POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 11, 2014
NEW YORK » The pizza arrived, steaming and delectable, a smoked-mozzarella-and-sausage pie presented to Mayor Bill de Blasio like a gilded offering to a visiting caliph.
The mayor, on a pilgrimage Friday to Goodfellas, the venerable Staten Island pizzeria, smiled, nodded at his slice and then proceeded to do the unthinkable: eat it with a knife and fork.
Cue the foodie firestorm.
"Disaster," declared a writer at New York magazine, citing the longstanding city protocol of devouring pizza, no matter how greasy, with the hands, and the hands only.
One website called it de Blasio's first mistake as mayor. The fake-scandal hashtag forkgate immediately appeared on Twitter. There were comparisons to Donald J. Trump, who once earned opprobrium for a utensil-laden trip to Famous Famiglia in Times Square.
Even the overseers of Goodfellas, while happy to have de Blasio in their midst, sounded a skeptical note.
"Hmm," said a co-owner, Scot Costentino, when asked about the fork use, uttering the universal onomatopoeia for "Yeah, I'm not so sure about that."
"I think he's just trying to be polite," Costentino said. "We'll talk to him on the side about that," he added, jerking his head toward the back of the restaurant.
Confronted by reporters about his conspicuous use of utensils, de Blasio argued that he was simply being authentic to his Italian roots.
"In my ancestral homeland, it's more typical to eat with a fork and knife," de Blasio, whose mother was Italian, said. He noted, by way of explanation, that the slice he was served Friday "had a lot on it."
"I've been to Italy a lot," the mayor added.
De Blasio is not the first New York mayor to have a peculiar style of eating pizza.
Michael R. Bloomberg, when he was served a slice, would often reach for the nearest salt shaker and pour a copious amount of sodium onto his dish. (Bloomberg was said to prefer a level of saltiness that burns lips.)
And then there was the small matter of Bloomberg's method of drinking beer: He liked his ale poured over ice.
Still, despite his billions, the wealthy Bloomberg had a penchant for comfort food, and he munched on street-cart hot dogs utensil-free.
Charles Greinsky, a longtime friend of de Blasio's who was also eating at Goodfellas on Friday, said he was thrilled to see the mayor visiting his home borough.
But his face darkened when the topic of the fork came up.
"No," he said. "No. It's blasphemy."
Pressed on why a mayor who prides himself on populism would opt for a such a technique, Greinsky shrugged.
"He's from Boston," Greinsky said of the mayor. "He doesn't know any better."
Michael M. Grynbaum, New York Times