March 6, 2013 08:04

The pizza wars of Tate Street

art1832182
 editor@yesweekly.com

I wish I could have been there to see the conniption I imagine was thrown by Eddie Gramisci, owner of Tate Street’s venerable New York Pizza since 2001, when he discovered that a new, chain pizzeria was opening just across the street.

Gramisci, known as much for his passionate disposition as he is for his landmark pizza joint, must have gone ballistic when he heard about Slices, the new corporate parlor in town.

But even though both serve pizza in this college town’s most college-y neighborhood, I believe there’s room for both. There’s enough of a difference to give these two places their own niche.

New York Pizza may be the city’s oldest non-chain pizza place, but it is also a nightspot, and if you grew up here it may be the place you had your first drink. The lively barroom at the back of NYP has seen live music shows and a crowd built on UNCG alumni and neighborhood folks, and seasoned drinkers, with some overlap there. It is an outpost in the hipster nightlife network that also includes College Hill Sundries, the Flatiron and a few other choice spots.

Slices will never fill that niche — for one, it doesn’t serve liquor or beer or even those little, single-serving bottles of wine. And it looks like what it is: a corporate pizza place on a college strip, with market-tested wall decorations and products positioned for maximum sales. NYP adheres to a more casual aesthetic: a stark front space with a few booths and the funky lounge in the rear.

The menus are not exactly interchangeable. They both have the usual slate of salads and subs, though Slices gets a slight edge for a wider selection and more imaginative dishes. And both have pizza, all kinds of it, though again Slices comes out a bit ahead with a slate of specialty pies and some obscure toppings like goat cheese, smoked gouda and taco-seasoned meat.

In order to make an apples-to-apples comparison I visited both on the same day and ordered slices of plain cheese pizza. At Slices, all choices are on display under a glass counter. My pre-made triangle came hot — real hot — out of the oven, with a good layer of bubbled cheese that went all the way to the ends of the crispy crust. The sauce tasted fresh, though bereft of the kinds of heavy Italian seasoning one often finds on single slices. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this slice, though I enjoyed the piece of Sicilian margherita pizza, with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves atop a garlicky sauce and thick crust, considerably more.

The slice at NYP came out a little faster, though was not quite as hot.

Visible bits of oregano peeked through a thin layer of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. Still, it was tasty as always, though again I give a slight edge to the chain.

But that’s understandable. Pizza is pretty much all that Slices does.

NYP, on the other hand, is more like a neighborhood bar that has pizza ovens. And after a few hours sitting at a sidewalk table, the pizza there will do just fine.

So Eddie can rest easy: His franchise is safe, and he has nothing to worry about as long as the Slice customers don’t start parking in his spots. He’s touchy about that.

WANNA go?

New York Pizza; 337 Tate St., Greensboro; 336.272.8953; nyp-gboro.com Slices Pizza Co.; 401 Tate St., Greensboro; 378.1932; slicespizzaco.com

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