I’ve been going on food tours in the city so I can get more awesome at doing my own. There are a million more ways to engage people and have a good time, so I’m trying to learn from the best. Since the emergence of Vayable, I’ve become a big fan of hiring guides lately too – because I realized the real value is not necessarily in what they say, but their connections and the access you get to the most bad-ass stuff in the area.
If your tour guide just points to stuff, you need to prod that mother more and get him to let you inside. At our first stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour, Scott got us close enough to literally sniff the coal dust off the coal at Lombardi’s famous oven. That’s awesome.
Scott Weiner is the king of NYC food tours and everyone knows it. Numerous times, on the subject of Scott, friends have told me that there is not one human being who knows as much about a subject, any subject, than Scott does about pizza. It’s my guess that Steven Hawking is not a contentious man (or a foodie blog reader), so Scott shouldn’t receive much argument for a bit. In fact, Scott’s pizza prowess gets so much respect, he’s the only non-pizzeria listed on my pizza app.
To my surprise, Scott has only been doing these tours for around 4 and a half years. I always felt like from the time I first heard about it, around 2009 I guess, it was already a premier tour. If you look at his reviews, they are spotless. He obviously has always had this down pat.
But as of Summer 2012, I hadn’t been on one of his tours… and that had to change.
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Scott’s tours start outside Lombardi’s Pizza, right before they open up. When he introduces himself to his guests – some locals, some from across the country, and others across the globe – he talks them up about pizzas in their hometowns. Scott’s been across the world searching for pizza, so he’s able to talk cogently about the local spots all over, but this also serves to break the ice and learn from it. I thought it was great! I don’t know why I hadn’t done this before on my own tours, but I will employ this for now on: For me, talk about ethnic groups, street food availability, problems, and solutions for where my guests come from. Break the ice and learn from it.
When you go on Scott’s tour, you’ll notice how fast paced the tour is and quick Scott is to answer nearly any question you have. With start times at 11am sharp, he must have timed his coffee intake at exactly 10:30am to maximize caffeine efficiency. And even if he doesn’t have an answer, you’ll get something smart and laugh-worthy out of him. It only gets better the more comfortable everyone gets with each other by the end.
On the deluxe tours, Scott takes the crew on the Pizza Bus. With an already developed fun rapport with the group, the school bus adds to the camaraderie. It feels like middle school again, and for me it’s hard not to commit mischief during the ride (I think I held back from throwing stuff out the window and writing on the seats though, out of respect).
Along with the bus, Scott brings along a huge backpack full of stuff containing goodies, give-aways, and pizza oddities.
Here is Scott holding up an empty flour bag. As he pulled it out, the realization that he hath obtained this kind of remind me of Moses and the ten commandments. It was just such a surprise and a seeming moment of triumph for him to capture this artifact – Or maybe it was just my camera angle.
Not only in his backpack and not just as a tour guide, Scott has all sorts of pizza paraphernalia in his ownership. I can’t even imagine what his apartment looks like. I’m sure what he brought along for the tour was just a small sampling of his pizza possessions.
Our tour lasted about 3 hours and 4 pizzerias in Manhattan and the Bronx. For just the bus alone, it was outing of adventure – and then the pizza gives it purpose and intrigue.
Scott’s tour was awesome. His knowledge is unending, and the subject matter is completely New York. The tour is fun, and I recommend it to anyone interested in NYC and wants travel and eat like a local.
And how was the pizza? It was great!
Scott’s Pizza Tours run every day but Tuesday, with walking, bus-ed, and specialty tours. Click this sentence to find out more about Scott and Scott’s Pizza Tours.
And look forward to Scott’s annual Slice Out Hunger in the early Fall. By eating $1 slices from many of the best pizzerias from all over the city, you will help Scott and City Harvest beat hunger! Follow Scott on Twitter for the latest info.