Not $500 good, but not bad
The pieces of shaved platinum on my $500 pizza looked like aluminum foil, and I was worried that they would irritate my fillings, but they didn’t. Also on the pizza were large chunks of lobster, avocado, crema, black truffles, mango, various Mexican cheeses, Osetra caviar (it’s important to note which variety of caviar because when you tell people you’ve just eaten caviar they ask what kind), and tomatoes. Several of these ingredients were prepared using Patrón tequila. The tomatoes might seem like an afterthought, but they were important because, combined with the tequila, they allow for a pun: This is the Platinum Margarita Margherita Pizza, available at Manhattan’s Bodega Negra for $500 and created in a partnership with Patrón. Patrón is the preferred high-end tequila of people who want you to know they’re drinking high-end tequila and, for International Margarita Day (February 22, which is also World Thinking Day and Single Tasking Day), they asked Bodega Negra to create a pizza to match.
In 2017, there is a well-meaning temptation to make every piece of writing political. The potential criticism of restaurants who create needlessly expensive dishes is very obvious—as is the criticism of the elites who might buy these meals. You and I both already know they can probably be accused of finding new ways to use rare fish eggs while Rome burns, but is that really interesting to read about? If a restaurant wants to do a stunt where they create a ridiculously luxurious pizza, I’d like to know if it’s even any good. Besides, Bodega Negra’s chef, Michael Armstrong, told me that two shots of Patrón Burdeos tequila are used in the preparation of the ingredients, and that shots of Burdeos go for something like $185 each. So really, if you think about that way, it’s a steal.
Before I could figure out how it tastes, though, I had to figure out how to eat it. I’m pretty neutral on the fork vs. fold debate, but this pizza didn’t present an obvious option. The thin crust (imagine a crunchier open-faced quesadilla) didn’t lend itself to prongs but also lacked the integrity for a fold. Eventually I settled for a precarious fork + fold method that I’m sure looked silly to the waitstaff. Do you know that scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen brings a tray of cocaine to his face and accidentally sneezes? That’s how I felt trying not to spill caviar and lobster down my front.
The chef told me that he started with truffle and caviar because they’re expensive, then experimented with other ingredients. Sometimes the various flavors (mango and caviar, for example) didn’t really make sense together, and it was here that I remembered this pizza is less a pizza than a vehicle for rare and expensive toppings. Still, it’s not like anything was ever less than fine. I should cop to having extremely limited experience with truffle and caviar; on the pizza they didn’t really taste like much, but I think that’s the point? The lobster tasted like lobster, which is good. The tequila was mostly present in the crema. Again, I don’t know if Cuervo would have been any worse than Patrón, but it had a nice smokiness that went well with the avocado. The cheese and the tomato were probably unnecessary, but then I guess it wouldn’t have been pizza without them.
Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, the $500 pizza is pretty good. Is it worth $500? Obviously not. But how could it be? And really, that’s probably not the point. The restaurant told me that they haven’t actually sold any of the pizzas yet, though a few customers have reserved them (the pizzas must be ordered two days in advance). Eventually a few paying customers will buy it, and they will like it, and they will be happy to tell their friends that they spent $500 on a pizza, and I guess that's the point.