Cold Cheese Pizza: The Lesser-Known New York Slice You Should Try

New York pizza is an institution unto itself, inflaming strong cultural opinions on everything from where to get the best slice, to how to eat one. (Folded, and consumed while slightly hunched over in the middle of the sidewalk.) But there is another New York pizza invention that hails from several miles northwest of Manhattan, in the small college town of Oneonta, NY, per InsideHook.

This special slice is known as cold cheese pizza. No, not the kind you're thinking of. This isn't just pizza that's been left in the fridge overnight ... although who doesn't love a slice of cold breakfast pizza?

Cold cheese pizza is, put simply, a normal slice of cheese pizza topped with cold shredded cheese. Why, you might ask? As Gothamist notes, this method sops up excess oil and creates an interesting textural landscape. But, more importantly, it won't burn the roof of your mouth like a normal slice will.

So ... who exactly created this creative concoction?

The invention of cold cheese pizza

Cold cheese pizza, which dates back to the 1980s, according to The Daily Meal, came out of the late night post-bar snackage ritual of students from SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, who would descend on Tino's Pizza on Main Street en masse, forcing the shop to turn out pizza after pizza, which would be funneled straight from the hot oven into the mouths of hungry undergrads. It was conceived of as a way to prevent drunk and overeager kids from burning their mouths.

"What would happen would be, the line would form so long and we were selling the pizza so fast — once it was coming out of the oven, the pizza was already being sold. So it was like piping hot. It was being cut and then onto a plate, and then they were eating it," explained Tino's owner Tino Garufi in an interview with InsideHook. "My father, I guess, decided to throw some cold mozzarella on top of a slice and then all of a sudden ... it just took off."

However, there is a Pittsburgh pizza shop named Beto's that, while lesser known, has claimed in an interview with Insider Food that they started the cold cheese pizza fad 60 years ago, long before Tino's opened.

How do you make cold cheese pizza?

The basic elements of cold cheese pizza are simple: Take a slice of standard pizza (thick crust, red sauce, and gooey cheese), and top it with cold, shredded mozzarella. Cheese appears to be the most common option, not surprising given New York's devotion to the dollar slice as an economical option that acts as the great equalizer among vegetarians, anchovy haters, and the onion-averse alike. 

There are a couple of different approaches, however. A key difference in the cold cheese pizza-making method (which could be a regional one), seems to be that Tino's bakes their pies with cheese on them and adds an extra layer of cold cheese in post (as seen in a video on the Tino's website), while Beto's appears to bake their pies naked and add only cold cheese, per Foodbeast.

Whichever way you prefer, it's easy to replicate at home: Just keep a bag of shredded mozz in your fridge for the next time you order a late night pizza.

Where to get cold cheese pizza

Despite the Pittsburgh anomaly, cold cheese pizza is a phenomenon mostly associated with New York State, though you would be pressed to find it in any of New York's major hubs as it tends to be more of a small town fixture. In addition to the OG Tino's in Oneonta, and Beto's in Pittsburgh, HuffPost drops a few other names associated with the phenomenon, including Little Vincent's in Long Island and Town Pizza in Ocean Beach, NY. It's worth noting though that The Daily Meal mentions that Little Vincent's says it only started offering the slice after returning college students from Oneonta came asking for it.

"It happened back in '86 or '87. Some college kids started to ask for it and then it exploded from there," explains Daniel Rossi, the manager of Little Vincent's. "It's a love it or hate it thing. It's not the kind of thing you have once in a while."

Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and The Daily Meal.