It's been said that you need to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. For pizza slices, the official answers are “often” and “never.”
Now, I know the New Yorkers out there will scoff and that people in flyover/delivery states might be a little confused by this idea. New York slices are huge and often eaten on the go, so it's common to crease the pizza down the middle to make it easier to eat. But just like pleats ruin a pair of pants, folding ruins a piece of pizza. Here's why.
If there isn't a Helvetica font T-shirt yet that reads “Crust & Cheese & Sauce & Toppings,” someone is missing a great Etsy opportunity. A slice of pizza is created with these four elements, and its deliciousness is based largely on the right proportions of each.
Folding pizza tampers with the experience in a way that fundamentally alters the flavors. Of those four pillars of pizzahood, the crust is fundamentally the most bland, but folding builds a bready cocoon around the tastier ingredients. The good stuff is hidden from your taste buds until you've masticated through a starchy force field.
Although my math might be off, folding also doubles the amount of pizza you're eating with each bite, and increases the chances of an unmanageable mouthful of stringy mozzarella.
It makes the pizza go by too quickly
On Christmas, my parents always made the family take turns opening presents to make the experience last longer. Folding a slice of pizza is the equivalent of opening two presents at once. Sure, the heightened sensation of tearing open Donatello and a Michelangelo action figures at the same time is exhilarating, but even a party dude will tell you that they'd rather be eating pizza for twice as long rather than stuffing it into their mouth as fast as humanly/turtlely possible.
The double crust creates a false heat shield
Another indisputable truth of pizza is that the cheese will be hotter than expected. Perhaps no other food has burned the roofs of so many mouths. Folding a slice forms an ineffective barrier around that molten-hot cheese that offers just enough protection for you to get the thing into your mouth and nothing more.
Folding compromises the pizza-ness
If pizza were a mathematical proof, the given would be that it is flat. This is undeniable. Crease it and it might as well be an Italian taco. Fold it and you've got a Caprese sandwich. Solder a little extra dough along the edges and you have a calzone. Pizza by any other name simply does not taste as sweet.
A pizza maker might debate correlation and causality here, but I've noticed that bigger slices have more grease. The larger the slice, the more tempted one is to fold that sucker -- but that essentially creates a grease slip & slide that sends tablespoons of orange oil toward either your mouth or your shirt. Pros might say that you should pat the slice down like it forgot to take off its belt while going through airport security, but that robs the slice of crucial flavor, mouthfeel, and moisture. And it's demeaning. For you and the slice.
Slow down, take small bites, and enjoy life/pizza
Now I know New Yorkers out there will say that part of the fold is based on eating cheap food on the go, and like how water and ice are both still H20, a folded slice is still pizza. And perhaps pizza architects put half as much cheese/sauce/topping on their pies because they know the crease is coming. And of course a skilled folder knows to let that grease slip & slide drip onto a plate or napkin or rat-infested gutter.
But those arguments are all DiGiorno. My reasons are delivery.
What I'm saying here is that pizza has given so much joy, it shouldn't be treated like a second-class satiation injection compressed into the most effectively consumed shape. Next time you hold 'em, just don't fold 'em.
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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. He quotes roasted-chicken magnates at every opportunity. Follow him to angry New Yorkers at @Dannosphere.