CUNY Pie is mired in rhetoric. Understood as a purely gastronomic endeavor, the language of CUNY Pie gravitates toward quasi-Italian phraseology and Brooklyn neighborhood names. As understood by those who tout the project as an extended experiment in academic social spaces, CUNY Pie bears a weight far greater than even the low-grade mozzarella heaped lovelessly on a Sbarro slice. Is pizza and beer the lubricant for an academic conversation of more significance? Are instructional technology and postulation on the future of university just excuses to go to Patsy’s? Or does the situation of CUNY Pie within the CUNY Academic Commons or even CUNY as a whole challenge the presumption that there is a justifiable distinction between social and academic behavior? In what can only be described as an instance of academia’s tragic instinct to overtheorize the beautiful, pie theory threatens to outshadow pie eating.
For this reason, it was a relief to actually eat some fricking pizza last weekend at THATCamp. While other attendees went to Hooters or something, an intrepid group of campers, led by our gracious host, took a trip to Tony’s NY Pizza. Jeremy was anxious for a verdict on what he called the best pizza around. And my verdict is: It was pretty good. The pizza was slicejointesque: big pies, sweet sauce, generous amounts of dried cheese. The vegetable pie was surprisingly good, notwithstanding the odd distribution of black olives. The sausage pie offered thick, cross-cut slices of a fennely sweet sausage, which I enjoyed more than the pleasantly fatty but sort of bland meatballs. The crust had the familiar rolling docker pock-marks on the bottom, and was, like many whole pies bought from slice joints apparently used to reheating slices, pulled from the oven about 90 seconds before it should have been. The dough could have used more salt, but the cornicione, especially on the more done sides of the pizzas, had a pleasant chewiness. In sum: an above average street slice type of pie, and really quite good for NY street pie outside of NYC.
There was a bit of Twitter chatter about whether a CUNY Pie event in Fairfax, with just two out of six attendees formally connected to CUNY, really counts. For one thing, a few of the attendees have already been assimilated. Second, if you really believe the ballyhoo about CUNY Pie as a harbinger of the university to come, surely you can’t in good faith fall back on the artifical institutional boundaries that dominate traditional academia. CUNY Pie is more than a bunch of people eating pizza. It’s a movement, an ethos, which could be summed up thus: Stop yammering and eat your damn pizza.