JP’s Food Adventures: Vic’s, a Classic Slice & Pac-Man

Vic's Pizza, 51 Essex Street. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

I don’t eat pizza like I used to. A younger me had it several times a week. But that younger me usually biked 70 miles or so in that week. Current me is a bit more restrained, saving my pizza indulgence for the end of a busy day when a proper supper is just not going to happen. Usually I go for an upscale pie and a glass or two of red wine, so I can convince myself I’m not having junk food for dinner.

But I haven’t forgotten the pizza I grew up with. Like many in my generation, I have fond memories of hanging around my local slice joint, pumping quarters into Pac-Man. While my initials rarely made the high score screen, I did develop a lifelong fondness for a classic New York slice, dusted with garlic salt and crushed red pepper. If you grew up in this neighborhood chances are you got that slice at Vic’s (51 Essex Street). You may have played Pac-Man there, too.

JP with Vic Mendez. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

You can still get a classic New York slice AND play Pac-Man at Vic’s. Victor Mendez started off in his family bakery. An allergy to baking powder put an end to that, and the teenager began making pizzas. With his baking experience he had pizza down in a week. Customers joked that someday he’d own the place, which is exactly what happened. Victor has been making pizza in this shop for over a quarter century, and he’s kept the place the same as it’s been for forty years.

The pizza at Vic’s won’t change your life, nor is it likely to end up on any Best in the City lists. But it’s what you expect from a good neighborhood slice joint: thin but toothsome crust, oregano-perfumed sauce and cheese in perfect balance. Classic.

JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock and rollers. Mr Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well, consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.

Last week I recommended taking a Grüner Veltliner for a spin. This week I notice the excellent Sommer Grüner Veltliner “M” bottling is on sale at Seward Park Liquors for $17 a bottle. It’s more in the crisp citrus style than the round floral style, making it perfect for the warm weather. Great choice if you have a couple extra bucks to drop on wine this week.