Photo by Jessica Elizarraras
I have made many poor decisions in my life, a
nd many of them were about food.
When I was 18, I ate Chunky’s Four Horseman Hamburger in the second- fastest time ever, after which I spent 12 hours puking every 30 minutes into a toilet, the unchewed globs of half- eaten ghost peppers tumbling from my nostrils in red slurries of crippling, unforgettable pain.
When I was 19, in an attempt to see how the regiment would affect our stool, my friend Callen and I embarked on an all-corn diet. Eating nothing but corn microwaved in our dorm room, we chronicled the four-day affair in lurid detail on our blog allcorn.tumblr.com, a site that, in addition to featuring photos and video clips, also made the two of us minor celebrities in the darkest, most corn-fetishistic corners of the Internet.
The year after, I became a militant vegan, the dogmatic kind who refuses even to chew gum. My parents, supportive though they were of my self-exploration, still had their limits. And when it came to my dad’s birthday, the one day of the year that I should’ve known to cool it with the vegan shit, the stricken face he made when I presented him with a lime green vegan cake (avocado replaced the butter) has since become my definition for the word crestfallen.
Still, I am proud to say that I have tested many of my convictions and curiosities about food, and many of them have been found wanting. I will never again look at corn the same way.
On the other hand, though, several of my most deep-seated beliefs have held true all these years, one of which is my treatise on pizza.
Though as a food lover and former cook I have a great reverence for pedigreed ingredients and technique, I think that in exceptional cases, such
as with pizza, the use of nostalgia and comfort are more bene cial to the
taste of a pie than even the most divine sourcing or composition. Though I will normally defend the merits of tweezer food to my death, when it comes to pizza, I have always believed that the more unassuming the better. The less traditional the pizza oven, more garlicky the sauce, pinker the pepperoni, chewier the crust, and checkered the tablecloth, the better the pizza is going to taste.
In my mind, there are only a few other food groups that share this line of logic (breakfast tacos being another), but it is inarguably true, or at least I have never found suf cient proof otherwise.
Ray’s Pizzaria, a pizza joint in a city that loves Mexican food, has managed
to succeed where other pie restaurants have oundered. The mini-chain opened its fifth outpost, this one on 281 near1604 last month, and the explanation for their success is clear. The pies are made with love; the vibe of the restaurants is family-friendly; the prices are affordable, the portions are massive, and the service is friendly. As Warhol made art from the commercial, Ray’s makes exquisite pizza from the common. There are no dollops of buffalo mozzarella or wisps of basil dotting their pies, only hearty medallions of spicy Italian sausage and sweet sautéed peppers on slices so large that you’ll honestly — honestly — be full after just one.
Is the world a confusing place? Yes.
Is food an increasingly fraught ocean that diners are forced to navigate every time they lift a fork? Unfortunately, yes. But when it comes to Ray’s, things make sense again. The place makes good pizza. That’s it.