Strolling through the trendy South Beach neighborhood of Sunset Harbor, I came across Lucali, a sit-down pizza joint famous for their long lines at their original Brooklyn location, and more notably, their pricey $30 pies.
“$30?” I auto-calculated as I scanned the menu, trying to fight my fondness toward globs of hot cheese and the urgency to throw money at my hunger problem. But something didn’t sit quite right about going somewhere nice, having a glass of wine and racking up a big bill eating pizza.
The cheapest pie at Lucali is $24. It’s a plain cheese pizza. You’re allowed free basil and garlic, but toppings are $3 a pop. Add the tax, and the bill ends up being something that deeply angers my inner sense of frugality.
Sure, the pies are fantastic. The crust is charred in all the right places, its deformities providing a different delivery of cheese and tomato in my mouth each time. There’s no clear separation between the cheese and the sauce, a fusion of two soul mates in the fiery death pit that make their sacred vows in Lucali’s wood-fired oven. And with the cooks operating by candlelight, the whole thing feels very medieval.
But this isn’t what makes it a $30 pizza. I can’t possibly defend a pricey pizza based on flavor alone. I can devour an entire Little Caesar’s pie while sitting on my couch in only my underwear and have the time of my life.
A $30 pizza doesn’t compete on flavor. It competes on context. Having a good time at Lucali is about the pizza as much as it is about the atmosphere and the appetizers. I’m on a fancy date, dapping my lip with a cloth napkin and eating America’s favorite food. I’m eating an incredible kale caesar salad and fighting over the last cannoli for dessert. A $30 pizza means I’m not somewhere else, paying $50 for a boring rib eye and some oily greens that guilt me into thinking I should’ve enjoyed it more.
Pizza has been there for the ride all along. At my seven-year-old birthday party. At my house feeding all of my friends during football season. In a food truck at four in the morning when I need to soak up the booze. And if it wants, it’s allowed to put on a bowtie every once in a while and elevate itself to a $30 pizza at a nice restaurant. Pizza deserves it.