What started out as just another ordinary One Bite Review from pizza influencer Dave Portnoy turned into a shouting-and-cursing match between the Barstool Sports founder and Charlie Redd, owner of Dragon Pizza in Somerville, Massachusetts.
The video, posted on Portnoy’s site and X (formerly Twitter) page, quickly went viral, with Portnoy hurling insults at Redd and the latter responding by flipping Portnoy the bird. Now Dragon Pizza is paying a heavy price with a blizzard of negative reviews on Yelp, apparently prompted by the video.
In the heated exchange, Redd made his position clear: He doesn’t much care for Portnoy’s approach to reviewing pizzas and feels the reviews can be harmful to small pizzeria owners.
For his part, Portnoy quickly went from expressing mild disappointment in Redd’s pie—a tad too “floppy” and heavy on the Parmesan cheese for his taste—to summarily denouncing it as “trash.”
When Portnoy first emerged from Dragon Pizza and stepped onto the sidewalk to shoot his review, he noted that the pie might have been sitting out for too long when he purchased it. Undaunted, he took a bite and winced. “Strong Parmesan,” he said. “This is an acquired taste. If you get this, you know you’re gonna get hit with a left right in the face with Parmesan. I’m not the biggest Parm guy. I just don’t love Parm, so I’m gonna go … how do you score that? Because if you like Parm, fine. If you don’t—I don’t. 6.4?”
Barstool Pizza Review – Dragon Pizza (Somerville, MA) The Worst Pizza Place in America pic.twitter.com/gBNqmg87Go
— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) September 1, 2023
It’s not a great score, but Portnoy added a disclaimer: “It may have been our fault because it may have been sitting for a bit.”
As Portnoy continued speaking to the camera, various fans, including a man who identified himself as a former Dragon Pizza employee, approached him to chat. Other passersby overheard Portnoy and defended the pizzeria, and a couple of them accepted a slice from the Barstool Sports influencer.
The scene was altogether placid until Redd, clad in a Star Wars T-shirt, stepped out of his store to address Portnoy. “Enjoy your pizza … but I don’t appreciate what you do coming in and judging a pizza from one bite,” he said.
A brief, albeit mild, argument ensued, with Redd adding, “I hope you enjoy your pizza, but I don’t appreciate what you do to small businesses.” He then went back inside his restaurant.
Portnoy, addressing the camera again, said he is an ally to independent pizzeria operators. “I’ve actually helped so many small businesses,” he said, adding, “Now I can say, peacefully, this pizza’s trash.”
As more Portnoy fans walked up to meet and greet him, Portnoy shared slices of the pie and asked for their opinions. The owner then re-emerged and told Portnoy, “Let me be clear. Move on. Don’t stand in front of my business.”
“Let me be clear,” Portnoy shot back. “F— you.”
As the argument raged on, more F-bombs were dropped and swapped. At one point, Portnoy said, “Your shirt’s six sizes too small, fatso.”
As Redd tried to articulate his objections to Portnoy’s reviewing approach, Portnoy interrupted him with taunts: “Behh-behh-behh! Behh-behh-behh!”
“Everything since I got into this business that you represent is an embarrassment,” Redd said.
“Like what? Like raising $50 million for small businesses?”
“Everything,” Redd replied. “I make pizza. It’s great. You’re a f—ing joke.”
Predictably, Portnoy’s many fans are reportedly punishing Redd by rating Dragon Pizza poorly on Yelp. With 863 reviews, the pizzeria currently has a 1.6 rating. However, Yelp posted an alert on the page that states, “This business recently received increased public attention, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news. While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to this incident, we’ve temporarily disabled the posting of content to this page as we work to investigate whether the content you see here reflects actual consumer experiences rather than the recent events.”
Dozens of negative reviews appeared on Dragon Pizza’s Yelp page on August 31 after the Barstool Sports video went live online. Many of them echo Portnoy’s own comments about the quality of the pizza.
A similar incident involving Portnoy’s One-Bite Reviews took place at Goodfellas Pizza in Lexington, Kentucky, in October 2018, and the pizza shop saw its Yelp rate plummet overnight. In that tense encounter, an employee asked Portnoy to get off the pizzeria’s patio while shooting his review video. Portnoy then exclaimed, “I’m gonna give this a 0.0. Goodfellas! Kicked out! National pizza review!”
The Goodfellas store’s co-owner, Alex Coats, later put out a tweet to soothe any hard feelings, noting, “We hate that the Pres got a cold slice and a cold welcome, and we are working on making it right…We’d love the chance to show him what Goodfellas and Kentucky is all about.”
Portnoy accepted the apology and said in a blog that he felt bad for hurting the pizzeria’s business. “I guess sometimes the pizza game teaches you hard lessons. So, yes, next time I’m in Lexington, I’ll gladly give this place another shot.”
An undated review by Phantom Gourmet, a Massachusetts blogger, states that Red Dragon serves what “may be some of the tastiest pizzas Phantom has ever found.” In that blog entry, Redd described his fare as New York-style pizza. “We’re trying to put the same concept of assembling flavors…and textures that we put into a fine-dining dish that we’ve created for decades into a slice of pizza,” he said.