As I write these words I am calm, enjoying a slice of pizza from Stella’s, a slice joint on West 17th Street and Ninth Avenue. Where a slice costs $2.75. Where a four minute in-the-door-out-the-door turnaround is the norm. Where one can get an absolutely competent New York Slice, with somewhat sweet crust, soft but not doughy; tangy red sauce; and fresh muzz. The ubiquity of this type of place is one of the great luxuries of being a New Yorker.
Stella’s is one block east of Artichoke Basille’s, where today I was, briefly, not calm. I first tried to get a slice there, at Artichoke, as it is a block closer to my office. But there was no pizza to be had at Artichoke, because at 12:05 PM, they were still ten minutes away from their first pie of the day coming out of the oven. Given the overlapping occasions of #pizzaweek, my post-Beard shakes, and this being my sixteenth consecutive disappointing experience with aforementioned marquee pizzeria, some long-harbored thoughts on Artichoke Basille’s Pizza to share.
Let’s together agree on what Artichoke is. It’s like Shake Shack, really, if instead of perfect burgers, Shake Shack’s headline offering was huge piles of melted butter and cream on tasteless crackers. If instead of it being a pitch-perfect, living vision of the future of fast food, it was a bunch of cash cows satisfied with minting money as fast as they can, eager to turn their brand into a theme park, quietly waiting for their ridiculous house of hype to cave in on itself and hoping they make boat-money before it does. It’s no different from Shake Shack, except for the fact that instead of a $4.50 burger, there’s a $5 slice of pizza.
Indeed, Artichoke is Shake Shack insomuch people are willing to wait on massive lines for three to five minutes of gustatory bliss. Although — sorry one more point of comparison — at Shake Shack there is a payoff and at Artichoke the only post-game emotion is the empty feeling that you have gotten a little fatter for no good reason.
Actually, the Staten Island slice, featuring muzz, ricotta, onions and meatball, is good. It’s fantastic, frankly. Once, just one gloriously anomolistic time, in a very many visits was it on offer, though. The rest of the time, it’s the same six-pound butter crackers or a margarita slice, which is good except for the horrendous and burnt crust and long wait and better slice around the corner, or a white slice, which at $5 is about double the price of its counterparts at any other pizza place in the city (see, for example, the aforementioned Stella’s).
So, look, here’s the thing. If you disagree with what’s being said here, you need to take a good long hard look at yourself. You do not know pizza like you think you do. That’s sad, but fixable. Go to Ben’s, have a $3 slice, call me and tell me I’m wrong. I DARE YOU. What, exactly, is virtuous about a slice of pizza that is the size of a legal size file folder? If you got caught on the buzz train four years ago and waited on the line on 14th back in the day and had to convince yourself that it was worth it and have been telling yourself ever since that you weren’t wrong in the first place, I forgive you. What was was was was. But, people, you are killing me. I am killing myself. There is a better slice joint one block in every direction. Pleasegod, let this stop.
*Your being in agreement with this posting is recommended.