Pizza is life.
As I'm wrapping up my 25th year of life on this earth, I can't help but feel like time is slipping away. We have this little window of existence, and it's important to enjoy it to the fullest.
I fucking love pizza. Because, let's be real: Pizza is awesome. Pizza is life. Pizza is, quite frankly, the shit. So, as I'm about to turn 26, I wanna celebrate life by eating a shit ton of pizza because WHY THE FUCK NOT?
For this, I will be going to the pizza capital of the world, New York City (sorry, Chicago), and I'm going to eat 15 glorious slices from pizza spots all over the city. The selection for these pizza parlors has been democratically decided by a committee of me, only me, and no one else but me. But I have imposed some rules that I must follow (because after all, I am a responsible 25-year-old adult):
THE RULES, YO:
1. Pizza parlors MUST serve slices. So New York favorites like Grimaldi's, Lombardi's, or Patsy's are out of the running.
2. The pizza parlors must come from all five New York City boroughs (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island).
3. I can only get around using NYC public transportation.
4. I will order whatever I want.
5. Go big or go home (I have to finish every slice. Leaving out the crust is OK, though).
6. Do not, under any circumstances, die.
And so, my large, cheesy, thin-crust journey begins (so help me god):
The BuzzFeed NY Pizza Challenge officially commenced at 10:37 a.m. ET.
The day is cold and slightly rainy.
Slice #1: Benny's Pizzeria Ristorante (Brooklyn)
12:18 p.m.: This place is riddled with middle-schoolers. I think I'm the only adult here. My first slice was supposed to be at the famous Di Fara Pizza spot, but they were closed (even though they said they would be open). So I roll next door and buy this godforsaken cheese slice and munch on it like a rabid dog. I'm "hate-eating," thinking about how Di Fara ditched me like a bad prom date. Sorry, Benny's Pizzeria Ristorante, but you aren't my first pick. You aren't even on the list. I don't know you, and based on this slice, you don't even cut it. Sorry not sorry.
Slice #2: L&B Spumoni Gardens (Brooklyn)
1:09 p.m.: God comes down from heaven (yeah, THAT God). He comes up to me and is like, "Yo, dude. My bad about Di Fara. Let me make it up to you. I made this square slice of pizza. I know I'm not a pizza maker but I thought, Meh. What the hell." He peaces out. I eat the slice... A small droplet rolls down my cheek. I think I just ate pizza from heaven.
I draw this in my notebook:
Slice #3: Johnny's Pizza (Brooklyn)
1:52 p.m.: I can't help but notice there's a Papa John's right next to Johnny's Pizza. Whatever. John, who is probably the coolest dude of all time, greets me as I walk in. "What's good?" I ask. He recommends a grandma slice and says it's the best. As we're waiting for the slice to heat up in the oven, he tells me about his ongoing pizza battle with Papa John's next door — a battle that made it to the pages of the New York Times. He serves up the slice and says, "On the house." I repeat, John is THE COOLEST DUDE OF ALL TIME. The slice is a perfect combination of ingredients topped off with just the right hint of garlic. All I gotta say is PAPA JOHN'S AIN'T GOT SHIT ON JOHNNY'S PIZZA.
2:34 p.m.: As I'm riding over the Verrazano Bridge on the S79-SBS (it's a bus), my stomach rumbles faintly.
Slice #4: The Square (Staten Island)
2:58 p.m.: The square slice is dry. It's like eating a stale pretzel topped with tomato sauce and cheese. Also, what's up with Staten Island? Why do I feel like leaving the second I arrive? Everything is SO SPREAD OUT.
Whatever. Over it.
3:36 p.m.: I'm waiting for the bus to take me back to civilization:
Slices #5 & #6: Joe's Pizza (Manhattan)
4:28 p.m.: For some reason, I'm hungry again. Like, REALLY HUNGRY. Staten Island drained me of all my energy so I guess this makes sense. I order a regular slice and a margherita slice, not really expecting much. The regular slice tastes whatever. But the margherita slice... It is fucking good.
Slice #7 & #8: 2 Bros Pizza (Manhattan)
4:58 p.m.: I feel like time is of the essence, so I order two slices from Two Bros. Regular costs $1.00. Pepperoni costs $1.50. As I chew on this supposed "cheap" pizza, it actually tastes great. Is it a little soggy? Yeah. But add in some pepper flakes and this right here is a filling $2.50 meal. As an L.A. native, I can honestly say that nothing comes close to 2 Bros. L.A. pizza < 2 Bros.
5:08 p.m.: I get on the D train at West 4th and make my way north to the Bronx. I'm starting to feel...full. The heavy rocking of the train is making me a little queasy.
