I can't help but write again and again about my very favorite places. Anyway, why shouldn't I? The more time I spend somewhere, the more stories to tell.
The other day, I stopped in at Luigi’s Pizza for the second time in a week. I was on a mission to photograph pizza boxes. I’d seen them stacked in tall piles around the shop and in the back, and had noticed that many had the names of other pizzerias on them.
So it seems that Luigi's ― which is located on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from the historic Greenwood Cemetery ― keeps its own cemetery of sorts on hand. A cemetery of other places' pizza boxes. Some are from pizzerias no longer in business; others from pizzerias that must have refused them or never received them due to printing errors; and still others from short term print runs for events or specials like discounted tickets for Broadway plays. I saw a stack of boxes for the play, "Spiderman." Yes, Luigi’s has all of these ― and plain boxes too.
Obviously, purchasing unwanted boxes must save Luigi's money. And in the pizza business, where the food should be affordable (and in a best case scenario, good also ― as it is at Luigi's), a few pennies here and a few pennies there add up to savings that matter. (Rollover top photo to see Luigi’s basement supply of boxes-in-waiting.)
Yelp reviews suggest that Stromboli’s in Acworth, GA
may have had pretty good pizza. Gotta love, “Behind the Chevron Station on Baker Grove Rd.”
For Luigi's, the goal of saving money is ― and I really believe this ― also about saving customers' money. Until two months ago, the shop hadn’t raised its prices for over six years. (The price of a large pie increased from $14.75 to $15.75. It's worth every penny.)
“Do you think our costs went up during those six years,” Giovanni asked me.
“You don't mind having the names of other pizzerias on your boxes?” I asked him.
“Mike,” he said (he calls me Mike ― and my wife, Kristin, “Chris”), “It doesn’t matter what it says on the box. When people see my pizza they know it’s my pizza.”
“Hey, I have an idea," I said. "You could get plain boxes and rubber stamp Luigi’s on top. That’s kind of cool. There’s a place in Williamsburg that does that, they―”
“Mike. Mike. How long has that place been in business?”
Luigi's opened in 1973.
I’ve given the topic of pizza boxes more thought than I’d like to admit (though not as much thought as has the creator of this picture blog about pizza boxes.)
The topic first arose a few years ago ― at Luigi's actually ― when Gio used scissors to cut a couple holes through the top of my pizza box. It got me to thinking about the science of hot pizza storage.
Yes, heat escapes through holes. But so does steam. And trapped steam can cause a sturdy (or even crisp) bottom to go soggy. Steam kills the pie. (Yes, a delivered pizza with a steam-soaked bottom still tastes pretty good. But it's not the same as straight out of the oven.)
Pulino’s in Manhattan has boxes with perforations in the top corners that when punched out, allow steam to escape. Plenty of other boxes have steam release tabs. Much of technology can go into a box.
I think about all these things perhaps too much. Giovanni has reminded me many, many times, it’s just pizza.
“Mike. It’s dough, sauce, and cheese. Mike. Dough, sauce, and cheese.”
But I know this: it takes confidence and consistent execution of good pizza to put your pie in someone else's vanity box. Luigi's stands as proof (and Giovanni knows it): it's the pizza, not the packaging, that counts.
Luigi's Pizza in Brooklyn, NY. 686 Fifth Avenue (between 20th & 21st Streets). Tel. 718-499-3857. R Train to Prospect Avenue or 25th Street. Map Luigi's. Hours: Mon - Thurs: 11 am - 10 pm; Fri - Sat: 11 am - 12 am; closed Sunday.