Dollar pizza business model
A thought-provoking piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Sophia Hollander ("Economics, Sliced") bemoaned the decline of the neighborhood pizza slice, especially in Manhattan, and blamed it pretty squarely on the dollar slice joints, also fingering gourmet pizzerias with elevated prices in passing. We learn, for example, that there are 12 pizzerias in the borough, plus nine owned by, with more to follow. I disagree with four of the article's salient points and implications: 1) that the dollar slice places are the biggest culprit in the decline; 2) that it is principally Manhattan pizzerias that are affected; 3) that the dollar slices are necessarily a bad thing; and 4) that the neighborhood pizzeria is in mortal danger.Many of the dollar-pizza offerings are quite spare and unadorned, as with these two pies at 99-cent-Fresh-Pizza on Sixth Avenue.
The neighborhood pizza parlor as a phenomenon dates to the post-WWII era, as the article makes clear, when gas ovens made it possible to reheat slices. (And when a lot of operators, many returning veterans, could suddenly afford to buy the ovens and get started in the pizza business.) At the time, Italian food meant Italian-American food, a red-sauced entity that had originated in New York and other cities near the end of the 19th century. Pizza as we know it was invented at Lombardi's on Spring Street a little before 1900, and these new 1950s neighborhood pizza parlors carried the earlier coal-oven traditions forth with gas ovens. Many of these ovens bore the name Bari-the capital of Apulia in southern Italy, and the name of the company that pioneered the gas pizza oven.