In 2008, I was living in Philly and decided to start a blog about all the pizza I was eating. Suffice it to say that it never took off (I composed six posts over a three month period before drifting away from the idea), but I like some of the writing. Below is my (slightly edited) review of El Greco, a totally crappy joint near the totally crappy workspace I kept in North Philly. It was originally posted 2008.05.30. I particularly like the last paragraph, which sums up my feelings about slice shops well.
El Greco is a neighborhood shop, and it's just a few blocks from my workshop. I stop by every once in a while, and it's an experience.
Today, as usual, there were a bunch of people inside. Three behind the small (but tall) counter, a driver or two outside, and three or four customers in the long, narrow area inside. I order two slices, which are put in a box. (A bit of a downer for me - what, they don't want me eating in front of the shop? Put it on a plate, please...) I go outside and stand by my bike and eat them - warm, gooey, and very sweet. The cheese is thick and chewy, the crust is soft and light, and the sauce is sugary and squirmy.
The slices are floppy - they fold, and don't crease - and drip red-orange oil as I squeeze the fluffy crust to keep the whole package together. The first bite requires me to hold the crust side above the rest of the slice, so that it doesn't unfold and go limp. Eating the slices produces a texture that resembles, almost, mollusks. As I stand there eating, I observe the scene. A tall, gaunt man sits on the stoop, then stands and mills around the storefront, smoking a cigarette. Three customers who came out of the shop just as I was entering sit on a stoop next door eating their slices and talking. The traffic on 2nd St. whizzes by, passing the small community at Jefferson - the slice shop, an auto tag store and a barbershop.
I like El Greco in a way. It's not exactly gourmet, but talking about the quality of the food misses the point of the business. It isn't high quality - some might go so far to argue that it's hardly pizza. Either way, it's food, it's part of a neighborhood. And sometimes that's all you need.