5:43 p.m.: I get off at Fordham and take a long walk through the Bronx to get to slice #9. For a brief second, I contemplate the health ramifications of this challenge (my right hand is pulsing like crazy) and think about dropping out. But then, I come across this:
Michelangelo: Hey, dude. I know you feel like shit, but I think you should keep going.
Me: But Michelangelo, what about my right hand? I think I should stop—Michaelangelo: You're not a quitter, dude. Finish what you started.
Michaelangelo: Cowabunga, dude! SAY NO TO DRUGS!
Slice #9: Pugsley Pizza (The Bronx)
5:58 p.m.: I order a simple cheese slice and it's glorious. But what strikes me the most about Pugsley is the establishment itself. This place is the most charming pizza shop ever. I mean just look at this sign:
And this sign:
I dig this place. I wanna come chill here with a homie or two. As for the pizza, my taste buds are like, "FUCK YEAH!" My body is like, "No. For the love of god...just...no. Fuck no."
Slice #10: Napoli's Best Pizza (The Bronx)
6:45 p.m.: I'm feeling like shit right now. My feet are bags of sand and everything is moving way too fast for my taste. The world needs to slow down, yo. I make it into Napoli's and I go up to the guy behind the counter. He looks at me... I look at him... Silence. He asks, "Do you want anything?" I think long and hard. "Um... One... One slice... please." I'm not thinking about the pizza. I'm thinking about the tingling sensation I feel in my lower back. That should not be tingling.
7:44 p.m.: I get on the Q44 (it's a bus) and make my way out of the Bronx and into Queens. But Google Maps is telling me it's going to take about 45 minutes. So I sit and take this selfie:
I'm legit concerned about that tingling sensation. Do I have kidney stones? I probably have kidney stones. WebMD says I have kidney stones. All that dough can't be good for my body. I'm also feeling sleepy. The carbs have taken a toll on me. I rest my weary head on a pole and get some shut eye... Seriously, though... That tingling sensation... It concerns me.
Note to self: See a doctor.
Slice #11: Lucia Pizza (Queens)
8:25 p.m.: I make the mistake of ordering pepperoni...
So much grease. I choke on the grease at one point and start coughing up a storm. No one cares.
Slice #12: Barone Pizza (Queens)
8:58 p.m.: I go into Barone's Pizza and order a mushroom pizza. FUCKING. AWFUL. I also need to charge my phone. I go up to the guy behind the counter and go, "Do you have somewhere I can plug in my phone?" He's like, "No."
9:18 p.m.: I hop on the 7 train and head back into Manhattan. I find myself wheezing a little as I breathe through my mouth. This scares me. I also feel my face is slightly swollen and red. Also, this creepy-ass song, which perfectly captures my state of mind at the moment, keeps playing in my head:
PRESS PLAY AND LET IT PLAY... FOREVER:
Slice #13: Don Pepi Pizza (Manhattan)
10:18 p.m.: I try going to Sal and Carmine's on Broadway but to my horror, they're closed. Luckily, a Twitter user recommends a place:
Penn Station? This is insanity. No train station has ever had good pizza. But it's nearby so I think I'll stop by. The dude behind the counter recommends the sausage pizza. My acid reflux is acting up, but I bravely go, "OK." He places this behemoth in front of me. I eat the damn slice. (It's really good.)
I place my head on a table and pass out for two seconds.
"Hey, are you OK?" asks a lady nearby.
"Yeah. I'm just... Yeah."
I'm at the point where people are noticing I look like shit.
Slice #14: New Pizza Town (Manhattan)
10:37 p.m.: This pizza tastes like shit.
Slice #15: Artichoke Pizza (Manhattan)
10:58 p.m.: Artichoke: The final frontier. I manage to crawl my bloated ass to this hot spot on 14th Street. I feel nauseous. I'm in pain. I feel the acid swooshing back and forth in my esophagus.
Guy behind the counter: Hey, man.
Guy behind the counter: What can I get you?
Me: A slice.
Guy behind the counter: Artichoke slice?
This is what he meant by Artichoke slice:
I don't know if you can tell by the picture, but that's TWO WHOLE PLATES underneath that motherfucker. Not to mention it's thicker than two pizzas put together. Pizza wanted to kick my ass. Pizza wanted to see me cry and beg for mercy.
So I went on the attack...
It's a messy ordeal. Kinda lika a blood bath. An artichoke bath...
My right hand is shaking...
But in the end, I remain standing.
The BuzzFeed NY Pizza Challenge officially ended at 11:12 p.m. ET.
After seven bus rides and seven subway rides, it took me approximately 12 hours to get through all five New York City boroughs to eat 15 slices of pizza. I failed to hit 15 different pizza spots, but I'll settle with 13.
I went home and plopped into bed. I drank some water, brushed my teeth, and hit the lights.
I woke up in the middle of the night with some painful acid reflux.
Whatever. Pain is part of life. Acid reflux is part of life.
Pizza is life.