April 1, 2018 |

Man on the Street: Topping Pet Peeves

By Scott Wiener

pizza slice, toppings overload

Don’t make these critical ingredient errors

I’m a simple man. Give me a cheese pizza and I’m usually satisfied. The majority of my pizza eating is comprised of cheese pizzas, which leads my tour guests to ask if I have something against toppings. NOT AT ALL! I love the basics like sausage and garlic pies, but also have room in my heart for the less traditional combos like walnut, pear and honey. Yes, I even like pineapple. I’m an equal-opportunity pizza eater if ever there was one, but ordering toppings at an unfamiliar pizzeria comes with some anxiety.

scott wiener, professional pizza eater, man on the street columnist, pizza box record holder, scott's pizza tours

Scott Wiener

Founder, Scott’s Pizza Tours and SliceOutHunger.org

Let’s start with mushrooms. If you’re taking them out of a can, you’re better off throwing them directly into the garbage than onto my pizza. Canned mushrooms are going to ruin my entire day. Your menu should have a warning label if you use canned mushrooms. Not that I’m anti-can; I love canned tomatoes, artichokes, olives and the like. Canned mushrooms are slimy and we all know it. That’s not to say fresh mushrooms suddenly make your pizza perfect. Mushrooms are like little sponges, so you have to be really careful about how you treat them to avoid serving a soggy pie. Roasting or sautéing might be necessary.

The same can be said for most vegetables, particularly if a customer orders several on the same pie. Perhaps you try to warn people who go overboard with their veggies, but it’s not always possible to talk someone out of an order. The challenge is even greater when dealing with an order placed by phone or online; customers can’t be coached when they order from a mobile device. Now the pressure is on YOU to produce an edible pizza made under duress. If you’re not pre-cooking veggies to remove moisture, make sure your staff knows to reduce the amount of each topping to avoid overflow.

I love basil’s ability to give a light pizza the soft sweetness on the nose, but all too often I see a pizza with burnt leaves that have nothing to add to the conversation. Pizzas that take less than two minutes to bake can handle pre-oven basil, but those 5+ minute bakes are catastrophic for the thin green leaves. The problem I have with post-oven basil is when it’s applied in single, whole leaves. A full leaf of basil on each slice may make a pretty picture, but I’m not a big fan of it sitting in the middle of my slice. It’s hard to eat and doesn’t release nearly as strong an aroma as freshly shredded basil.

Perhaps my biggest topping pet peeve is the post-bake topping. This is when a pizzeria adds the requested topping to a slice of cheese pizza before tossing it into the oven for a reheat. There’s no continuity between slice and topping. Sometimes they take the crime a step further and sprinkle on some extra cheese, thinking it will melt down and secure the aftermarket topping. It’s an outrage. Do they really think I’m that desperate?

Enough is enough. The world will be a better place when we all decide to respect toppings instead of treating them like afterthoughts.

Scott Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City and SliceOutHunger.org.