What the Price of a Slice of Pizza Can Tell You About New York

As a fifth-generation resident of New York City, I can tell you that New Yorkers reminisce about the price of a slice of pizza during their childhoods like Charles Foster Kane reminisced about Rosebud. My founder says a cut cost 35 cents when he was growing up in the Bronx in the 1970s. My grandma, about 90, looks back fondly to the days when a slice cost a dime bag in Brooklyn. Neither of them can remember what they ate at their weddings, but the cost of a slice of pizza is securely embedded in their minds. And I ‘m reasonably certain the Dollar Slice Wars of my college years are imprinted permanently in my medial worldly lobe . ad

What is it about New Yorkers and the cost of a slice of pizza ? Despite its current ubiquity, pizza has n’t actually been a thing in New York for all that long. My great-great grandparents had probably never even heard of it. The first license to sell pizza in New York State was granted to Lombardi ‘s in Little Italy in 1905 ; whole pies sold for five cents and those who could n’t afford that eminent price could buy a slice by the column inch. Totonno ‘s in Coney Island—opened in 1924 by a erstwhile Lombardi ‘s employee—brought pizza out of Little Italy and to the masses who visited the popular summer haunt and amusement park. Both Lombardi ‘s and Totonno ‘s are still in business today .

READ MORE: This Man Ate Every Slice of Pizza in Manhattan

But my grandfather—who spend several years in Italy during World War II—always said that he had never tied heard of pizza until after the war. That pizza did n’t become a food of the masses in New York City until then is borne out by historians, who say that the post-war proliferation of pizza by the slice can be attributed to newfangled boast ovens, increasing animal foot traffic, and the render of veterans who had become familiar with pizza while in Europe. New Yorkers have not been without their slices since . And a large part of pizza ‘s popularity may come down to its price. In the mid-1950s, a piece of pizza price around 15 cents in New York City ; it was sincerely a food for the masses. Over the adjacent few decades, the monetary value of the slit seemed to keep pace with inflation, and it maintained its condition as the food of middle-class New Yorkers . ad

indeed substantive to New Yorkers ‘ lives was the slice that in 1980, a man named Eric Bram came up with a hypothesis about the monetary value of the slice : “ Since the early 60 ‘s, ” he said, “ the price of a slice of pizza has matched, with eldritch preciseness, the price of a New York underpass depend on. ” The theory was dubbed the Pizza Principle. Bram was able to predict that the 50-cent underpass fare was doomed when it became impossible for “ any discerning New Yorker to find a properly slice of pizza for less than 60 cents. ” I had the casual to speak with Bram, who explained me, “ The costs of other products seemed to rise at different rates, but the monetary value of the token and the monetary value of a slit of pizza constantly seemed to be about the same. ” The price of the slice did keep pace with the price of the token for many decades—at least until sliding-scale MetroCards were introduced in the mid-1990s . But something changed during my college years in the late aughts. The great recession of 2008 saw pizza prices spend indeed low that, as the New York Times pointed out, the ATM tip to get money to pay for your slice actually cost more than the slice itself. Two pizzeria, 99 Cent Fresh Pizza and 2 Bros. Pizza, were at the center of the Slice Wars. Both promoted a bargain-priced cut to try to get New Yorkers, shell-shocked from a crashing economy, back into their stores. Sure, the cheese was of questionable quality and a shingle of extra parmesan—a staple of the real italian pizzeria—might be banned, but the dollar slice became omnipresent . ad

precisely when pizza had become virtually the cheapest meal you could eat, fuss broke out. The dollar slice joints began to undercut each early even further. In 2012, prices dipped to an impossible 75 cents when, on the spur of the moment, a armistice was called. According to an insider, the Israeli owners of 2 Bros. and the Bangladeshi owners of 99 Cent Pizza achieved a détente that should make the negotiators involved in the Middle East peace talks jealous. How they did so—and whether it violated antimonopoly laws, which forbid price agreement between competitors—is a count of mystery to this day. But the 75 cent slice became a thing of the past . today, dollar slit joints can still be found throughout the city—in fact, one Instagrammer has made it his life ‘s mission to photograph every adaptation in the city. But they may not be around for long. Rising rents and the possibility of a $ 15 minimal engage are looming. 2 Bros. has been sued in a class-action lawsuit by its employees for allegedly paying less than the current minimal wage and no overtime. I reached out to their lawyer, but never heard binding.

Read more: Who Invented Pizza?

so where are slice prices today ? not long ago, a data scientist and adjunct professor at Columbia University did a study, involving charts and spreadsheets that are pretty much inexplicable to most mortal men, and found that the monetary value of a slice of pizza hovers around $ 2.50—evidence that the Pizza Principle may inactive be in play ( after all, a standard underpass ride immediately costs $ 2.75. ) But the floor today is more complicated. pizza prices immediately reflect a city of growing income disparity and the highs and the lows of the price of a slice seem greater than ever ahead. On the one hand, we ‘ve got the dollar slice joints calm hanging on. On the early, we ‘ve got places like DiFara in Brooklyn, where a slice costs a neat five bucks. Add on all the high-end pizza available, normally not sold by the slice— Lucali, Roberta ‘s, Franny ‘s, and more—and you ‘ve got a very unlike New York City than the one my parents and grandparents grew up in. New York today is a city of income disparity—as illustrated by the dichotomous monetary value of its pizza : dollar slices versus lobster-covered, spelt-crusted craftsman pies . pizza prices have always reflected the tenor of the city itself. And New Yorkers, as ever, are watching the price of a cut .