The Plain Cheese Slice at Famous Ben's, Worth Your $3?
Famous Ben's Pizza on Spring Street in Soho has a lunch crowd that should be the envy of any New York City pizzeria. (This is Famous Ben's, not to be confused with nearby Ben's on MacDougal in the West Village, whose LATE-night clientele may be the envy of many.)
Famous Ben's has been at it since 1977, and the place is well-worn. Grub Street's since-erased entry on the place notes, "Stay to eat if you must, but the pizzeria is unapologetically basic, with a mirrored wall and grimy tables that function more as obstacles than eating surfaces."
Ha. Pretty apt. Moving around inside is like finding yourself in a three-dimensional version of one of those sliding puzzles with a square missing.
On a recent visit, place was filled with businessmen, a surprising number of Italian tourists, and a few kids who should have been in school. Good for you. If you didn't play hooky a little did you even really go to school?
Quick, gruff service and beyond the plain slice, lots of baroque sitting pies. The most interesting of them are the Palermo slice (their take on the Sicilian sfincione breadcrumb slice) and a square covered, and I mean, DRAPED with slivers of raw onion, which begs ordering purely for how rare you're likely to ever see something like it.
The baseline? Underside has that pachyderm touch, smooth but rough, fluid in texture and fold. Heavy on the cheese. It's a thick layer crust that's pretty soft with the occasional crisp. Kind of a plain, flour taste. A pretty standard but cheesy slice if you're in a jam.