Pizza Tour – Lower Manhattan

Carl and I are at it again and we continue our quest for the best slice of Pizza pie. This time we focus on lower Manhattan and Carl drummed up a perfect itinerary. 13 places were on the list and 1 more was added along the route. The West Village is blessed with some top places and we enjoyed some incredible slices. With such a large list we started early at 10:45 and didn’t finish until the late evening. Thanks to everyone that showed up. The day and crowd was perfect. I managed to go to 12 places but had to leave to meet up with some friends that wound up cancelling on me. Grrrr. Carl marched onwards to the final 14. You rock.
FAQ: What do you judge on? I personally just focus on the taste of the slice. The quality and amount of cheese. The execution of the crust and the ever important cheese to dough ratio. I don’t care about the decor of the establishment.

Is it fair? To keep it fair, a “regular” slice is generally compared, but a sampling of other slices are tasted.

Do you really eat at every place? Yes. at least a half a slice but usually I eat a full one. Sometimes even 2-3 depending on the quality of the slice.

Why isn’t my favorite plce on your list? Because we don’t like you.

So much pizza in one day AND for breakfast? Are you crazy? Yea, maybe.

My Top 5 (in order): Una Pizza Napoletana, No.28, Lil’ Frankie’s, John’s, Lombardi’s

Carl’s Top 5 (in order) No. 28, Una Pizza Napoletana, Lombardi’s, Lil’ Frankie’s Pizza, John’s Pizzeria

The List:

1) Joe’s Pizza
7 Carmine Street

2) Goodfellas Kitchen
91 Christopher St

3) Bleecker Street Pizza

4) DeMarco’s
146 West Houston Street

5) No. 28
28 Carmine Street

6) John’s Pizzeria
278 Bleecker

7) Lombardi’s
32 Spring Street

8) Arturo’s
106 W Houston St.

9) Lil’ Frankie’s Pizza
19 1ST Ave

10) Una Pizza Napoletana
349 12th Street

11) Vinny Vincenz
231 1st Ave.

12) Muzzarella
221 Avenue A

13) Famous Ray’s Pizza
465 Ave Of The Americas

14) Adrienne’s Pizzabar
54 Stone Street

Kudos to the salty crust at Una Pizza Napoletana. The great sauce at Lombardi’s. The attention to ingredient detail at Lil’ Frankie’s, and the perfect balance of everything at No.28. A nice surprise was the last place I hit which was Muzzarella on 14th street. Their “lasagna” slice was killer and ate the whole thing in addition to the regular slice.

Pictures from the day are here.

Taste of Chinatown

The weather was much better this time around for the Taste of Chinatown. It’s worth fighting the crowds for the 1 and 2 dollar samplings of chinese edibles. Hit the usual favorite spots including Doyer’s and got some great food from new establishments. The best surprise was the tucked away “Coffee Shop” that wasn’t on the list, and they served up the most unique cup of joe and even served up yummy dumplings. I still don’t like fish balls and keep making the same mistake to try them. I paced myself better this year and luckily had just enough room for some Dragon Company Ice Cream. yum yum.

Patti Smith @ CBGB’s (Last Show)

What a special end to my birthday week concert celebration by spending it with Patti Smith on the final day of CBGB’s. Already this month I’ve seen the Continental close and now a few blocks away, the birthplace of punk shuts its doors. I was not sure what to expect from this night. I was recovering from a week of heavy drinking and going to shows every night this week so I was already pretty numb. However, by the time I approached the Bowery, I was startled to see a line around the block and a media frenzy in front of the club. There was electricity in the air. It took almost an hour to get in the small club, and when the wristband went on me I realized that it would be the last time this would happen, the last time I’d glance at the beaten up TV and the last time I’d come through these doors.

Even though there was still a good number of people on line behind me, the club was already filled. I mean PACKED. Reports stated that there were over 500 people present for a club that holds about 300. Fans ranged from young to old and there was no room to move. I arrived in time to hear Patti’s first set which consisted mainly of her songs, old and new. She was very comfortable on the stage she helped make famous.

During the break between sets I muscled my way up to the front. The bathroom in the back was strategically closed off. I could have imagined people doing crazy things in there one last time. People could not move in or out and if you left, your spot was quickly filled by 2-3 people. It was overall very uncomfortable. Did I mention it was packed?

Patti took the stage again and changed into a beat-up ripped shirt. The second half consisted of covers from all the bands that helped shape the landscape of punk and rock n’ roll and ones that graced the tattered stage of CBGB’s. Patti would name the song after she performed it giving credit to the artist. My personal highlight was when she covered “Sonic Reducer” by the Dead Boys. There were special guests sprinkled throughout the night including Flea who played bass on several songs. We sang happy birthday to him, which will be an awesome memory, and he absolutely killed when he covered the Ramones songs. I was elated when Richard Lloyd took the stage and played a few tunes as well.

Midway through the set she apologized to the crowd that she had to use the bathroom. This became a perfect opportunity for Lenny Kaye and the band to go into a rocking medley of Ramones songs perfectly stitched together. The crowd jumped and sang along.
Although she didn’t share too many memories, she did tell a great story on how she got her apartment and dedicated “Space Monkey” to Michael Stipe. Later, 3 hours into the set, Patti stuttered on stage and mentioned that she needed to drink some coffee, which got a chuckle from the crowd. At points she seemed completely drained but then she became enraged and passionate onstage.

