Saturday, January 24, 2015

What's Fare Is Fare

So, the fare for a New York City bus or subway ride is going up to $2.75 this March. And it appears, too, that the going rate for another popular fare in these parts—a slice of pizza—is that very sum or close to it. For some inexplicable reason these two decidedly unrelated things—one a service and the other a favorite fast-food staple—have been inextricably linked for quite a long time.

Recently, I unearthed a newspaper article in my overflowing archives—dated 1992—from The Riverdale Press, a local Bronx newspaper. I had saved this piece of ephemera—a review of the area’s pizzerias—for a reason, probably because I was a renowned pizza-holic who had sampled most of the neighborhood shops, but had a special attachment to one in particular. Naturally, I was surprised at my preferred pizzeria’s somewhat poor rating of just two slices (out of five maximum), although by the 1990s its quality was—I will concede—somewhat inconsistent. I was curious, nonetheless, to ascertain whether or not the price of transit ride corresponded with the going rate of slice of pizza that year. I wanted to know if this pizza connection of mine had historical legs. Not too long ago, an individual on Facebook remembered when the price of a New York City slice of pizza was just .15, which, coincidentally, was the cost of a bus or subway ride at the time. Now, I can recall pizza as low as .35 a slice—in the early to mid-1970s—that, interestingly enough, corresponded to the day’s bus and subway fare.

Anyway, this neighborhood newspaper pizza review noted the cost of a slice in the various places surveyed as anywhere between $1.30 and $1.40. The 1992 bus and subway fare was $1.25—close enough to establish the fare and fare conjoining though time.

It should be noted that while New York City bus and subway service has gotten measurably better through the years—particularly the latter—the pizza slice has gotten considerably slighter. That is, courtesy of the costs of cheese and tomato sauce—and every other foodstuff for that matter coupled with criminally high cost of doing business—the ubiquitous slice of pizza’s mass has suffered. If not in taste then definitely in size, the slice of pizza isn’t what it used to be around here. And size matters.

When Luigi—who bore a striking resemblance to Lurch—of Luigi’s Pizzeria tossed his dough into the heavens, one definitely got more for his or her money. And, when push came to shove, Luigi no doubt made more dough, too. It was the end of an era for sure—the 1990s—when Italian immigrants from Italy still owned a New York City pizzeria or two. But then, a Greek man, who made a full-bodied and tasty pizza slice whose likes will never be sampled again—certainly not at a price that shadows the transit fare—owned and operated my pizza place of record. The slice of the past: Rest in Pizza.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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