New York Style Pizza: Good Pizza, Poor Dine-In Service

New York Style Pizza in Shanghai, Jing'an location.
Source Dianping

This is a review of the original Jing’an district location by the Jing’an Temple Line 2 stop in Shanghai.

New York Style Pizza (SmartShanghai/City Weekend/Dianping) has been around for a long time and for the longest time, it has been a go-to for pizza that many would consider better than what you could get through the larger American franchises like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and more recently Domino’s, as well as the Japanese casual Italian restaurant chain Saizeriya. Without making this a comparison and ignoring the many other one-off Italian restaurants in Shanghai where a pizza can be ordered, let’s just say NYSP has bigger, thinner, and cheesier pies. Chicago-style deep-dish pan pizza loyalists can stop reading now.

Decor

I’ve been to a few NYSP locations and this oldest one is still fine. It’s a bunch of brick walls with graffiti and New York subway motifs. There’s an unimpressive pizza-by-the-slice display case upon entrance and an open-kitchen where you can see your pizza being made in the back.

The wicker chairs that accompany the patio-style dining tables ensure your own personal space, but they take up a lot of room, sometimes making it difficult to get in and out when in close quarters with other diners or tables.

Service

You can generally expect poor service, at least at this location. It’s not that I haven’t had acceptable service from past wait staff here, it’s just that I’ve usually gotten poor service. I don’t dine here enough to remember the staff but I’m sure they are different individuals.

Today, we were served by a young lady who was neither friendly nor attentive, and at times apathetic.

For example, I ordered almost all of the toppings in Chinese except for the Gorgonzola and Parmesan cheeses we wanted. She thought of the Chinese (transliterated)name for the former but not the latter. Instead of checking the menu (that I was pointing at) to remind her of the Chinese name for Parmesan, she just decided to pretend I didn’t order it. She repeated the toppings I ordered except Parmesan and walked away.

Throughout our meal, we noticed that she and another young woman spent most of their time busy playing with their mobile phones, one of them watching a Chinese TV show quite loudly. There’s a difference between being inattentive as wait staff and being a bit too obvious in your contempt for being attentive to your diners.

Service overall was not necessarily slow or absent but whereas service at other eateries add to an experience and may even earn enough goodwill to make up for the food, the service here very much detracted from the experience overall. Despite my dining companion having dined and enjoyed NYSP before, she vowed never to return.

Food

I’ve always been a fan of NYSP ever since I discovered it ages ago. As I mentioned at the beginning, I think of their pizza as being better than the obvious alternatives.

I always order a full pie and just keep what I can’t eat for a round two or three later on. You have a choice between 16, 18, and 20 inches priced 119, 129, and 139 RMB each respectively. You get roughly 25% more pizza with each additional 10 RMB (granted, you also get more crust). If you’re keen on leftovers and eat about two slices a meal, you’re looking at about 30-35 RMB a meal for four meals. I happen to think reheating leftover NYSP in a pan is tastier than when it is fresh, but that’s just me.

One thing that I’ve always liked about NYSP is the ability to choose your own toppings for a flat price. Choosing more toppings doesn’t necessarily mean more overall toppings, just less of each, unless your pizza maker is generous. Still, it’s nice to go through their list of meats, veggies, and cheeses and pick everything you like. I invariably order something akin to a “supreme” or “deluxe”.

New York Style Pizza in Shanghai.
Source Dianping

If there is a negative to the pizzas at NYSP, it’s that they easily fall apart if you try pulling the slices apart right after they arrive on your table hot from the oven. About half of your cheese and toppings towards the center will detach from the crust and slide off into a central pile of cheesy ooze (that is probably delicious if you could just grab it and stick it in your mouth). Moreover, while the crust of New York-style pizzas should be thin, fold-able, and even unwieldly to eat flat, which NYSP’s are (hence the plate, knife, and fork you’re given when dining in), the crust towards the center will be soggy and decidedly flaccid, which some people might unappetizing.

You can avoid the pizza falling apart if you wait a bit to let the cheese cool and solidify a bit before recutting and reseparating each slice from its brethren with the triangular pizza server. Or, if you’re in a rush, use the pizza server to recut and reseparate but scoop the pizza slice up from the inside soggy center as opposed to the crust edge (which you can hold with your fingers or fork). This way, you can prevent the cheesy toppings from sliding off when you lift up from the edge. Lift the inside up, then balance it flat over to your plate.

Given how thin or even soggy the crust is for most of the pie, you don’t really taste it over the cheese and toppings for most of the pizza until the edges. A lot of people ditch the crust because it has no more cheese, toppings, or flavor but I’ve rather enjoyed NYSP’s crusts.

I mentioned leftovers earlier in this section and that they are tastier. The reason for this is because when you reheat a NYSP slice in a pan, you end up further cooking, drying, and even crisping that soggier center of the pizza. You therefore end up with a slice that is firmer, with the crust now playing a bigger part in the taste and texture of the pizza whereas it initially might have just felt like a blob of oozy tomato sauce and cheese.

A soda will set you back 10 RMB but you get one refill and, joy of joys, ice is available. There’s also a free pitcher of beer deal with any 18 inch pie but I don’t remember if it was limited by time.

Conclusion

NYSP has a lot of locations and while this location is convenient for nearby residents or commuters to grab a slice or a meal, the dine-in service leaves much to be desired. Therefore, you could possibly just bypass it entirely and just order delivery. Since NYSP offers their own free delivery, I don’t recommend people using Sherpa’s delivery service which usually charges a 15 RMB fee, unless you really want to order online without ever speaking to someone on the phone.

If I were rating the food itself, I’d rate NYSP 4/5 stars because I still consider it the most reliable source for a large New York-style pizza fix in Shanghai. As a dining experience, however, the poor service at this location really hurts it.

2/5 stars.

2 thoughts on “New York Style Pizza: Good Pizza, Poor Dine-In Service”

  1. Dear Sir Im the owner of NYSP and it is very disturbing to me to read your comments about the service of my Jian location. You may not believe me but I do care,and we are constantly trying to work with our staff on service. We as well as many Western F&B establishments here have a constant problem in finding people to work. So most of our staff are very young and come from outside the city. It is a never ending job trying to teach them how to give good service. We offer many incentives to try and get them excited to do a good job, but in many cases such as you have experienced it is not working. You may not believe it but many of our stores we do get good reviews on service. I will continue to try and do better.
    Im happy you seem to enjoy our Pizza, I have tried very hard to Bring the real taste of New York Pizza to Shanghai. I go to every store to make sure we are serving the same tasting Pizza at every location. Every ingredient we use is imported, Cheese,Tomatoes,and the Meats. Only my flour recipe is Blended here. We also use stone based Ovens not the typical conveyer type used by many big brand Pizza shops and it does make a difference.
    Believe me your e-mail will be read to all the Managers as well as store employees in hopes of helping to improve our service.

    1. Hey Dennis, thank you for your comment. I’m sure you do care about service and I do understand it can be hard to find or train good wait staff. Please keep up your efforts and yeah, I do enjoy your pizzas!

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