The $1 slice—by some New Yorkers considered to be as much of a local cultural landmark as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and the Theater District are—is in peril.
According to a recently-published report by the New York Post, in fact, the price of making pizza is soaring—forcing shops to move away from the popular $1 slice offering to account for much-chronicled supply-chain issues, national labor shortages and inflationary food costs.
In the most demonstrable result of the troubles related to the market, 2 Bros. Pizza, one of the most recognizable $99 cent pizza shops in New York, is currently selling slices for $1.50—although their ubiquitous marquee continue to advertise the $1 slice.
The root of the issue, according to Lenny Giordano, the owner of Mona Lisa Pizzeria in Staten Island, is a labor shortage coupled with an inflation likely due to the monthly payments given out by the federal government to folks out of jobs during the pandemic.
"People have chosen to stay home instead of working," he says over the phone. "You can’t find employees. The main complaint of the labor shortage is that there is inflation. Big companies can’t [catch up with orders] because they don’t have the manpower."
Giordano noticed the trend in his own shop. "I have been advertising for a position for a couple of months," he recounts. "One lady asked to be paid $20-$25 an hour and I said I can't pay that much. Big companies are paying $17 to $25 an hour because they can't find the staff."
Given the labor shortage, just about anything becomes more expensive—including the relatively simple and usually easy-to-secure ingredients needed to make pizza.
In a widely circulated Facebook post from last week, Giordano explained the price increases that he had to put in place to survive. "Due to the food cost increase, we are unfortunately forced to increase our prices to be able to keep our business open and continue to use top quality products," he wrote. "I can list about 200 items that I am buying for my store every week and every one of them went up from 50% to 200%."
On that list: fresh garlic, which used to cost him $8 per gallon in October of 2020 and now sets him back $38 per gallon. Similarly, the price of frying oil increased from $14.50 to $42.50.
And the changes aren’t strictly related to ingredients. "I used to buy a bundle of pizza boxes for $16," he says. "Now that same bundle costs me $30."
Although he never did sell them for $99 cents each, Giordano notes that he’s now forced to dish out his slices for $3—a 50% increase from the $2 that diners were accustomed to a mere two years ago.
"I hope the price of everything comes back down because I feel bad for the customers and working people," he says. "Someone on a social security pension goes shopping with $500 and comes back empty-handed [because he can't afford anything]."
Unfortunately, things might get worse before they get better. Giordano is preparing to send out a letter to his customers explaining a big cost increase related to pasta and flour. "The price of gas has gone up," he says. "To get a container of those imported ingredients here used to cost me $3,000 and now that same container will cost me $8,000."
Although trying his best to stay afloat, the shop owner can’t help but wax nostalgic about the way things were. "I immigrated here 30 years ago and put three kids in college by working hard," he says. "And now I say: where is the American dream anymore? Times are bad."