Author’s Note: A majority of the interviews conducted for A Piece of Pie was transcribed from Spanish to English.
There’s a certain honesty to Patzeria on 46th. There’s very little presentation for the food: slices of pizza are served on a paper plates, and the sandwiches are wrapped in tin foil. The interior is thin, narrow, and potentially uninviting; the only eating space available is at a counter with four flimsy wooden stools.
So how did this no-frills Manhattan pizza joint become intrinsically tied with the pageantry of Broadway?
Patzeria worker Juan Cielo believes it’s from the passion of the staff.
“We take interest in what we do…if you’re going to do something, do it well,” said Cielo. “40-50 percent [our clients are from Broadway].”
In particular, Patzeria has had an unlikely relationship with the thespians and clientele of Richard Rodgers Theatre, where Hamilton plays. Cielo is a friend of the musical’s playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda. In fact, he recounts a shared moment between Miranda and himself.
“When [Miranda] won his Tony Award, he came in, and said ‘take a photo with my Tony Award’,” said Cielo. “I took out my phone, but Lin-Manuel said ‘no, I’ll take it [of you]. “
Fans flocked into Patzeria after Cielo’s picture with the Tony surfaced on Miranda’s Twitter page.
There are no official job titles at Patzeria; the workers are all personal friends outside of work. In addition, while Paterzia is owned by an Irish-Italian investor, the pizza joint is comprised of entirely Mexicans from central Mexico. The menus and the recipes are entirely created by the staff.
The pizza joint’s staff is reflective of the large Central Mexican-American community in New York City, also known to many Mexicans as ‘Puebla York’ due to the large population reigning from the state of Puebla in central Mexico. So how does a staff of Central Mexican immigrants learn how to craft one of the most popular pizzas in New York City? The answer for Cielo is straight from the source; he learned how to cook pizza from working at a Sicilian restaurant upon arrival in New York as a teen.
His experience, coupled with the rest of the staff’s, has allowed the Patzeria to formulate true New York style recipes.
Patzeria is not only popular but also enduring. It has been serving patrons for 16 years.
Cielo notes that he worries little about competing pizza places in Times Square.
“We don’t worry about the competition. The competition worries about us.” said Cielo with conviction.