In high school I worked at a pizzeria called Capriccio in Croton-on-Hudson, one of those hamlet towns in Westchester, New York. It established my benchmarks for what makes a good slice: thin and airy with a well-cooked crust; sufficiently sauced, but not too thick a layer that the slick of sweet, slightly acidic tomato impedes the cheese from adhering to the dough. It’s a simple set of dictums from a reputable source.
Be it myth or legend, most New Yorkers believe the city’s pizzas and bagels are superior because of the soft water. The majority of that water comes from the New Croton Dam—the thing my hometown is most famous for—which, upon completion in 1906, was the tallest dam in the world, and the third largest hand-hewn structure after the Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China. Holding nearly 20 billion gallons of water amongst 1 million cubic yards of masonry, it’s quite a feat to behold. I grew up sledding the snowy banks by Croton Gorge Park, set downstream from the spillway where the flowing waters burble by.