Slicing Through NY

Written by Jon Reiss on . Posted in Books, Posts.

A YEAR AND A HALF AGO, Colin, an active member of the DIY punk scene, found himself sitting in his room with a friend, feeling unfulfilled. Trying to picture the perfect job, a title came to him: Pizza Consultant. A Pizza Consultant would naturally travel throughout the country advising Middle American pizzerias how to make their slices more like authentic New York pizza. But to truly become a qualified Pizza Consultant, there was nothing to do but eat at every single NYC pizzeria— and chronicle his adventures in a zine. Thus was born The Slice Harvester.

Sitting together at a booth inside Little Italy Pizza in the Financial District, Colin describes a NY1 report he’d seen in another pizzeria the day before.

"This thing had washed up from the East River," he says. "It was an Atlantic sturgeon. They can grow up to five feet long and have these armored plates on their bodies. It’s the most sick-looking animal you’ll ever see."

Despite the images of sea monsters that suddenly hovered over our plates, Colin and I eat and then discuss the merits of our plain slices. We agree that it is above average and should be rated six out of eight possible slices. A few days later, the review shows up on his blog.

Thus far, The Slice Harvester has deemed Pizza Suprema, at 431 Eighth Avenue, the best slice in the city, citing its "superb ratios and ample grease." However, as any fan of the zine will tell you, The Slice Harvester isn’t really about pizza.

"People ask me, ‘Do you have any goals besides eating pizza?’" Colin says, wiping his mouth. "I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to eat all this pizza and then I’m going to kill myself because I’ve finished my opus.’ I want to end rape, honestly, that’s my goal. But nobody wants to talk about that. You want to write a feel-good piece about pizza and that’s fair enough."

I pull out my camera to take a picture.

"No pictures" he says. "I’m anonymous."

While Colin embraces the incognito aspect of the New York Food Critic, his reviews are far from your average food critiques. Colin has tempered a zineculture-influenced writing style that’s casual yet articulate, and uniquely funny.

"Pizza, it’s so simple yet, so wonderful, just like the Ramones. Wanna know how to make a good slice, what’s the formula for a Ramones song? Four ingredients!"

"All I’ve ever wanted to be was articulate, and someone who believed in things," he says.

In a post-Giuliani Manhattan food world, where by-the-slice pizza has taken a backseat to fancy, organic brick oven pie joints, Colin’s reverence for the slice is refreshing. By sticking to slices, Colin has managed to pay homage to food that feels representative of not only New York City, but hoi polloi and punk culture.

"Pizza, it’s so simple yet, so wonderful, just like the Ramones," he says. "Wanna know how to make a good slice, what’s the formula for a Ramones song? Four ingredients! Pizza is a cool cultural establishment. You can enjoy it on your own, or you can order a pizza pie with friends."

Between our time at Little Italy, Star Pizza and Palermo Pizza, all within a few blocks in the Financial District, we broach numerous topics of weighty conversation and philosophical crescendos. While Little Italy and Palermo both received a coveted 5-slice rating, Star Pizza on Murray Street received a crushing 1-slice rating. Colin’s review quoted my complaint that the cheese formed "tiny globules" in your mouth. When our slices are finished, Colin and I walk aimlessly toward the water, discussing the project further until our interview strays from standard Q&A style and turns into a discussion about love, art and growing up.

"When I started this whole thing, I’d returned to New York from traveling and I was drinking a lot," he tells me. "So I just said fuck it and started the project. Since then, my life has changed so drastically. I’m a lot more sober than I used to be, I have a lot better mental health and I’m jut so much more comfortable with who I am. Finding an arbitrary thing and investing all of my time and energy into it didn’t solve those problems, but it did solve the question of why the hell I should get out of bed."

We share an intense silence that’s broken by a kid, no older than 11, running towards us.

"Do you guys want to see a monster?" he asks.

"Of course!" Colin says. We walk about a meter down the East River Park boardwalk until we’re standing right above a 5-foot sturgeon washed ashore. Colin hands me his camera and jumps down from the boardwalk to pose beside the scaly beast with both thumbs up. The smell is so bad from where I’m standing that I’m ready to throw up three pizzerias’ worth of pizza, but I’m enthralled. After all, I realize in this moment, that this is my job.