During my time at Oracle, I met an interesting friend Hari Pillai. Hari has the unhealthy obsession of trying new pizza places where ever he travels to, whether it be New York, California or Oregon. Influenced by him, I decided to take the July 9-13 Premier Chess Upper West Side Campers on a journey to see which pizza place dominates the area.
We ordered from four places- La Traviata, on 68th Street between Columbus and Broadway, Francesco’s, between 68th and 69th Street, Freddie and Peppers, between 74th Street and 75th Street on Amsterdam and last but not least, Little Italy on 70th Street Broadway. At each place, we ordered a large pie, double sliced. Let’s see who sat on top of the world!
On Monday, I decided to order from my favorite childhood place, La Traviata. As a kid, I would go there two days per week before going to Hebrew School at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. The food was decently priced and the kids liked the pizza; however, there was a small problem with the delivery time. I placed the order while the kids were in the park at 11:15 AM and asked for a 12:00 PM delivery. The delivery person than arrived at campsite ZPlay early at 11:45 AM and was a little annoyed that we weren’t back yet. Once we figured everything out, the kids enjoyed their pizza but I wouldn’t say they were writing home about it.
Next at bat was Francesco’s. Their pizza was a few dollars less than that of La Traviata’s, which was a great start. They also delivered their pizza right at 12:00 PM, when I requested it. The one caveat is that they didn’t have 2-liter bottles, meaning we had to order a bunch of small drinks, which made the order a lot more expensive.
Wednesday, we ordered from Freddie and Peppers, across the street from the World-Famous Beacon Theater. Freddie and Peppers delivered a reasonably priced, nice-sized pie. When I asked the kids that afternoon, which of the three places was best, they said that one “hands down.” I didn’t tell them how much the pizzas cost or which place was which. The pizza was authentic and they have a nice thin and crunchy crust.
While I was tempted to get Freddie and Peppers again on Thursday, I was on a mission to find the BEST Upper West Side pizza place and had to try another! Therefore, I decided to order from Little Italy. I’ve been there many times, usually for a late-night snack on the way home, but I’ve never ordered from there. At first, we were not happy as we were waiting at the tables next to Le Pain Quotidien for 15 minutes waiting for the delivery man. Managing 7 kids outside when there’s not much to do is difficult. When I called to check on order, I expected the restaurant to just apologize, but the manager went the whole nine yards, apologizing profusely and offering us a free pie.
I told him I appreciated the offer but it wouldn’t help us much to get another pie right then so he graciously agreed to offer us a free one the following day. It was bittersweet, knowing that this would mean I’d break my streak trying a new place each day. However, the pizza was crispy and has a lot of cheese like the original Rays on 12th Street and 6th Avenue used to have. Also, the pizza was a little larger, so I didn’t have to order the extra two slices for myself, in addition to the large pie those days.
At the end of the day, Freddie and Peppers gets the award for local, authentic tasty pizza but Little Italy wins the prize for top-of-the line customer service! Stay tuned for some more opinions as we try more places during the second week of camp July 30-August 3. Next up on the list is the Kosher place Saba.
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