Pizza, Candido vs Totonno
Hello everyone. Christian Hunter here with a "heads up" on upper east side pizza. I live within an avenue block of both Candido and Totonno on the upper east side, and have had plenty of experience with both.
Gripe number one: Both of these joints have a questionable policy regarding the price of toppings. My girlfriend likes onion on her pizza, and I usually prefer sausage. Some places(like John's on Bleeker) gladly accomodate and charge correctly, for one topping. No such luck at Totonno and Candido; their policy regarding toppings is "same price half or whole". I welcome any explanation as to the origin of this meanspirited and expensive policy. That they charge DOUBLE for a half and half pie, to my mind, is downright larceny.
Gripe number two: Both these joints skimp on cheese, and it is not a luxury, but an outright necessity that one order extra cheese, just to bring the pie to it's proper proportions. In fact, even then with the extra cheese, these pizzas could still use more, bringing to my mind the prospect of ordering one with "extra-extra cheese", which at two dollars per, plus two dollars each for onion and sausage, would bring the price of a large pie to 22 dollars plus tax. That's a lot of money for what started as a 14 dollar basic cheese pie.
Which is better? It depends on your own prediliction. Candido makes the tastier pie, hands down. Their sauce is more flavorful, the herbs sprinkled on top are delicious, and the crust is thin and yet pliable. But that taste comes at a price. Candido makes a VERY minimalistic pie, truly a less-is-more philosophy that can leave you wanting more, not necessarily a bad thing. Oh and their sausage is MUCH better than Tononno. Joe Candido is a real stand up guy. One day when my parents were in town, We sat down to a couple of pies and noted to the waitress that one of them did not appear to be sporting the requisite extra cheese we had ordered, and she insisted that it did. A few minutes later, Joe Candido came over and told us that the order had been confused, and that he wanted to make us an additional pizza with the extra cheese, on the house. When it arrived, it was beautiful, a real testamony to what can happen when somebody gives a damn, and it was the best pizza of the three, by far, they we had there all night.
Having said that, if I had kids, I would bring them to Totonno. Their pie, though not nearly as tasty, is FAR MORE FILLING, owing to the thicker, doughier crust and the somewhat more liberal use of cheese and toppings, though those ingredients are in no way superior to Candido. One more thing: You can die of starvation, if not old age waiting for Candido to deliver to your apartment. Totonno's has the delivery schtick down way better than Candido, they arrive in like half the time. Go figure.
Many people, including me, think that the pizza around here is served with way, way, way too much cheese, so I would actually consider "skimpy cheese" a plus. A solid, 1/4 inch thick, impermeable layer is icky. You should be able to see at least some of the sauce underneath, and one should not be required to blot the slice with several napkins before eating it.
You'd probably be really happy with the pizza in Chicago, though.
I must agree with MU: A layer of cheese as thick as the skin on a rhinoceros is not a plus on a pizza. I've never been to Candido's but I have extensive experience with the Coney Island Totonno and can say this: at the original, at least, the cheese isn't a topping at all. They put it on the dough first, BEFORE the sauce, so it kind of shields the crust and keeps it from getting too soggy and sauce-soaked. And they use slices of fresh mozzarella, which is never going to give you the thick yellow insulation of, say, the shredded processed cheese on a Ray's slice. Then they they sprinkle some grated romano cheese on top and drizzle the pie with olive oil. That gives you a pretty subtle, very Italian flavor, and if the pie is covered with "extra cheese" or toppings you lose the effect. Their sauce is nothing but reduced tomatoes so if you need spices you're not going to be happy. And I have to say that while I love Totonno and I love Cookie and Joel, who run it, the toppings they use, especially the sausage, are little more than an afterthought. I don't recommend them. This is a less-is-more kind of place.
There's nothing wrong with wanting a big fat greasy slice covered with meat and onions and so on, I guess, but that's not what Italian-style pizza like Totonno is about.
Having delivered myself of that sermon, I would like to say that charging for two toppings when you're doing a half-and-half pie is close to unethical. If you inferred that a pizzeria that does that harbors a contempt for toppings in general, you'd probably be right.
re: pete wells
It seems that my recent post, entitled Candito vs Totonno has a fair number of you sufficiently convinced that what I desire are big, plastic, shingle sized slabs of fake oily cheese on my pizza. That I am a glutton for the gouda, more gourmand than gourmet. That I believe that more, not less, is more. This notion is entirely in error. When I stated the other day that the establishments in question go light on the cheese, I wasn't being nitpicky, and they don't do it for effect, because the "effect" produced by too little cheese is negative, so no one would produce that outcome intentionally. If less cheese is better than extra cheese, why don't they rebate you two dollars when you order it that way?
Anyway, I'm still wondering where I should go if I want really good pizza. Any ideas? Don't say Ray's.
re: Christian Hunter
Ah, once again, the pizza topic! Well, having "enjoyed" pies at both Tottono's and Candido, I have to say...go to Lombardi's. Unless Joe Candido is taking personal care with your pie, I find very uneven pizza at both of these places. And I don't think the reason they charge double for two half-toppings is contempt for toppings...I think it is contempt for their customers!
I have to disagree on Lombardi's. Our pie had very little taste and the ingredients didn't blend well at all. So far Candido's is our favorite but you must eat it on the premises, right out of the oven. It's true that the pie could be described as skimpy by some but what you are getting is great taste, not fun with cheese. My take on Candido's is - as good as John's in every way only with a better, more flavorful, crust.