A slice of pizza has hit $2.30 in Carroll Gardens — and the shop’s owner says it’s “just a matter of time” before a perfect storm of soaring cheese prices and higher fuel costs hit Brooklyn with the ultimate insult: the $3 slice.
Sal’s Pizzeria, a venerable joint at the corner of Court and DeGraw streets, has punched a huge hole in the informal guideline that the price of a slice should mirror the price of a swipe on the subway.
Last week, owner John Esposito hung a sign in his front window blaming “an increase in cheese prices” for the sudden price hike from $2.15, which he set last year.
To bolster his case, Esposito also posted copies of a typewritten “update” from his Wisconsin-based cheese supplier, Grande Cheese, explaining that its prices had risen 35 cents a pound because of an “unprecedented” 18-percent spike in milk costs.
“We didn’t want to hammer our customers, so we’re trying to explain that we have to raise our prices to survive,” he said.
But why is Sal’s leading the pack?
“Maybe the other guys are still asleep,” Esposito said. “But the cost of cheese is way up. The cost of energy is up and the cost of staying in business is up. I don’t think [the costs] are going to come down again anytime soon.”
Cheese is now $1.98 a pound on the commodities market — up 64 percent from last year, according to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The fuel to transport ingredients from one place to another is on a comparably steep incline, too.
“Prices are going up all over and we have also had to raise prices in order to remain competitive,” said Laura Mihm a spokeswoman for Foremost Dairy, a rival to Grande, which supplies dairy to pizzerias nationwide.
But others who are closer to the finished product say that Esposito is pulling the dough over his customer’s eyes.
“A pizzeria’s costs go up like everything goes up, but $2 a slice is still pretty fair,” said Sal Leonardi, part owner of Front Street Pizza in DUMBO.
Leonardi’s cheese supplier, Joseph Campagna and Sons, also hiked prices, raising the cost of making a Front Street pie by 63 cents — but Leonardi said that his joint won’t stray from the subway ride rule.
“Every three years, the price goes up about a dime to cover [the price increases]. That seems right to me,” he said. “We don’t even see $2.10 coming yet, so I don’t see $3 for another seven years.”
And he isn’t the only one who feels that way.
“Only a special slice should cost more than $2 in Brooklyn,” said Adam Kuban, editor of SliceNY, a pizza-centric Web site. “If Sal’s goes above $2.50, I would skip it.”
Others suspected that Esposito was merely trying to cash in on the gentrification of Carroll Gardens, where newcomers think nothing of paying $3 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
“I think he thinks everyone is rich around here,” said one of Esposito’s customers.
Another eater, Eric Porter, said he “regretted that things were coming to this” — but he was buying a slice nonetheless.
“But I don’t think people are going to give up pizza,” he said between bites.
That’s what Esposito is banking on.
“From what I see, [the price] is not going back,” he said. “And after [customers] see that, they’ll understand that it’s not me, it’s everyone.”
A Carroll Gardens pizzeria just raised its price to $2.30 for a slice. Pizza lovers were outraged. Here’s a look at the price of a regular slice around the borough.
Sal’s Pizza 305 Court St., Carrol Gardens
Tony’s Famous Pizza 409 Fulton St., Downtown
Smiling Pizza 323 Seventh Ave., Park Slope
La Rosa & Son 98 Smith St., Boerum Hill
Front Street Pizza 80 Front St., DUMBO
House of Pizza and Calzone 132 Union St., Carroll Gardens
L & B Spumoni Garden 2725 86th St., Bensonhurst