Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to fix the economy: Pizza

Last night, I accepted an invitation from Evan Goldin to meet him at Goat Hill Pizza in SF's Potrero Hill. Admittedly, I wasn't in the mood for pizza, especially not all-you-can-eat pizza ($10.95, only on Monday), but I said that if Goat Hill Pizza received a four-star average rating on Yelp, then I would attend. And sure enough, it did.

I am not a snob, but I always tell people that outside of the New York Metropolitan Area, Italy, and other locales along the Mediterranean, there is rarely top quality pizza in this world. I have never had a slice in California that rivals any pizza in New York. If Goat Hill Pizza was in Oceanside, New York (my home town, and home to at least a dozen amazing pizzerias), it would be out of business in a heartbeat, and ostensibly receive a one-star rating on Yelp. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty good pizza by California standards, but come on, what century are we living in?

This realization makes me recall a time in 2007 when I drove from Virginia to Washington with Jared Flatow. On the ride, we listened to economist/columnist Paul Krugman (of Nobel Prize and New York Times fame) discuss British food before the 1990s. It was quite simple: The British were well known for having food that tasted horrible, wasn't fresh, and lacked variety. Krugman attributed this to the fact that not enough British people traveled abroad and tried other more delectable cuisines. Thus, there was no demand, or should I say no outcry, back in the British Isles for better food. Once the Brits started traveling abroad more frequently (and ravaged other nations with their boisterous stag parties in the process...) they immediately knew that their own cuisine was terrible. They demanded more than canned peas for dinner, and they were willing to pay for this. Soon, the competition got more tough, and today, Britain (at least in London) has many excellent cuisines. Don't get me wrong, British cuisine on the whole is still sub-par compared to the rest of the world, but if you've got the dough, you can get the best food in the world in London, and for everyone else, average meal is far better than it was 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

Such a change needs to happen with pizza in America. There's no reason why Oceanside, New York should have ten times better pizza than a metropolis like San Francisco. Will it take someone flying out pizza from Brooklyn every day to make West Coast pizza worthy? Perhaps, but this is the time for a Pizzapreneur to do just that.

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