She concluded the evening by playing a passionate version of “Gloria” and went into “Elegie” and dedicated the song to all those that couldn’t make it. She read off many names of the musicians and pioneers that gave it their all for the music and the scene and garnered applause from the crowd. Patti started to cry, laugh and sing during the funeral march played behind her. She stated that the club was just a place, not a temple, and music will go on. I was very moved and tried to soak in these last moments of the club.

“You just got a place, just some crappy place, that nobody wants, and you got one guy who believes in you, and you just do your thing. And anybody can do that, anywhere in the world, any time.”

The club ends it’s 33 year run, and Patti pointed out that it was the same age as Jesus. Nearly 4 hours later, I left the graffiti laden and spit stained doors one last time. I lingered around for a few hours outside (as did many others) and lamented on all the good and bad times I had at the club. It was such a big part of my past and my outlook on life and music. It’s sad to see things disappear like this from your life and I say goodbye to something that shaped me to who I am today. What better way to do it than a monumental concert and with Punk’s most celebrated poet. Several hours later they take took down the tattered awning and it’s official. CBGB is no more. Goodbye old friend.

My pictures and videos from the show.

CBGB sounds its final note. – CNN
Legendary punk club CBGB closes. BBC
Fans of a Groundbreaking Club Mourn and Then Move On – NY Times

Jenni Lewis & The Watson Twins @ Town Hall

Although I was quite hungover and my ears were still reverberating from the night before, I was hoping to be able to still listen to Jenni Lewis. Unfortunately Norah Jones’ side band The Little Willies cancelled so I watched the first few innings of the Mets game instead.

I got great seats for my first experience with Jenni and didn’t know what to expect. She took the stage with a sexy long black dress and I was shocked to hear an incredible and controlled voice from such a petite girl. After the 3rd song she went off stage leaving the band to play an instrumental. When she came back, she had an extremely sparkly and colorful dress on. The lights danced on her and the show picked up some steam. She sang all her songs beautifully and even played some guitar and piano. I was also very impressed with The Watson Twins. They really are great singers and complimented Jenni’s voice. A short but sweet set and much better live than on the recordings.

Viva Voce | Silversun Pickups @ Bowery Ballroom

Round 2 of the Silversun Sounds. This time the show got moved to the much bigger Bowery. Viva Voce opens up this time and they played another great set of songs. Anita was more silent on stage and let her guitar do the talking. And talking and screaming it did. They rocked again and picked up some more fans. They just got signed to Barsuk and the new record GET YR BLOOD SUCKED OUT is out so check it.

The crowd got pretty full by the time Silversun Pickups came out and I started the show with a shared whiskey shot I bought for the lead singer. The band didn’t seem nervous to be playing the Bowery, and after a few songs the crowd and band became enlivened. I really enjoyed hearing the music played at a larger space and although it lacked the super intense sound they produce, the Bowery sound system did a great job to showcase their power. There were many old and new fans in the crowd and some girls that were even flashing Brian. They played every song precisely and Nikki jumped around like a pogo stick during “Kissing Families”. I absolutely love Nikki’s shy demeanor but when she’s on bass she becomes the commander of the sound. The band kidded that they would play for hours and practically did play every song they’ve ever put out. They came out for an encore and they granted my request for “Comeback Kid” and continued to play a few more.

After the show we headed to the after show party at a bar that seemed to have just opened up. The vibe was relaxed and fun and by the time the band showed up, there was much drinking and dancing. Got home with my mind humming and my ears ringing.

The Kingdom | Silversun Pickups | Viva Voce @ Mercury Lounge

I caught the tail end of The Kingdom who played an upbeat and quirky set of songs. I couldn’t put my finger on the music that they were doing but it was entertaining. Especially when the lead singer jumped into the sparse crowd to spew out one of his final songs.

I was in the same exact location at the front crowd, nestled between the stage monitors, as I was the last time I took the onslaught of sound by the Silversun Pickups. I was extremely excited to see them again and at a small venue. They predictably started the set with “Melatonin” and within seconds I became prepared for the energetic set. They kept the high level going by playing all their more dynamic songs first including “Well Thought of Twinkies”. They were incredible and played a very intense and tight set. Brian became more enraged towards the end and wound up jumping onto the table in front of me. He almost took the table down, and with his guitar in my face, I quickly grabbed the other end of it so that he didn’t fall. I didn’t want him to get hurt so that I could see the band again tomorrow. 🙂

Viva Voce is a duo originally from Alabama who play lo-fi indie pop. Despite the lack of members in the band, they create a huge sound on stage. Anita is a rock goddess and her guitar playing is intense. Their minimal approach to music is eclipsed by their exceedingly dark and sultry sounds that get layered within their compositions. They brought out a bassist to help play a few songs including “We Don’t Fuck Around”, which I found delightful. I reeeeeally liked this band. I’ll be sure to check em out tomorrow.

Pictures from the show.