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Photograph: Lauren SpinelliLucali

We talked to one of NYC’s best pizza chefs and his die-hard regular about their bond

Written by
Richard Morgan

Hear both sides of a cherished relationship between a chef (Valentino Barrios) and a regular (Arjay Perovic) forged over the magic of Lucali pizza. As told to Time Out’s food and drink editor Richard Morgan.

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Arjay Perovic: Every Thursday night is date night, so my girlfriend, Lexis, and I always explore the city for the best pizza. We both love pizza and fell in love with Lucali—brick oven, fresh basil, all-beef pepperoni, BYOB…phenomenal, to say the least. One night I was joking with Lexis that I love the pizza so much, I want to take a photo with the chef as a sign of respect. I lock eyes with him and introduce myself. His name is Valentino. I tell him he is responsible for the best pizza on Earth.

Valentino Barrios: I’m making pizza, and a guy comes up to me. He seems really happy already, but he says it would make him happy to take a picture with me. I think, Sure, why not? Why not make people happy if you can? So we do it.

AP: I post our photo to Instagram. It was a good New York City moment—y’know, a human moment, a human connection. But my girlfriend and I were so blown away by the pizza that we returned two days later.

VB: He came back! So fast! I have people who come and visit and take photos. An Asian couple comes twice a month. There’s a guy who comes from Texas a lot. I’m in some Instagrams with David Beckham. Paul McCartney asked me for a photo recently. I always say yes. This is all I want: to make people happy. With pizza, photos, whatever.

AP: We returned a third time in the same week.

VB: A third time! Not once a week or once a month—three times in a week. Nobody does that. Arjay has a special energy.

AP: By this point the host and waitress remember us. They even mention that we are now their favorite couple. Of course, I get another photo with Valentino.

VB: Not three times. Not five or 10 times. Maybe 20 times!  And I realize Arjay is the number one fan of Lucali and maybe the number one fan of me. We are friends. Close friends. It makes New York a better place for both of us.

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