BootLeg Betty

Have A Slice Of Bette Pizza

The Villager
Free pizza party delivers slice of East Village culture
August 16, 2012

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | A precise number was unavailable as we went to press. But it’s safe to say that over the past 25 years, the total amount of slices served up by Two Boots is…considerable. So too is the imprint they’ve left on the East Village — with a cornmeal crust take on New York’s most ubiquitous soul food and a commitment to building on the neighborhood’s counterculture legacy by nurturing current and future generations of artists.

Taking its name from the foot-friendly shapes of Italy and Louisiana, Phil Hartman and Doris Kornish opened the first Two Boots (originally at 37 Avenue A, now at #42) in 1987 — earning a cult following with their fusion of Cajun-Italian cooking before the term “fusion” had burrowed itself into the mainstream lexicon.

Like their comfort food peers Ben & Jerry, the Two Boots menu distinguishes itself with pies whose toppings invoke the temperament of pop and counterculture icons. Old favorites like the Mr. Pink (named for East Village resident, “Reservoir Dogs” star and Two Boots friend Steve Buscemi) can currently be found alongside recent additions such as “V for Vegan” — which references the “V for Vendetta” hero embraced by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Bette Midler’s cheerful mug headlines “Earth Mother,” while the clueless second banana of “Bewitched” has been immortalized as the face of the “Larry Tate.”

Hartman, who still owns and operates the Two Boots empire (which will soon have 16 locations nationwide), is about more than enshrining beloved celebs and underappreciated sitcom icons.

“We live in the neighborhood and raised our kids in the neighborhood,” he says of the Boots clan. “So we’re really connected to East Village culture and the East Village historical legacy. We’re doing everything we can to promote it.”

In the past, those preservation efforts have included, Hartman recalls, “working with local arts groups for special events, from the HOWL! Fest to movies in Tompkins Square Park.” Two Boots also commissions local artists to create in-store works (the Avenue A store currently displays a recently created mosaic from Nuyorican Poets Cafe member Bimbo Rivas). “We love music and poetry,” declares Hartman. “We ran an indie movie theater [Two Boots Pioneer Theater] for years, and we’ve done a lot of events at SummerStage. We’re always looking to collaborate with local arts organizations and artists.”

Hartman and crew will get a chance to do just that, when they again join forces with the City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage to present “The Two Boots 25th Anniversary Concert.” Headlining the event, offstage at least, will be complimentary slices of their most iconic pies (which can be washed down with a beer, brand TBA, or the fruit juice/fizzy water concoction known as a Fizzy Lizzy).

As for the music, Hartman (who notes that the bill is filled with old friends) says, “We curated the whole event. I’ve always been a big fan of African music, so we’ve got Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Mamarazzi is a local Afro funk band who played at the 2011 version of our Mardi Gras benefit that we throw every year for the Lower East Side Girls Club. Whiskeyhickon Boys [acoustic folkies gone electric] played at the Hell’s Kitchen and Bard College branch openings…and my daughter, Odetta Hartman, just recorded her first album. It’s being mastered now, and will be out in a couple of weeks.”

Poets from Nuyorican, right down the street from the Avenue A Two Boots, will also be on hand, and several community organizations will have tables (including the LES Girls Club — who will be raffling off the grand prize of free Two Boots pizza for the next year). The LES Ecology Center, radical bike group Time’s Up! and the North Brooklyn Bike Collective will also have a presence.

Like the pies that invoke beloved icons, Hartman hopes the family-friendly concert’s blend of food, music and art will be a fitting tribute to “the bastion of East Village counterculture that was very genuine. That includes everything from Allen Ginsberg to the Yippies to Flux Theatre Ensemble to the abstract expressionists. There’s still a lot of amazing vestiges of that…you see it at Anthology Film Archives, La MaMa and A Gathering of the Tribes.”

Although he acknowledges that the neighborhood has changed considerably, Hartman vows an ongoing commitment on the part of Two Boots to continue “the great tradition of counterculture. Individual artists and cultural organizations have been scattered around to Brooklyn, Baltimore, upstate…but there’s still the idea that the East Village represents something to people all over the world.”

MUSIC
TWO BOOTS 25th ANNIVERSARY FREE CONCERT

5pm-9pm on Thurs., Aug. 23
At the East River Park Amphitheater
For info, call 212-777-2668 or visit: twoboots.com
Twitter: @TwoBoots
Facebook: facebook.com/twobootspizza

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