#4. Which Pizza Political Party Do You Identify With?

“Could you enjoy having a beer with this person?” is the classic question when assessing a politician’s relatability to the public. But does that simple question truly help us understand the depth of someone’s personality, unique background, or leadership style? In a country that is constantly evolving and assimilating new ideas and people, I believe there is a more important set of questions relating to something that we all have in common: food. But, there are few foods out there, if any, as polarizing as pizza. For that reason maybe we should be asking, “Could you enjoy a slice of pizza with this person?” and if so, “what kind of slice would they enjoy the most?”. Whether you immigrated to America from Italy or Greece, or grew up in NYC or Chicago, the question of what makes great pizza is as contentious as discussing Trump with your family over Thanksgiving. The way this classic meal has created segments of loyalty is analogous only to our deeply divided politics. Dare I say we have all turned into Pizza Partisans, hopelessly divided into our own Pizza Political Parties (PPPs).

Maybe you’re a “Pizza Conservative”, gravitating towards a reliable pie that hasn’t changed for years. That’s fair, those are solid pies. But which is better, thin crust or deep dish? Let’s assume a Pizza Conservative can be a loyalist of either — but it better be classically made, without any modern hipster ingredients. Alternatively, you could be a “Pizza Progressive”, looking to change things up and find a modern take on the classic pizza pie. We get it, change can be good too. Plus, we’ve all heard the horror stories about gluten, so why not exchange that classic flour-based crust for something more… cauliflower-y? Or possibly, you believe each of these parties present some pretty good options. Not to mention, it’s 2020, are we sure the two party system is meant to withstand modern America? Pizza comes in all shapes and sizes, and that is okay! After traveling around the country and the world trying all types of pizza, that is where I find myself, as a wavering “Pizza Independent”.

As a Pizza Independent, it’s nearly impossible to find restaurants that will cater to both my Pizza Conservative and Pizza Progressive tastes. Fortunately, in the midst of our divided pizza-loving country, there’s one particular place that is trying to bring together every PPP constituent into a warm and welcoming community. This special place is Emmett’s — a deep-dish pizza purveyor I’ve come to love, located in the heart of the thin-crust pizza mecca, New York City.

It took some time for me to discover Emmett’s. As a native east coaster, I spent my childhood years as a staunch Pizza Conservative. There was New York thin crust and Greek-style pizza, each well-established in their own ways. It wasn’t until attending college in the midwest when I developed an affinity for deep-dish. However, as a Pizza Conservative, I thought there was one correct way to make a deep dish, and would happily argue whether Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s East had the formula. When I moved back to the East Coast, I was very concerned I would not have authentic deep dish pizza at my disposal. I was correct, for the most part. That is, until one day I stumbled out of my office in SoHo after a “meh” day of work, in search of a much needed pick me up. Emmett’s came on my radar, and after a quick call, the friendly hostess on the other line told us to come on by.

Emmett’s made its debut in SoHo, NYC in 2013. Owner and Chicago native, Emmett Burke took a risk by bringing his comforting home-style deep-dish pizza to a city known worldwide for their thin crust pizza. Through meticulous recipe testing, Emmett created a deep-dish pizza that honors the traditional and nostalgic taste of Chitown, while adding his special touch and proven consistency. The goal was also to provide a homey, neighborhood atmosphere that Chicago is known for, whether it’s a snow-day in February, or humid summer evening. Now, we all know the stereotypical characterizations of Chicagoans and New Yorkers and why they can be at odds with one another. We have the relaxed-paced, polite expanses of the Midwest, happy in their nice affordable two bedroom, versus the fast-paced, sharp-elbowed East Coaster, barely making ends meet to live in their roach-infested studio. However, what they both have in common is a love for their city, and the pizza that embodies their hometown. As if predicting that this kind of partisanship would cause our day of reckoning, Emmett used that natural, complementary tension and brought their friendly, midwestern hospitality to the Big Apple, creating one of the best deep dish spots on the east coast.

What stands out to me about Emmett’s deep-dish is their lovely balance of chunkiness and smoothness in the sauce, coupled with the perfect amount of cheesiness, and a crispy buttery crust. Deep-dish is all about the right proportions, and Emmett’s makes sure you’re looking forward to taking the last bits of crusts and dipping it in the remainders of sauce on the plate. Not to mention, you can always enjoy this pie over a rotating beer tap (especially ideal for a Pizza Progressive looking for that hip microbrew not everyone knows about, yet), with many local Chicago breweries. Not only was my Pizza Conservative side satisfied, but my Pizza Independence started to blossom as I explored other items on the menu, such as their version of thin crust pies.

Now, within the Pizza Conservative party, there are various thin crust sects, which would disagree on what makes the best thin crust pizza (a contentious argument across the boroughs of NYC). What Emmett’s brings to the table is what midwesterners call “Tavern Style” or “Party Cut” pizza, famous for its cracker thin crust and square cuts. Supposedly, Tavern Style pizza was invented after WWII, when Rose Barraco George, a third generation tavern owner in the midwest, thought square pizza would make it effortless to eat with beer (apparently eating triangles was too difficult). Nonetheless, it became a trend, which Emmett’s has continued exceptionally well.

That being said, this type of thin crust is not for every Pizza Partisan, as one Yelper helpfully explains:

“Bruh! If I wanted to eat cheese & crackers I’d have copped a box of Ritz and some Cracker Barrel cheese and called it a night! How you gonna play a New Yorker with some cracker thin crust like you didn’t even try to keep it 100% …”

Now, that’s what I call a Grade A, thin crust Pizza Conservative. His partisanship for NYC thin crust blinds him from understanding that there’s plenty of thin crust styles worth trying. If only our fellow Yelper buddy had a little bit of that Pizza Progressive Party in him, they would realize that Emmett’s is the perfect spot to change things up, and try something new! This is why Emmett’s is the ideal spot for Pizza Conservatives and Pizza Progressives to cross paths.

💡 LOYAL-LIST INSIDER TIP! Let’s take it one step further and blow this Yelper’s mind with some additional PPP exploration. My Loyalist Tip comes with the open mindedness to dabble with a unique and delicious pizza topping you may have never experienced before. Next time you find yourself at Emmetts, I urge you to order the spicy giardiniera as a topping to your deep dish OR thin crust pizza. Giardiniera is a classic Chicago condiment made from pickling an assortment of vegetables and peppers. Emmetts ups the condiment game with their oh so spicy homemade mixture, making your pizza a flavor bomb. You know the Pizza Progressives will be all over this new fad in a flash! Now, Pizza Conservatives, hear them out, and maybe just this one time, waver from your classic order. Your taste buds will thank you for this new experience.

No matter where you are in the world, people are ferociously loyal to their favorite type of pizza. As they should be, it’s so damn delicious. As a universal item that everyone can agree on, but still have intense dogmatism about, pizza could teach us something in how we approach our relationships, and even political issues. I think Pete Buttiegieg got this right during his presidential campaign run, when he welcomed folks into his Indiana community to have a slice of pizza and a conversation. So maybe the classic relatability questions shouldn’t be about beer or airports, but should be, “can I share a slice of pizza with this person?”. After all, pizza is about community. As Emmett Burke has said himself:

“Some people come in, they won’t even eat pizza, They may have a glass of wine or a beer and just chat with their friends. We have really fostered this nice, local, neighborhood gathering.”

Regardless of your PPP, I’m hopeful that you’ll be open to trying new or classic slices of pie, and that pizza will bring us together, not divide us. Thank you to Emmett’s for bringing a community of pizza partisans together, it’s certainly a start to healing our divided country, and a well deserved addition to The Loyal-List.