December 8th, 2010
07:00 PM ET
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As a native New Yorker, many of my fondest memories involve eating pizza. I recall my first bite - that joyous blend of aged mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and spices - more distinctly than I do my first kiss in the back seat of my sister’s boyfriend’s car. Whenever I’m asked to name the one thing that I could eat for rest of my life, my unhesitating answer is always pizza. For New Yorkers like me, the simple corner slice is iconic.

Growing up across the street from Brooklyn’s Pisa Restaurant in the early 1970’s, my friends and I found warm comfort in two doughy, oil-secreting slices and a fountain soda for what now seems like the impossible sum of $1 dollar. We considered the cook and pizza maker, Dominick (a short Italian guy who looked like Lou Costello) and Sammy (who could have easily passed for Donnie Brasco with glasses), our distant cousins.

But then something went horribly wrong. It’s hard to pin a day or a moment in time but suddenly getting a slice of pizza became a dizzying endeavor. Simple pepperoni or sausage suddenly became passé; you could suddenly get every imaginable topping. And forget about the cost - all of a sudden, a single slice at many shops was approaching $3. Even the highly regarded mom and pop operation Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn, voted as the best slice of pizza by various publications, was charging $5!

But now there is new guy in town - or rather, two brothers who are shaking up the New York pizza business. Eli and Oren Halali are drawing in huge, loyal crowds into their “2 Bros.” pizza shops by offering a simple slice for $1 dollar. For $2.75 the bargain escalates to two slices of pizza and a can of soda. The chain which, began on the verge of the national recession, started with one shop in the East Village of Manhattan and has mushroomed to seven shops throughout the borough.

The brothers, who hail from Brooklyn, studied business in school before embarking on opening their first pizza shop in August 2007 and had no expectation that it would take off.

“We wanted to open a pizzeria and we wanted to create a little bit of a buzz, so we though it would be a good idea for the first week or two to sell pizza (slices) for a dollar” said Eli.” One thing led to another and it just got popular. We realized we created a strong cult following of people. We just delayed the inevitable price increase, until it got to the point where we decided this is who we are and people love us for this particular reason and maybe we can build a brand on selling pizza for a good price.”

Some think the brothers are sacrificing quality over quantity. But for Nate and Cristal, two 17-year old students at the High School of Fashion, the reason for scarfing slices was simple. “It’s not super special but it’s good. It fills you up,” said Cristal. “The price is the first thing,” she grudgingly added.

Computer consultant George Podolak walks nearly eight long Manhattan blocks for 2 Bros. pizza. “It’s the best deal in town,” he said. “It’s a dollar and it’s just as good as a $2.50 slice or the more expensive pies…and it’s always mobbed in here no matter what time of day.”

While the price for cheese and other ingredients are rising, the Halali brothers are intent on keeping the price where it is right now even at the expense of profit and are focusing on building a brand for the long term and hope to expand their operation beyond Manhattan in the near future. In some of their pizza shops, they’ve even begun offering other food options, including chicken, and it is bringing in more customers - and profit,

Any way you slice it, pizza continues to be one of America’s favorite fast foods. Pizza Today magazine tallies more than 70,000 pizzerias nationwide as of 2008 and the industry racks up $35 billion in annual sales.

The popularity of pizza has even inspired an entrepreneur to give tours of the New York pizza experience. Pizza enthusiast Scott Wiener, who quit his boring day job, started Scott’s Pizza Tours two years ago because of his personal fascination with the food. On a tour earlier this year, 17 people forked over $33 each for a four hour walking tour (pizza included) and off Wiener went, describing the history and crucial nuances of coal, brick and deck pizza ovens.

Wiener, who is unabashedly obsessed about pizza, considers the debate about which pizza is the best, even more controversial than politics. His love of the food is evident as he recounts with great pride the time he was allowed to crawl into the coal-fired oven at Lombardi’s Pizza as it was undergoing its annual maintenance.

He says there have always been pizza wars, but mostly among the fans of various pizzerias. “The pizza business is doing very, very well. It’s the perfect recession food. More people gravitate towards inexpensive pizza. Rather than pay $40 dollars for an entrée, you can pay for $15 for a personal pizza,” said Wiener.

But pizza may not have a corner on the market for long; there’s competition from another fast food. On a recent walk I spied, a block away from a 2 Bros. pizza shop near the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a wily entrepreneur – with a sign advertising $1 dollar hamburgers.

