“The meeting isn't 'til three, but I always like to come to New York little bit early and hit some of my favorite haunts…like right here, this is my favorite New York pizza joint. And I'm gonna go get me a New York slice!” (Walks toward Sbarro)
-Michael Scott, The Office
It is tongue-in-cheek, meant to be a subtle joke on commercialism in America. But Steve Carell’s iconic character unknowingly cements a truism in our culture. Sbarro, Italian in name, cuisine and roots, is a shining example of an American success story. It has the humble roots (in 1956, the Sbarro family opened their first Italian grocery store in Brooklyn, a neighborhood favorite that morphed into the by-the-slice giant it is today). It was founded upon passion and culinary pride, an old world trait that still eludes many competitors. And it has become synonymous with national institutions (seriously, other than the massage chair at Sharper Image, what else pops to mind upon hearing the word “mall”). In essence, Sbarro has become an institution itself, an early memory as attached to the Gen X psyche as Donkey Kong and light sabers.
The Melville, Huntington New York based chain has made a career out of surpassing its environment. A stroll through any random food court in Everytown, USA, is a tour in consistency. But not all consistency is created equal. While counterparts consistently take up minute sectors of real estate, often working from a limited menu, Sbarro is typically the anchor; the pleasant aroma is the strongest in the commissary area; Sbarro is usually the largest operation. The lines are longer, but the wait is minimal, because afterall, this is still quick-serve. But it is always notably different at the Sicilian sensation; the offerings are fresh and on a continuous loop. The slices are gourmet and grand, and always heated to spec for each individual (a love/hate paradigm, as it arrives piping hot-too hot to dig in at once yet too enticing not to). And a count of the heaping salads, meatballs and pastas leads to a revelation-they have a selection that rivals many sit down Italian concepts.
With 1,000 plus venues in at least 44 countries, Sbarro has taken a small, heritage-rich Brooklyn upstart and, piece by piece, created a global pizza pie. So woven into our fabric now that to NOT see a Sbarro in a mall, department store, campus or airport (or the streets of Manhattan, as Dunder-Mifflin’s finest happily does) would border on lunacy. And at the end of the day, it IS a genuine New York slice. We would bet a blindfold test on that.
Suddenly I feel the need to go to Macy’s and buy some khaki’s. Maybe I’ll catch a bite while I’m there.