Even the biggest dive spots have a vibe to cash in on
Marketing folks call it “branding” but I’ll just call it “vibe.” It’s a huge part of what attracts me to (or keeps me away from) your business. I don’t believe there are any best pizzerias, only pizzerias that fit better for different situations. New York City is a great example of how hundreds of pizzerias coexist because of their complimentary characteristics. Here is a breakdown of three great NYC pizzerias and what their vibes say to me as a pizza consumer. The Pizzeria: Arturo’s Restaurant, Greenwich Village The Room: Lighting is dim but not the trendy Edison-bulb-with-candles-on-the-table motif everyone seems to be into lately. The menus are basic and dependable, with nothing new or experimental on the list. If you hear music, it’s being played live from a position in the restaurant that’s inconveniently tucked between the kitchen door and the main dining room. The adjacent kitchen transforms a jazz trio into a quartet and reminds the visitor that old-school restaurants like this have no room to spare. The Vibe: Arturo’s is home. They’re clearly more interested in providing a comfortable meeting spot than they are in competing in the city’s turbulent restaurant scene. The Pizzeria: Co. (Company), Chelsea The Room: A large room (by NYC standards) coated in wood and white features several communal tables sparsely set with Spartan plates, cutlery and simple glass at each seat. A paper place mat provides the menu, but don’t look for crossword puzzles or connect-the-dots –– it’s all about the food. The entrance is a large open space bordered by a lovely backlit bar, whose shelves are lightly stocked with trinkets rather than product. A corner location fitted with large glass windows bathe daytime diners in a wash of sunlight –– a feature that’s largely unheard of in the tight quarters of NYC. The Vibe: The room’s sparse decoration tells me Co. is a mature yet casual restaurant. It’s appropriate for a business lunch, dinner date or family outing. Kids might be bored and stare at their iDevices, but grown ups will feel secure that they are “going out” for a classier experience than most pizzerias. The Pizzeria: Lombardi’s Pizzeria, SoHo The Room: Checked tablecloths and exposed brick walls unite all six dining rooms in this brightly lit pizzeria. Plastic plates and cups frame a single fork and napkin at each seat and wooden chairs blend in with the background. The menu is quick and to the point: pizzas; calzones; salads; meatballs and antipasto. Its walls display a mosaic of Italian posters, Zagat reviews, celebrity photos and pictures of their pizza. Music from a satellite radio set to the Sinatra station fills in the space. The Vibe: Lombardi’s is a family restaurant. The bright lighting and catchy table coverings make it clear that they’re going for a classic, old-school feel. Lightweight cups and plates tell me this pizzeria is good for kids but the music selection is a clear indication that this restaurant wants to bring you back to a time before auto-tune sanitized pop music. There you have it –– three popular pizzerias with three distinct vibes. Does your room send the right message? Take a seat, order a pizza and find out for yourself. Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.