made slice of regular-ass pizza at a reasonable price. Ask if the tomatoes are local, and the fellow on the other side of the counter will look at you sideways.
The food here is good, with a lower-case g. It’s made with better ingredients than a box of Elio’s, but not good enough to make it too expensive. But there is no sweeter sensation to a be-gunted Giants fan such as myself to walk out of a place like this with two slices and a Coke and not spend more than 10 bucks for the privilege.
The Pizza, The Taylor Ham, and The Disco Fries. The holy trinity of being a dirtbag from across the Hudson.There is no need to spend 18 bucks on an individual portion of pizza. This stuff is often just as good as the bourgeois pizza. This is food for the hard hats, the low-income, and the millionaire alike. A truly democratic institution.
Donny, Frank, and Paul “Mad Dog” Murray from Lodi do NOT care about your small-batch Buffalo Mozzarella.
Donna Bella was one such Pizza Hole in the Heights. I actually don’t know if Donna Bella is dead for sure or not, and I’m too lazy to perform even the most modest fact check. They disappeared off of Seamless, and seem to be keeping irregular hours at best. At any rate, I’ve lived in The Heights for about 2 years now (which makes me a transplant as well. Fulop forgive me).
Perhaps I’ve just developed an animalistic instinct for finding the nearest Pizza Joint to wherever I’m living, but I started ordering from Donna Bella almost immediately. Pepperoni and cheese calzone. Buffalo wings, spicy, sauce on the side [EDITORS NOTE: Pussy]. Not made from local ingredients, but made with ingredients from the same Queens warehouse that likely supplies every pizzeria in the tri-state area. Costs about 16 bucks or so. Perfection.
As a side note, I know that the two-headed monster of Seamless and Grubhub are bleeding these types of places dry. They usually take a huge chunk out of an already thin profit margin, but your mom and pop places have no choice because that’s where customers like me, the urban millennial, want to buy from. I’m part of the problem and I will have to answer to the culinary gods when I leave this spiritual plane.
Regardless, Donna Bella’s demise is part of a worrying trend. Both here and the suburbs, I’ve seen Pizza Holes shutter and get replaced by the rustique fine eateries of the world. Due to its age and size, Jersey City is still better off than most communities when it comes to finding a Pizza Hole. I’ll find another place and start getting my usual order from there until that eventually closes, and the cycle will repeat again. But what happens when gentrification takes its hold, and I have to eat at “Cafe What-if-Razza-but-worse?” for the rest of my time here?
I’ll hopefully be priced out of my apartment by then.
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