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Monday, December 10, 2012

Whole Pies vs. Single Slices: Some Observations

An observation ... I've been criticized for reviewing pizzerias based on a single slice, rather than a full pie. The theory behind the criticism is that a slice that’s been sitting on a plate, under a heat lamp for some time is hardly indicative of a pizzeria’s pies, made fresh to order.
To which my answer has always been, I’m not reviewing the pizzeria, I’m reviewing the slice. I may say, “I give ABC Pizza a (grade),” but the implied understanding is that I’m talking about that slice, only. And if it's stale, then they should've tossed it and made a fresh pie. So take my review of that slice for what it’s worth.
But it occurred to me the other day that it works both ways. My wife often gets a slice from a local pizzeria, which she really likes. Every now and then we get a pie from that same pizzeria.
But she's consistently been disappointed with their pies. She says the slices are better.
The other night she asked them to make our large pie round, like pies that are made for slices. The reason was, if you order a large pie, you’ll get a sheet-type pizza, rectangular with relatively thick, square-cut slices. They’re OK, but rather chewy, and not as crisp as if you ordered a single slice.
But our round pie, which was “pie cut,” still wasn’t as good as expected. It was out of balance, with a thick, doughy, somewhat soft crust that overwhelmed the toppings.
I have two theories why.
One, when you get a slice, they stick it back in the oven to reheat it That crisps up the bottom a bit. And you're getting it fresh out of the oven, not some time later after it's been in a cardboard box in your or the delivery guy's car on the drive to your house.
Two, this pizzeria, like a lot of others, offers oversize slices. I think that means they stretch the dough out wider, and therefore thinner, than they otherwise would. I’m not sure about that, but I think that’s what they do. And by simply asking for a round, rather than rectangular pizza, we didn’t achieve the same thing, because our pizza was not as wide as the pizzas they use for slices. So it was thicker.
That doesn’t mean that I simply like thin pizza better than thick. I’ve had thick pizza with great crust. But it depends on the pizzeria. Some places do thin better than thick, and some places excel at thick crust. This crust was decent, but nothing special, and the slices were more filling than good.
I could’ve done a full-blown review of this pie, and disclosed the identity of the pizzeria, but I hadn’t been planning on it, so I didn’t take any contemporaneous notes. Plus, I’m mostly going by my wife’s description of their slices. I’ve had them, but not in a while. I don’t doubt the accuracy of her description, but I can’t give any details from personal experience. At some point I’ll do a more comprehensive review, but for now I’m just making a more general observation: sometimes, a pizzeria’s slices are better than its whole pies. So if I review a single slice, I may be doing the pizzeria a favor, rather than a disservice.
I’ll make two more comments. First, if you’re a pizzeria owner, I’d like your slices to be representative of your pies. Whether I get a slice or a pie, I’d like the difference to be quantitative, not qualitative.
Second, as customers, we’ll order from this pizzeria again, but I’m going to try harder when I order to specify that we get the same kind of pizza they use for slices. Same thinness, same everything. I may ask them to make it "well done," to see if that makes a difference. And, time permitting, I’m going to heat my oven with a pizza stone ahead of time so I can slide the pizza in for 10 minutes or so to crisp the bottom, if necessary. I'll see if that helps. If so, I'll do an update.
Have you had similar experiences? Love a pizzeria's slices, but been disappointed with its pies? Or vice versa? Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. When I worked at tillos they added a 1/2 piece of dough to make their large slicer pies. Definitely different than a normal large. More thick, chewy crust, and yes, crispier once it was reheated in the oven.

  2. Pizza Guy,

    The issue has less to do with the ‘cook’ or ‘bake’. The issue is ‘math’ related. First of all, there are 3 (three) pizzeria’s in Greater Rochester that sell a half-sheet and call it a large. That in itself is disingenuous. A half-sheet pizza measures 11" X 17" = 187 sq. inches of pizza. A traditional 16” inch diameter Lg Pizza = 200.96 sq. inches of pizza: (π(3.14) X (radius)²

    The slices you and you’re family enjoy, come from a 20” diameter ‘slice pie’. The amount of dough used to bake a ‘slice pie’ is different from the amount of dough used to bake an 11 X 17" half-sheet or Lg 16” diameter pizza.

    16" LG or 11 X 17 Half-Sheet = 30 oz dough

    20“ LG Slice Pie = 40 oz dough

    Dough Density Factor: (π(3.14) X (radius)² / weight

    Conclusion – 11 X 17” Half-Sheet = 30 oz dough / 187 sq. inches = .1604 inches of dough per square inch.

    Conclusion - 16” Lg Pizza = 30 oz dough / 200.96 sq. inches = .1492 inches of dough per square inch

    Conclusion – 20” ‘Slice Pie’ = 40 oz dough / 314 sq. inches = .1273 inches of dough per square inch.

    There is less dough per sq. inch in the 20" diameter‘slice pie’. When ordering, the vast majority of customers would not know this.

  3. I'll agree with all that. The funny thing is I think my wife specified that she wanted the same kind of pizza they use for slices. But maybe they just figured she meant round. I'll go there sometime and put it to them straight, "can you make me THAT pizza right there, that you use for slices?"