It’s your birthday, and a friend gives you a dictionary. What a sh*tty present, you think. But once you get home, you notice that your kitchen table is slanted. So slanted, in fact, that you wedge the dictionary under one of its legs, and voilà. Problem solved. Suddenly, your terrible present is useful. And all you had to do was think of it differently: as a wedge for your table.
That’s how you should approach Scarr’s Pizza. Treat it like a restaurant, and you won’t have the best time. But think of it as a (beer and wine) bar that just happens to serve pizza, and you might enjoy yourself.
Scarr’s is a tiny place on the Lower East Side, and it looks like it’s been around since the 1970’s. There’s a retro sign, a takeout counter, and a wood-paneled dining room with a couple of booths and a linoleum bar. It’s dark and old-school, and it feels sort of like a bowling alley without the lanes.
But this isn’t average old-school pizza place. First off, people are into it. Like, really into it. Some nights, it feels like a clubhouse for the kids who achieved a measure of coolness during their last year of college and vowed to never lose that feeling.
They also have organic wine, baked clams, and a vegan caesar salad. Which might lead you to believe that this place is similar to a sit-down spot like Rubirosa or Lil Frankies. Thing is, it isn’t. There are only a few tables (that are pretty much always full), you order at the counter, and anything that isn’t a slice of pizza takes about twice as long as it would at any other restaurant.
Which brings us to our next point: don’t get anything but pizza here. If you try to order something else, the person at the counter will seem confused or annoyed or maybe even a little scared (like when Paul Walker misses a shot in Pleasantville and no one wants to touch his basketball). And once you place your order for baked clams or a meatball sub, you might not see your food for another forty minutes. Considering how cramped it gets in here, this isn’t ideal.
So, yes, as a restaurant, this place kind of sucks. As a cross between a dive bar and a slice joint, however, it works just fine. We can’t suggest it for a full meal (unless you come early or on quieter weeknight), but if you want to eat some pizza, drink a beer, and maybe run into someone you made out with once in college, it’s a decent choice. Just know that the music is loud, the service is spotty, and if you’re over the age of 25, you will suddenly become very conscious of the fact that you are over the age of 25.
These are pretty solid, but let’s play a game. It’s called “Is This a Slice?” If it’s a slice, you say, “Order it!” If not, you say, “Skip it.” Ready? Alright: baked clams.
An average meatball sandwich that you probably won’t hate. The question is: Is this a slice?
This is a slice! And if you get it fresh, it’s a pretty good one (some pepperoni also doesn’t hurt). The crust is nice and chewy, and it has a good amount of cheese.
The Sicilian gets a lot of attention here - but it’s mostly bread, and we prefer the triangular guys. Although if you like a really thick crust, go for it. (It’s a slice.)
Admittedly, not a slice - but this is the one other thing you’ll see people eating at Scarr’s. Why? Because it’s the LES, and vegan sh*t is popular around here. Also, it comes out in less than 40 minutes (unlike the clams). If you’re looking for vitamins and a heavy dusting of nutritional yeast, order this.