The Pizza Culture
Fortina’s Christian Petroni and The Parlor’s David DiBari sat down at the venerable Sal’s in Mamaroneck to tell us why pizza is America.
DiBari: I grew up on Paradise [in Verplanck]. It was there for like 40 years, and this couple who hired me at 13 years old, to wash dishes, ran it. The pizza was New York-style: Thin and coated so perfectly with cornmeal on the bottom that gave it this unique flavor.
Petroni: My mom would go two, three times a year to Italy to see her parents, and my dad, [who was a] carpenter, would take us to all of the restaurants and pizzerias he’d been helping out at. That was when I was exposed to New York-style pizza, which is just a big, floppy, beautiful slice that’s still very near and dear to my heart.
DiBari: At the end of the day, pizza is America. It’s ultimately become America’s food. Think about that person who goes into a pizzeria and is like: “I’ll have extra cheese, extra sausage, extra pepperoni.” There are so many different options, and everyone’s “a pro” at it. I’ll just go ahead and say that it’s really friggin’ annoying sometimes. But it’s one of those things where you can feed your family on a very minimal amount of money. You can get yourself though college on pizza.
Petroni: When I was a kid, I could scramble up $1.50 and walk to Peppino’s on 241st Street and White Plains Road in the Bronx. With, like, two bucks, I could get my cream soda and my slice.
DiBari: I think Westchester is hot on Neapolitan pizza [right now], but there are so many versions. Franny’s in Brooklyn changed my life when it came to Neapolitan pizza. You can have technique, but they made it okay for us to put our twist on what Neapolitan pizza should be.
Petroni: That’s why we’re so lucky; we get to be that creative.
DiBari: One of my favorites in Westchester is Coals: It’s so different and obscure and so brilliant at the same time. I don’t really know where pizza is going, but I think we are getting people’s minds opened up to whatever it can be and should be.
Petroni: We got into the pizza game when this whole pop-culture pizza phenomenon started to happen. Like five years ago, did you ever see a girl wear a shirt at the bar that says “Pizza Is Bae”?
DiBari: I mean, what would Instagram be without pizza?
Petroni: I think the best thing about Westchester is the clientele. They are very knowledgeable, and they want more. There are a lot of young guys coming up in the business who are going to be pushing the envelope and doing great things. I just think pizza is never going to go out of style.