I want to live above Scarr’s Pizza. Right there on Orchard St. I want to be able to look down at Regina’s Grocery from my window. I want my minuscule, previously-a-tenement apartment to perpetually smell like pepperoni, and get comfortable with the ovens rumbling on each morning, akin to the quake of NQR trains over the Manhattan Bridge.
I’ve been searching for self-actualization. Maybe this move is it.
At Scarr’s, the pizzas perched underneath the glass counter dictate your say in the matter. This isn’t Burger King - we can’t always have it our way. Want a mushroom slice but don’t see one? You’ll have to wait for the boys up front to craft a shroom pie. But don’t worry if you have to pick something different from your originally intended slice. You can’t lose here.
Time here moves in conjunction with the the weathered Baker’s Pride oven, shorn of frills or decorum, but reliable and consistent. Arranged pies are placed within its fiery maw, sitting humbly as if waiting for the next train to pull in, their ingredients metamorphosing into golden, bubbling, crispy, chewy, beautiful, pizza. I gawk from the cash register, watching the boys deftly push and pull pizzas onto their peels.
This is everything a New York slice should be. Scarr has found the perfect balance between the principle textural elements for each component in an archetypal pizza - crust, sauce, toppings.
The crust is like Mick Jagger - thin, but with huge stage presence. An initial crispiness, offended by your preference for Joe’s, punches you directly in the mouth. The slight oven-charred flavor, so characteristic of New York pizza, stands as a staunch counterpoint to the bright acidity of the sauce and the fat from the cheese. The ensuing chew shows you how light the dough truly is.
On any given day I can be found spewing hot takes to anyone who will listen. Here’s my most recent:
Scarr’s makes the best slice of pizza in NYC right now. *
“Scarr's is the reason Joe's is no longer my #1 slice in New York.” - Some guy on Yelp (and also probably said by me once)
Blasphemy? Perhaps. But let’s think through a few things through together here.
Scarr’s stone-mills their own flour from wheat berries using grains by the way of upstate New York, down in their basement (10 feet below where you’re served your pizza). The cake-yeast risen dough is given a rest, a dance in some olive oil as the larger whole is shaped into many small dough balls, destined to be a picnic blanket for sauce and cheese as it journeys upstairs to the oven. It makes for the crust to end all crusts.
“We try to replicate New York style pizza without using what 90-something percent of New York style pizzas are - chemically-laced flours and stuff like that.” - Scarr himself.
Each ingredient is real food, and you can immediately tell. Scarr and gang are meticulous about how and where they source ingredients from. The mozz is somehow tuned to the exact frequency to bring that New York slice’s signature half-meltiness, and pairs well with their house tomato sauce which is homemade, proprietary, and perfectly balanced.
By “real food,” I mean eons above any ingredient the neighborhood dollar slice shop, a mere 0.2 miles/a 3 minute walk from Scarr’s, is sourcing. Pizza, like a great many things, can only be as good as the sum of its ingredients. Alex Delany from Bon Appetit said it best:
“Cheap pizza is actually a terrible investment. If you want a good slice, you have to pay for it.”
This brings up another argument - $1.00 slice shops are an NYC institution for night owls and college students alike. It’s not my position to trash them, but I will make it a point to argue that the disparity in price (~$4.00 for a Scarr’s slice, and $1.00 for a piece of cardboard sitting on underneath overly sweet tomato sauce and something that can barely be classified as cheese) is totally warranted. You have to respect a place that’s still able to charge a decent price while putting in maximum effort to deliver uncompromising quality. Sure, you may have to shell out an additional few bucks for your pepperoni slice. But both your stomach, and, just as importantly, your morals, will thank you.
Essentially, you can boil this down into two things:
Support those who consistently strive to make their medium better.
$4.00 for a slice is reasonable when you think of the commitments required (time, labor, and money) from Scarr’s to make their product taste as good as it does.
“It's really damn good pizza too. The quality is only augmented and really impressive given the 7 sqft space they use to cook.” - my roommate, Sam.
* I’m excluding Neopolitan-style pizza from any and all of the above takes. The style can be found in abundance around New York City and the good people at both Ops and Robertas in Bushwick will prove that to you. I just think it deserves a conversation of its own.
Scarr’s isn’t exactly a "hole-in-the-wall" by any standards but it feels cozy in the same vein, more than one would expect at first glance. The bare and surprisingly ample seating in the back gives you the opportunity to put away an entire pie with your friends. The simple bar holds hands with the posters and neon signs on the wall to derive an “old-school cool” atmosphere.
Where else in the city can you envelop yourself in that classic New York feeling, a glass of Pet Nat in hand, facing a couple pepperoni slices?
I know. I have hot takes. But I need you to trust me on this one. If you want to set the bar for the archetypal New York slice, go to Scarr’s and grab a slice. Then, a couple days later, bring your friends along and get a whole pie and their vegan caesar salad (absolute flames). Pretty soon, you’ll be searching Zillow for apartment rentals within the very same building on Orchard St.
Wait, maybe that’s just me.