Think about a pizza.
You might see it as a quick, cheap meal consisting of a crust, some sauce and cheese. Maybe you crave it from time to time, or see at as your go-to party food. But I’d be willing to bet you haven’t spent more time thinking about it than that. I’d bet you haven’t spent hours or even years thinking about all the nuanced complexities of a slice.
This is not the case for Scott Wiener, the 2004 Syracuse alum and self-described “professional pizza enthusiast”. Scott spends his whole life focused on pizza. He has been able to take his passion for pies and carve his whole livelihood around it.
Who is Scott Wiener?
Wiener is the founder of Scott’s Pizzas Tours, a company based in New York City, which takes groups of New Yorkers and tourists around to different pizzerias to taste and delve into what makes each slice unique. Scott has formed relationships with over 50 different pizza joints around Manhattan. Depending on the day and the interests of the group, he can curate the ideal tour around three or four places. Scott offers walking tours in Little Italy, North Greenwich Village, South Greenwich Village, Lower East Side/East Village, and Times Square. You can also opt to be picked up by the NYC Pizza bus and explore pizzerias in the outer boroughs.
Beyond the tours, Scott has expanded his pizza resume to further solidify his title as the pizza expert. Shortly after starting Scott’s Pizza Tours, he wanted to find a way to give back to the community. The community that allowed him to turn his pizza passion into a career. This is when he started Slice Out Hunger, a nonprofit which donates to hunger relief organizations in NYC. Since its launch in 2009, the organization has been able to donate over $300,000 to New York’s hungry.
Doing Good, One Slice At a Time
To start Slice Out Hunger, Scott went to all the pizzerias he had connections with and asked them to donate pies. He then sold each of the donated slices for just a dollar a pop. Scott told me it wasn’t hard to get the pizzerias to donate to his vision. For starters, he said they’re all really sincere people who want to help their community. But to me, it is also apparent these people truly respect Scott. During our interview, Scott read me a text a pizzeria owner had sent him earlier that day. He called Scott a “great friend” and said “he doesn’t know where he’d be without him”. Of course, Scott was quick to deny he had anything to do with the success of these establishments. To me, this was an indicator of how much mutual respect there is between Scott and the owners he works with.
Beyond Slice Out Hunger, Scott also holds the world record for the most pizza boxes ever collected — around 1,500. (If you are wondering where he stores them, he said they have their own closest in his home.)
He has also written a book about pizza boxes called “Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box.” If that isn’t enough, Scott now has his own show, “Really Dough,” produced by THRILLIST and available on Amazon and YouTube. The show follows Scott and a co-host Mark Iacono as they try the strangest pizzas.
From ‘Cuse To The Big City
If you have made it this far and are curious how a Syracuse University graduate went from chowing on the classic Varsity slice to becoming a quoted pizza expert, Scott said it was a lot of effort, a lot of chances, and a lot more luck than he used to want to admit. I asked Scott to take me back to when he graduated from Syracuse. I asked him what he would say to his younger self? He flat out told me: “I have nothing to say to that guy”. Scott said he wasn’t a bad student, but he certainly didn’t know what he wanted to do or where his life was going to take him. He certainly didn’t think it was pizza.
When Scott left school he moved to NYC to work at a small recording studio to try to put his Television, Radio and Film degree from the Newhouse School to good use. Soon after, he was hooked up with a gig living on and taking care of a house boat, which granted him free rent. This free rent would be one of the keys to allowing him to start his pizza related career. After the recording studio, Scott worked a job for the city. He quickly realized his heart wasn’t in it, so he quit. Scott said a huge part of being successful in life and in business is being honest, with yourself and others. For him the first step was admitting he wasn’t fulfilled.
Finding Himself… And Pizza
Scott decided to give himself six months off work to finish a record he was working on, write a book, and just work for his keep on the boat. It was during this span of time that friends encouraged him to start giving pizza tours. While he worked at the recording studio, Scott had began eating a lot of pizza. But for him, unlike most, it wasn’t just about eating it. Scott became hooked on what made each slice different — the ratios of ingredients, the types of ovens used by the pizzerias, the time put in to each step of the process. To him, a food that seems so generic to everyone else, seemed very much otherwise. He began learning all he could about the food and telling everything he knew to his friends. They were convinced he had knowledge he could share with the world.
The Expansion of Scott’s Pizza Tours
What started as a whim for Scott has grown into a livelihood — his tour company now has six other tour guides and is taken by people from all over the world. Scott admits he thought he knew everything about pizza at the beginning but over 10 years later he said he is still learning. That is something he loves about the job. He said while he still has to go to work every day, it is work he actually enjoys waking up on Monday mornings for. Scott said he doesn’t agree with the saying “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life,” because everything requires hard work. He said it’s more about finding work that doesn’t haunt you.
What I found most endearing about Scott was that his passion to share pizza with the others is about more than just the taste. Scott sees pizza as a grandiose metaphor for the world. He described to me how the only reason pizza is able to exist is because all of these ingredients from all over the world came together in southern Italy to create something amazing. He said he hopes that people on his tours can draw the conclusion that when different things come together from different places, wonderful things can be created. Scott said beyond that, no matter how different two people’s beliefs are, they can usually come together to enjoy a slice. After all, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like pizza. And that is a beautiful thing.