Where a Meal Can Cost a Fortune, 99¢ Pizza Catches On

According to the New York Times, “The signs at the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 41st Street have an unbelievable, you-gotta-be-kidding quality, like free beer or affordable housing — 99¢ Fresh Pizza. Like many things in New York City, they are also too good to be true. They are off by a penny, as one slice actually costs one dollar.” ""

“Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, New Yorkers stand at the outdoor counter of 99¢ Fresh Pizza and pay as much for a plain slice as they did for a subway fare in 1986. At $1.50, the fee to use the sidewalk A.T.M. nearby is more expensive. This being a city with a 10.4 percent unemployment rate in January, this being a recession, there is no such thing as change that is spare. Customers, taking the signs at their word, have been known to ask for a penny back after paying with a dollar bill. ‘I give them penny,’ explained Mohammad Hossain, a manager at the pizza shop.”

“No pennies change hands one block down Ninth Avenue, at West 40th Street, where the competition posted signs of their own: ‘Pizza, $1.00 per slice, tax included.’ Postal workers, teenagers and businessmen step into the 24-hour 2 Bros. Pizza, $5 bills in hand. Allegiances have formed. Trash has been talked. A cabdriver said he preferred 99¢ Fresh over 2 Bros., because it was easier to find street parking outside 99¢ Fresh. A patron of 2 Bros. prefers their sauce over the sauce up the block. Each establishment has the same daily special: Two slices and a can of soda for $2.75, which is what most places charge for a single slice. There is indoor seating at 2 Bros., but none at 99¢ Fresh. There is grated parmesan on the counter at 99¢ Fresh, but none at 2 Bros.

“Asked who opened first, Mr. Hossain was adamant, perhaps even offended: ‘This is first! This is first!’ In New York City, the domain of the $1,000 omelet (Norma’s, at Le Parker Meridien Hotel) and the $41 burger (Old Homestead Steakhouse), the dollar wars between 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. are an unlikely development.The shops are two of a growing number of New York delis and pizzerias offering $1 slices, a phenomenon that has delighted, dismayed and disturbed pizza lovers, food bloggers and rival pizzeria owners while defying a basic fundamental of the city’s economy — charging as much as you can whenever and wherever you can. About 15 eateries around the city now sell dollar slices of pizza. The owners of 99¢ Fresh and 2 Bros. have turned bargain pizza into a business model: There are four 99¢ Fresh shops in Manhattan, and four 2 Bros., too. Next month, 99¢ fresh will open its fifth shop on 34th Street near Third Avenue.”