"Lots of pizza tours come through here... but Scott -- he's the best. He's enthusiastic and he knows his stuff." That's what Sal Vitale, the owner of Joe's Pizza on Carmine Street, had to say.
Based on my experience with Scott's Pizza Tour -- a three hour conversation that covered a good chunk of pizza history and many details about the types of pies served at three classic spots -- Sal's assessment was right on.
As Scott Wiener -- tour company proprietor and lead guide -- shows up for a tour, he immediately acquaints himself with the participants. He asks where they're from and about the best pizza in their hometowns. I found remarkable his ability to lead any conversation -- no matter how far astray it may have wandered -- back to pizza.
'Cause Scott really loves pizza. It shows from his deep knowledge and his level of comfort with the topic; it comes out in his humor (delivery pizza is not so good, in Scott's opinion -- blame it on the steam, ie. the "soggification"); it emerges in his tendency while talking about pizza to get distracted by something else about pizza (oh, wait a minute, excuse me, look at that -- points to guy folding then biting into a hot slice while walking across Father Demo Square -- that's it, you see that?! that's how you eat pizza in New York! And then returns to the previous topic).
There were eight of us including Scott and myself. The other, less-pizza-crazed people were: a couple from Orange County (CA), a couple from Phoenix, and a third couple from St. Louis. Great people, so thoughtful about pizza. My kind of crowd. No wonder Scott does this for a living.
The guy from Arizona -- whose fond childhood memories include mom making homemade pan pizzas on special occasions -- is a detective. Corny, but I asked him if he could look out for any clues -- possibly make a positive ID. The pizzas we ate didn't require much investigation and there were no pop quizzes. The gal who was with him -- she's really crazy about pizza, and she has been since high school, when she used to eat it every day for lunch. I think they're very happy on this tour.
The couple from Orange County -- I think they liked pizza prior to the tour, and now, may be converts to worship of the food. Scott: "Did you ever wait in line for pizza?" No. "Any pizza you love in the Valley?" They're all chains.
No embarrassment, just speaking reality.
Scott asked the group what comes to mind when they think about New York pizza. The Orange County couple said, in agreement: "You walk down the street eating it."
Scott does the walking tour and bus tours. The walking tour -- which is what I went on -- is three hours long, and makes its way from Little Italy to the West Village. It stops at three classic, but different, pizzerias. The bus tour, which is over four hours long, hits four pizzerias in and out of Manhattan.
He has employees ("Certified Pizza Enthusiasts"), and thus doesn't conduct every tour himself. But he does go on plenty of them, and even on his off days, he eats pizza.
Click the photo above for an audio slideshow of the tour, in which Scott (who's wearing the gray hooded sweatshirt) discusses the source of his daily energy.
Hint: it's not coffee.