We here at Free Tours by Foot love great stories of entrepreneurs, especially when concerning New York tourism and New York Pizza. We have been aware of a special tour for some time and we felt that we should share this story with those of you who may not have heard of this tour. This business idea is so intriguing, we needed to find out more. So, we interviewed Scott Wiener from Scott's Pizza Tours and find out why. Scott's Pizza Tours lead groups of hungry and happy guests, both New Yorkers and visitors alike, through Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, Brooklyn and more. We include some of the pizzerias included on his tours on some of our New York food tours, but the real New York pizza experience is had on one of these great tours. Be sure to check the tours out at http://www.scottspizzatours.com/.
How did you get the inspiration of doing a New York pizza tour?
I used to visit multiple pizzerias in one day with my friends. We would eat a single slice at each pizzeria and come home when we were ready to explode. This was right after college when none of us had jobs (and probably should have been spending more time looking for them) so weekly pizza adventures were a welcome distraction from the real world. Word got around about this increasing pizza obsession and people started asking me to take them on their own trips to pizzerias they heard about online or on TV or in the newspaper. I realized it was going to take a year just to follow through with all the promises I was making to accompany everyone to their pizzerias. So I rented a bus for my 26th birthday party and took about 30 friends and family members out for a day of pizza eating. We called pizzerias and arrived just on time to pick up the pies, distribute slices on the bus and move on to the next stop. I gave out little goody bags with notebooks and breath fresheners and palate cleansers. That birthday party became the model for what I do now.
New Yorkers are very proud of their pizza. Can you tell us why?
Pizza is sacred in New York because it's a easy food to grab for the typical on-the-go New Yorker. Other cities don't have this pedestrian culture, so it's not thought of in the same context. Pizza isn't a fast food here, it's a food that's fast. We are fully aware of how many pizzerias there are and how the average New Yorker has only been to a handful of them (near the apartment, near the office, etc) so there's a sort of admiration for the unknown pizza among New Yorkers. We've heard of a place just a couple miles away but have never been there because there are 100 pizzerias on the way to it. It's a massive landscape and I think that's what helps create this level of reverence.
How do tour guests react to your New York pizza tours? Any funny stories?
We have a blast. I'm always impressed with the people who take these tours with me. Lots go on their own pizza adventures, make their own pizza, and even build their own pizza ovens in the backyard. It's rare for me to do a tour that doesn't have a guest who has toured with me before. One family has taken it over 15 times! I tried to ban them from taking more but they just signed up for another one in July. People love pizza and it's a huge part of their lives, this tour is just one way to share that. I had a couple get engaged on a tour and even performed a wedding during a tour! Imagine the shock on peoples faces when they're on a pizza tour and then suddenly they're part of someone's wedding.
Can you let us into some of the preparation secrets behind good New York pizza?
The real secret is that there are no secrets. Everybody is using the same ingredients so it all comes down to technique. It's not about who can toss the dough the highest, it's about who works the dough with the least effort. A good pizza maker is the one who has control over their own hands as the primary food-prep equipment of the house. That means having an even and consistent stretch as well as topping with restraint. This is not a town that piles on the toppings.
There are many "best" pizza places in NYC. Which pizza place is your personal favorite?
Too many to list and it really comes down to what style you're looking for. The best bet for a first timer is to get out of Times Square, get out of Midtown… go downtown to Greenwich Village or Soho or the Lower East Side and your chances are better for finding a good slice. Go to a place that doesn't have tons of junk on the pie… just a good solid slice. Then wash it down with a Coke.