For pizza lovers like us, a pizza tour is a great way to spend a Sunday – go to several pizzerias with a group of people, sample, compare, and talk pizza all day.
But we’d never formally done it – not counting our informal pizza day in New Haven.
So when our daughters gave Cary two tickets to Scott’s Pizza Tours one Father’s Day, we were thrilled. We’d known Scott Wiener for about a year at that point but had never been on one of his tours.
It took several months for us to clear our schedule – which worked out fine, since we were able to celebrate National Pizza Month (October) by going on a pizza tour!
Our Pizza Tour Guide, Scott Wiener
First of all, Scott Wiener is a funny, energetic, pizza-obsessed guy.
“Is there anything you don’t know?” Cary asked him early in the day. “I know what I know,” Scott answered, “and I don’t know much else.”
He knows his pizza. He knows where to find it, and he’s eaten a lot of it. By rights, he should not be skinny, but we suppose the ‘energetic’ part takes care of that – we envy him his metabolism – Scott is more animated than a Warner Brothers cartoon.
He’s also warm and friendly and gets to know his audience. Scott has a great ability to make each person on his tour feel welcome and special, including his bus driver, Ronnie Palmer (who deserves a shout-out for patiently and skillfully driving that schoolbus with Scott, tour after tour!).
There were about twenty of us on that Sunday, from all over including Canada and England, all pizza enthusiasts and all hungry!
Our first stop was a delicious bite of pizza history – Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in the United States!
In this picture, Scott is showing us a piece of anthracite while describing the workings of an early 20th-Century commercial baking oven.
Later, he opened it up and showed us the workings. By then, we were ready for the pizza!
We’d never been to Lombardi’s before. Impressed by it’s history, yes, but we’d never tried the pizza. It is very, very good.
Scott kept us entertained and educated, and he kept us moving. Still hungry, we headed uptown for our second coal-fired slice of the day.
On the bus, Scott talked about the international quality of pizza as we passed the United Nations.
In addition to eating a lot of pizza and making his own pizza, Scott reads extensively about pizza – its history, its ingredients, its manufacture, even the politics of pizza!
Scott also has a best-selling coffee-table book: Viva La Pizza: The Art of the Pizza Box!
We knew where we were headed – Patsy’s on First Avenue and 118th Street. We’d been there before, but it’d been awhile.
We’d just gotten seated when the first pies came out. Patsy’s pizza is superb stuff – if anything, the crust was better than the last time we were there. A perfect balance of dough, cheese and sauce. So good it was almost gone by the time we got the camera out!
Again, we got to visit the kitchen and the 1930’s-era coal oven.
And then back on the bus, headed for The Bronx!
Patricia’s, a well-known pizzeria in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, has … how many ovens, Scott?
That’s right – they’ve got both a gas oven (for good ol’ New York style pizza) and a wood-fired oven for the more Neapolitan-minded. Patricia’scouldn’t accomodate all of us on a Sunday afternoon – it’s a small space and usually crowded – so they set up a table outside where we could sample both kinds of pizza. And both were excellent.
Scott took the opportunity to tell us about New York gas-fueled ‘deck’ ovens as we ate our pizza on the street (giving the non-New Yorkers a chance to eat pizza as we often do).
Talking ovens on the street…
Three pizzerias and still feeling fine! Next stop, the famous Louie and Ernie’s!
Louie and Ernie’s is an old-fashioned slice joint – gas oven, pizza by the pie or slice. It looks almost like a basement rec room, probably because it’s under someone’s house.
The pizza is great – a firm flavorful crust with a crunch, bright sauce, and the right amount of mozzarella. Lillian said she tasted sausage, although there was no sausage on the pizza.
This was a delicious, full-flavored pizza that, after all the other pizza, put most of us on the tour into a daze all the way back to Manhattan.
The ride back was pretty quiet, the riders satisfied and full.
If you think you know all there is to know about pizza, you need to meet Scott Wiener – or he needs to meet you. Either way, you’d enjoy Scott’s Pizza Tours as much as pizza lovers on their first trip to New York!