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Dishes • News • Pizza • Small Business

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soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. the Team

    Good read and great price but you can't stay in biz doing that. Maybe we can just get Pizza from China and everything will be just fine, right? The gang at Boner Billy’s is working hard to bring
    Its line of hot dogs, and themed apparel products to market. The good news is people still need to eat.

    December 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  2. Snowbunny

    Broadway Bar Pizza is THEE best in Minneapolis!!!

    December 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  3. rose helen militello

    best pizza ever,board walk,atlantic city,it was a beautiful day also

    December 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  4. Lawrence

    Image #7.
    Now that's a pizza!

    December 8, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  5. matt

    not even the best $1 pizza in NY, Z-deli a few blocks away rivals the rest. Best pizza in my opinion is still new england greek

    December 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  6. Smurfeater

    $1 Dollar hamburgers... redundant redundancy

    December 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  7. Fix in TX

    Being from the northeast, let me say finding good pizza is hard not too mention great pizza. I would PAY for good pizza in Texas. When I go home the first place I call is Margerita's in Oxford, PA. They the BEST in that area!!!

    December 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  8. ian

    i love that 'greek style' pizza with spinach, feta and black olives, that stuff is so tasty, with an ice cold coke. Perfect combination of bitter (spinach) and salty (cheese and olives), now I'm hungry...

    December 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  9. Travis

    Between the unnecessary commas and run-on sentences this is just horrible, horrible writing. Someone please go back and proof this thing please.

    December 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  10. Failboat Captain

    Pizza is like sex , When it's good , it's good . If it's not , it's still pizza

    December 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  11. Not A Writer

    Did anyone proof read the captions for the photos?

    December 8, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  12. Robert

    MMMMmmmm.....$5 large pizza and a beer. It's the best.

    December 8, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  13. ann

    Why is every mention of $1 followed by the word "dollar" and "dollars" pops up elsewhere in the article beside dollar amounts? Isn't that why the $ is there, so you don't need the word "dollar"?

    December 8, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  14. Krull

    So when times get tough, people eat cheap? I see it now.

    December 8, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  15. vila

    I prefer a burger..could eat one every day, as long as it was Whataburger style..mustard, pickles, onion, tomatoes and lettuce. No mayo ever!!!

    December 8, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
    • Dave Goren

      You're right. Mayo...ugh! Mayne on a BLT or chicken salad, but never on a burger or beef of any kind!

      December 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  16. jon

    Pizza is pizza to me doesnt matter what kind i love it all and i love lil ceasers for the simple fact that you get 2 large pies bread sticks wings and a 2 liter for less then 30 hut is comin around 2 with their uber good deals

    December 8, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Hawaiikaos

    New York style pizza is sooo greasy and disgusting (and folding it is repulsive). Chicago style is alright, but the best is California style - thin crust but well risen (and not drenched in grease), tiny crust border, spinach, tomato, and light on the cheese.

    December 8, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
    • exhortera

      Sissy pizza

      December 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
    • GC

      NY style pizza is the only way to go...Cali pizza is ok, but nothing beats the original.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  18. Oh Snap

    This was a great article when it was in the New York Times a few weeks ago.

    December 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  19. DC

    Meh. You can get a large pepperoni from Little Caesars for 3.89.

    December 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
    • 10string

      I feel sorry for anyone who considers Little Caesars fit for human consumption. In the '70s Dominos rocked. Now they are meh.

      December 8, 2010 at 9:03 pm |
      • Bailes24

        10 String, I agree about Dominos!

        December 20, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • blah

      As a fan of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings I say thank you for buying Little Caesars. As a fan of pizza I'm sad for you.

      December 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • Lawrence

      I've had that Little Ceasar's $5 pizza....that's not pizza.
      you really do get what you pay for.

      December 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  20. mo

    Pizza, good anytime of day. NYC, Chicago...doesn't matter. It's all good!

    December 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
  21. yum

    I'd eat that.

    December 8, 2010 at 8:36 pm |
  22. yes!

    i love it!

    December 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm |
  23. smokeyerselfthin

    Awright wideloads: ready, set, ..MOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

    December 8, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • Kelly

      /clap sarcasticly

      December 8, 2010 at 8:53 pm |
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