Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats and the go-to guy for the best pizza, bagels, and hot dogs in New York, has long considered it his mission to enlighten the rest of us on the great joys of “honest food.” As such, Levine is hell-bent on guiding other “serious eaters” toward deliciousness and away from gimmicks and ostentation. When we asked him to paint us a picture of his perfect last meal, we weren’t surprised not to hear the words “foie” and “sous vide.” But we wonder whether, in his giddiness, he just forgot to include bacon and pastrami.
So, Ed Levine, what would your last meal be? Whenever I think of these things, the same three foods always come to mind right away: fried chicken, barbecue, pizza. Is that low-rent of me?
No! Of course not. When done well, those are perfect foods, in terms of texture, complexity, and sheer deliciousness.
Indeed. So how would you start? Let’s go alphabetically. So, barbecue. I guess I’m just hopelessly in love with the pork shoulder at Big Bob’s in Decatur, Alabama. It’s perfect— just smoky enough, and whatever rub is on it is just enough. The outside is crisp and black, but the meat is juicy and delicious.
Cool, so people can check out that shoulder this summer at the Big Apple BBQ.
Yes. Now, F—for fried chicken. It would probably have to be from Gus’s in fair Mason, Tennessee. Again, it’s all about that lacquered outside, which is incredibly crunchy, and that cosmic oneness between breading and skin. Bad fried chicken separates, and the outside just comes apart from the skin.
Oh, yeah. You get that steamy shell action. Yeah, ick. So, pizza. You have to have pizza, but it could be really hard to decide. It might have to be Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. But then there’s Mozza, Nancy Silverton’s amazing place in L.A. [a joint venture with Mario Batali]. But I also love Anthony Mangieri’s pizza, at Una Pizza Napoletana.
Hey, it’s your last meal. You can have them all. Yeah! So, I’d also have a clam pie from Pepe’s Pizza, in New Haven, and a tomato pizza from Sally’s [Apizza], also in New Haven.
Would everything be out at the same time? Or would there be three courses?
Everything on the table at once. Total excess! And I would have all my friends, of course. I hope they’d miss me. They’d have a great meal to remember me by, which is nice.
What would you drink with all this? You’re gonna laugh because I don’t really drink. I would probably have a Moscato d’Asti. If I had anything else alcoholic, it would probably have an umbrella in it.
A girly drinker! Who would’ve thought? Yeah, I like wussy drinks. Maybe I’d just have something tart, like really good lemonade, or a cherry lime rickey. It’s hard to find a good cherry lime rickey anymore.
Dessert? Damn, that’s tough. Probably some combination of things: a hot fudge sundae—one of life’s perfect things— and maybe an apple pie.
Would some mom have to appear to make that?
Well, Nancy Silverton makes amazing pies.
There you go. And ice cream, maybe from Otto. The gelatos Meredith Kurtzman makes there are pretty astonishingly good, like the olive oil one, which sounds weird, but it’s great. Mozza has amazing gelato as well, and there might have to be some custard from the Shake Shack. God, do I have to die to eat all this?
Nina Lalli’s food blog, “Eat for Victory,” appears on villagevoice.com.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 20, 2007