Previously published in The Wave
How to eat pizza is a contentious subject among New Yorkers. There’s the right way — folding — and there is the semi-legitimate way eating it flat/open. Among the horrifyingly uncouth methods, there is crust first, removing the cheese and eating the bread separate. Then there is The Unspeakable: eating a slice with a knife and fork. With John Kasich, it was understandable. He’s from Ohio; what does he know about pizza? In 2011 at La Famiglia in Times Square, President Donald Trump, a native New Yorker, used a plastic knife and fork. I’m shocked his cutlery wasn’t solid gold. Not shocked that he doesn’t know how to eat pizza. Sad. But Mayor de Blasio should’ve been impeached for this offense. Maybe we’ll let him slide if the ferry works out.
Anyway, the other night, I sat down with a nice Malbec from Ship To Shore, and my husband had Saturday Night Fever on. But what is this? In the opening scene, John Travolta is walking down the avenue eating a double-folded slice — two slices, one on top of the other held with one hand, Travolta chomping with abandon. I’d never seen this technique before! Is it a thing? Was it ever a thing?
I needed answers. The next day I headed to Elegante to consult with owners Frank and Tony Amato. Frank has been slinging pies since 1982; Tony since 1975. Together, these guys have been in the pizza mines for almost a century. If anyone has seen it, they have. So I put the question to them: have you ever witnessed the Travolta Technique in real life?
“People have all kinds of [pizza-eating] habits,” Frank answered. “I’ve even seen them take two slices, ask for cold cheese, and eat it like John Travolta. I’ve see it done both in Rockaway and Bushwick. You don’t see it all the time, but it happens.” Frank also mentioned a variant that involves two slices uncut, like a pizza siamese twin. They take the extra large piece and fold that in half. Tony chimed in, “One time someone asked for mustard and ketchup on their pizza!” “That’s pizza defilement!! Worse than using a knife and fork,” I said.
But I needed to check it out for myself. I ordered two slices and in a few minutes they were ready. I folded them up Travolta-style and walked out the door. While it may appear gavone-ish, the method was actually quite practical. I found it surprisingly easy to eat and walk. The napkin helped with drips, although not completely. I had to adjust my bite to be smaller due to the layered dough. It tasted great, like eating a pizza lasagna. There was a satisfying cheese/sauce/bread ratio in my bite with no loss of flavor. As Larry David would say, it was “pretty, pretty, pretty good.”
As an aside, Frank Amato mentioned that in Italy he ate pizza with a fork and knife, like the Mayor, but when he came to the US in 1972 he adopted the New York way of eating pizza, saying “We got used to it.”