Pizza places in Rockaway have never made a Top 10 list. There’s no Di Fara’s, Denino’s, L and B, Patsy’s or Totonno’s on the peninsula. Some of those legendary places only serve whole pies. Which is controversial. Some people don’t like places that don’t serve slices. I don’t know, if the pizza is awesome, I’m ok with pie only.
And hold up, before you chime in. If you can eat pizza for breakfast you’re qualified to be a pizza critic. If you can eat pizza five or six days a week your opinion counts. And I’ll say right now to the crowd that demands a place have slices. You gotta first try Denino’s in Staten Island. Or Totonno’s in Coney Island. You wouldn’t want those places here?
Rockaway has solid places but no show-stoppers. Put it this way. People from Rockaway drive to Howard Beach to get New Park or Gino’s. Nobody from Howard Beach is driving to Rockaway for pizza.
In any case, that brings us this week’s controversy: Playland Pizza.
The place on Rockaway Beach Boulevard got shut down by the Department of Health last week. Such action shouldn’t scare you away forever. Department of Health agents can be like mobile DMV clerks. They can find all sorts of reasons to be unfair and even antagonistic. Most restaurant owners know they’re at the mercy of these …insert multiple curse-words here….Many of these (fill in the curse words) can find violations anywhere and anyhow.
Oh, wait, full disclosure, I owned a bar/restaurant eons ago. That was when 43 inspectors were arrested for threatening to shut down businesses unless they got bribe money. Maybe the current crop of inspectors is of the purest ethical stock. I’m skeptical. They might not take money but they’re in position to wield power. And I’m guessing, some abuse that power.
I find it curious that Whitney Aycock the owner/chef of Playland Pizza got profiled as a pizza nazi in one publication and then got shut down a few days later. Maybe somebody at DOH didn’t like him. The pizza nazi article in which he defended his pie-only approach made him seem uhm, a tad abrasive. Another disclosure: I’ve witnessed him being downright friendly and charming, the good Dr. Jeckyll. Who knows, maybe the Department of Health caught him when he was Mr. Hyde.
For one, I hope the place reopens and gets back in the game. It’s good to have another place to rank and discuss. If I’ve got a gripe with Playland Pizza it was the size of the pie. No-slice, pie-only is okay but, come on, Whitney, make it bigger!
By the way, a Health Department shutdown is hardly a death knell. The aforementioned Di Fara’s, which often has people lining up to get in, was closed in 2011 for violations. Ciro’s, near Waldbaums, was shut down in 2009. It’s bounced back and makes one of the best pies on the peninsula.
Actually, both Ciro’s—the one at Waldbaum’s and the other on Beach 116th Street are good. (Sometimes you gotta ask for well-done or you might get a delivery that’s too soupy).
The new place Boardwalk Pizza at Arverne by the Sea is real good. Elegante might be the most widely accepted as the best. I’ve gotta give Slices and Ices another try. And the Last Dragon is getting a taste soon, though their Wednesday and Friday only thing keeps messing me up.
And Gino’s on Beach 20th is excellent. My research led me there this past weekend. If there are some notable places I’m missing, let me know.
I’m not going to mention the place I’ve been boycotting since they charged me tax on a slice I didn’t even like. Maybe the pizza is better now. I doubt it and I don’t miss it.
What’s the best pizza? Well, it’s a good debate to have on Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll talk beer on Columbus Day.