Our series “My sqft” checks out the homes of New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to Scott Wiener’s Midwood apartment. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
How does one person amass 1,471 pizza boxes you may ask? After spending a few minutes with Scott Wiener, this will seem like a silly question. Scott founded Scott’s Pizza Tours 11 years ago, and since his first tour, he has become NYC’s resident pizza expert. In addition to his company’s signature bus tours, it now hosts daily walking tours, and Scott is often cited in both gastronomy and historical publications. But the real reason people from all over the world are keen to send Scott one of their pizza boxes is his genuine personality.
Whether he’s talking about the different types of flour used to make dough or discussing how he used 19th-century tax maps to unearth the various coal-fired ovens that once existed in the city, you can’t help give Scott your full attention; his passion is contagious. And he’s just a really nice guy. When a couple recently got engaged on his tour, Scott told us that he had been texting for months with the groom to make sure everything was perfect. 6sqft recently paid Scott a visit at his Midwood apartment and got to learn even more about him, from how he developed his pizza passion to what an average day looks like. Of course, we also got a behind-the-scenes look at that record-setting pizza box collection.
Scott also experiments making his own dough and pizza. During our visit, he was working with all-purpose flour to see how it compares to bread flour.
Scott grew up in Union County, NJ, and after attending college in Syracuse, moved to Hoboken where he worked in a recording studio (“By trade, I’m a recording engineer,” he explains). Later, he worked in City Hall, but during this time, he also worked as a caretaker on the Yankee Ferry, the only surviving Ellis Island ferry boat, where he lived, too.
The big blade is a pizza knife from Derrick Tung who owns Paulie Gee’s in Chicago. Scott has also been gifted pans from Emily and Emmy Squared here in NYC and a wooden dough box from King Umberto on Long Island.
So where does pizza fit into all this? “I just always loved pizza. I love eating pizza; it’s the best food ever,” says Scott. He didn’t love the work he was doing after college, so he quit his day job and gave himself sixth months off, during which time he started reading more food blogs, namely a pizza blog called Slice. “I realized there were people talking about pizza from a cultural [point of view], so I thought I should go check out these cool places. I started taking my friends on little trips, and then pizza became more important to me as I realized there were historic pizzerias and places that were doing things differently. Pizza was a food I thought was all the same, and once I realized it wasn’t, it got me even more intrigued.”
The fisherman lamp is from Furnish Green. The trunk is from the ferry boat Scott used to live on (it’s filled with Scott’s Pizza Tours t-shirts). There are two Tiffany-style pizza parlor hanging lamps; the one in the kitchen is from NY Pizza Suprema, while the one in the living room is from a thrift store.
Scott’s first official tour was one of his now-famous bus tours (yep, you hop aboard a decommissioned yellow school bus) in April of 2008. Once he started running tours regularly, Scott decided he should move to NYC and landed in an apartment on the Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy border. His second place was on the edge of Bed Stuy and Bushwick, and then two-and-a-half years ago, he moved to his current home in Midwood, just past all the stately Victorian homes in Fiske Terrace.
“I used a broker because I was looking to buy a place, and I didn’t know much about neighborhoods. I’d hung out in this neighborhood a few times and I really loved it because the houses over here are so beautiful.”
Scott plays a little piano, but mostly guitar and drums. He got this organ in college while living in Syracuse. It was on somebody’s front porch for free. It has a fake Leslie speaker in it.
At first, Scott’s broker was showing him small, “one-person” apartments in more trendy parts of Brooklyn, but once Scott explained that he needed more space, they decided to look by Brooklyn College. “My life is so pizza-focused, so I like being able to relax and separate stuff at home and be able to do music and all that. As soon as I walked in here I knew this was the place, I didn’t even get past the entry and I knew.”
And because Scott’s life is so “pizza-focused,” closet space was a non-negotiable must. The entry closet, for example, is used to store materials for Slice out Hunger, his nonprofit that produces pizza-related
events to support hunger relief and prevention initiatives.
The closet off the dining room is devoted to his pizza box collection, for which he holds the Guinness World Record with 1,471 boxes. Currently, 150 of them are on display in a pizzeria in Manchester, UK (from time to time, Scott will loan out portions of his collection to museums or exhibits) and 300 are at his parents’ house in New Jersey. But the rest are flattened out and organized by theme in his closet.
The office also doubles as a recording studio because Scott still records his own music on his 1980s Tascam console.
The pizza boxes in his office are newer pizza boxes that haven’t yet been cataloged. “When new pizza boxes come in, they get measured and logged into a spreadsheet. Then I can flatten them down and take a professional photo of them. I eventually want to have a website where you can look at any pizza box in the world.” In 2013, Scott even published “Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box,” the world’s only book about pizza boxes.
From the outside, Scott’s pizza-centric life might seem like all fun. And while he clearly has a lot of fun doing what he loves and sharing that with others, it is undoubtedly his passion and work ethic that have brought this great success. Since that first bus tour 11 years ago, Scott now has seven other tour guides who run four different neighborhood walking tours daily, in addition to the Sunday bus tours that he still leads himself, all of which work off a roster of nearly 60 pizzerias. Scott also does pop-up tours in other cities (there’s one in Austin, Texas this weekend), lectures internationally about pizza history, and has his research cited in countless publications.
The dining room cabinet is full of history items. Scott gets the tomato cans and labels from eBay. He even has a brick from an old brick oven bakery in Jersey City that’s now a pizzeria.
To make all this happen, Scott is sure to keep himself to a pretty regimented schedule. “Almost every day starts at 6:30. I get up, clean up, go to the YMCA, then I’m back here for quick emails and out the door around 9:30. That’ll take me to doing tours all day. I’ll usually bring the laptop with me so I can do some work in between. Then I’m often bouncing around to different pizzerias, refilling supplies (at whichever pizzeria a tour starts, guests receive a custom “Pocket Pizza Journal“), checking in with places, and seeing new places. If there’s no tour at all, I use the dining table as an inbox, and the goal is to clear it by the end of the day.” During our visit, Scott’s table included promotional items he’s received that needed to be opened and have thank you notes written for, including this fun pizza Monopoly board.
In case you were wondering, Scott does not only eat pizza. When asked what his favorite local spots are he did note Lo Duca for pizza, “a great place right in Newkirk Plaza.” He also loves Fisherman’s Cove for jerk chicken. “They have really good oxtail; that’s my jam. This neighborhood has a lot of good jerk chicken, so I go for that all time.”
We asked Scott which neighborhood he thinks is the most underrated in terms of pizza, and he said Williamsburg, quickly listing all his favorites–L’industrie Pizzeria, Williamsburg Pizza, Best Pizza, and Emmy Squared. As for a pizza “desert?” Sorry, Upper West Siders.
But with all this pizza talk, we had to ask Scott the most obvious question: Why does pizza resonate with so many people? “It’s bread, tomato, and cheese. I don’t know the scientific reason, but it’s so pleasant. It’s such an easy thing to eat, and it’s so customizable. It doesn’t have to be salty or sweet; it can be anything you want it to be.”
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Neighborhoods : Midwood