PizzaXO: Scott Wiener
Scott Wiener is without question the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to the topic of pizza (in all of its breadth). He has a business called Scott's Pizza Tours, which offers walking and bus tours in different parts of New York City. On these tours people not only get to sample pizza from several different places, but they also learn a TON about ingredients, pizza history, New York City history (with a focus on Italian immigrants), and of course, pizza.
Since I started Pizzacentric years ago, Scott and I have become friends. We run into each other at pizzerias now and then and - if he's in the middle of conducting a pizza tour - he makes an overblown big deal about me and Pizzacentric, announcing who I am to his tour guests, and usually inviting me to chat with them for a few minutes.
Last week, at long last, he finally came over to try out my homemade grilled pizza. It came out well, and he had some amazing suggestions for me about how I can improve it.
After we ate - and while we were munching on a healthy dessert (in-season strawberries) - he allowed me to ask a few questions about his relationship with pizza.
Here are a few (paraphrased) snippets from our conversation. You can listen to the podcast (linked above) to hear the whole 22 minute conversation.
Pizza is totally interwoven in your life. I know, when I get a good slice somewhere, I can't stop eating it. That the part of my brain that controls the eating cutoff switch disengages and, as long as there is more pizza, I keep eating it. I'm wondering, since eating pizza is your job, how living la vida pizza has affected your love of pizza. I definitely think my appreciation for pizza has grown. When I started doing the tour business, my friends were afraid it would become work and I would get sick of pizza. But I've been limiting the amount of slices I eat to 15 slices a week. I think because it has given me an excuse to check out more pizzerias and learn more about pizza, I've only gained more appreciation for it.
How has your relationship with pizza changed over time? I find myself shifting into snobby moments but then two minutes later I bounce back to the other end of the spectrum and I return to being really inclusive. Professionally, I overthink pizza. That's what I do. But I also think that if you overthink it too much then you really can't appreciate it. So I try not to let my thought process get the best of me.
Do you throw out unfinished slices, if they're disappointing? I do. I have this whole method of doing it, where I'll rip the crust off, then I'll wrap the body in a paper plate, and throw it out as I walk past the counter. If the owner's there (whether or not they know I do the tour), I'll just kind of munch on the crust on the way out so they think I ate the slice. Then I'll throw the crust out outside.
If you were to find out that you ought to go gluten free, could you still run your pizza tour? I think the answer is yes. Because - but it would be painful - pizza is more than just the food. I would love to talk about the historical and cultural elements, but yeah I would shift away from dong the tour as much myself (and have the other tour guides do it), because that would be such torture.