The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton Does Deep Dish at Pizza Piazza

Posted inBranding & Identity Design
Thumbnail for The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton Does Deep Dish at Pizza Piazza

The Glaser Nobody Knows is a column featuring work by Milton Glaser that you may never have seen before. There are countless projects by the master, both produced and unpublished, that are unfamiliar even to design aficionados. All of the items in this column are part of The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts, the chief repository of his legendary work.

Milton Glaser, a foodie and lover of lunch, was responsible for many well-known restaurant designs, including the decadent Windows on the World in the former World Trade Center, and the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center—projects that encompassed not just identity and graphics but also interior design. He also worked on less high-profile eateries, including the long-gone but beloved Pizza Piazza, which was located at 785 Broadway (like everything else in New York, it was replaced by a Chase Bank). Glaser designed the spiky identity and probably also the exterior plant sculptures and the interior. The logo colors are 1980s preppie pink and green, while the simplified letterforms are reminiscent of Glaser’s Baby Teeth type, except for the ‘Z’s, which vibrate like TV static.

We lack photos of the interior, but Susan Kramer, a designer, programming director and California pizza fan—whose initial inquiry sent me down the Pizza Piazza rabbit hole—was a frequent patron and remembers it well.

“There were booths along the back wall, where there were these faux window frames mounted. The booths were in a green vinyl in similar color to the leaves on the plant sculptures (whose trunks continue through the roof plane into the interior). The flooring was end-cut wood. I’d never seen it before and it was beautiful.”

In January 1984, New York magazine food critic Barbara Costikyan extolled Pizza Piazza’s breakfast pizzas:

“Down at Pizza Piazza, the management had a hunch—pizza con brunch! No ordinary pizza, but some great brunch classics done deep-dish-pizza-style. We would kill for the Broadway (eggs, cream, cottage cheese, Nova and chopped fresh scallion greens). But the Great Western tugs at us too. That’s tomato, onion, eggs, jalapeno and link sausage. When it’s cold and we’re hungry, there’s the nice and spicy Corned Beef Hash. The healthies go for the Florentine, garlicky spinach, cheese and poached eggs.”

In a separate column, Costikyan proclaimed that Pizza Piazza was home to her favorite guacamole. (Costikyan also wrote for New York’s Underground Gourmet column, which was started by Glaser and Jerome Snyder.)

Gael Greene, also writing in New York, was less enthusiastic about the pizza but still held affection for the place. “I love everything about Pizza Piazza except the deep dish pizzas baked in black steel pans. Winsome and folksy, with wonderful desserts, Pizza Piazza has a loyal claque delighted to eat here. But to me, the crusts seem tough, the fillings like stew. Still, I’d be content to make a meal of the All White—a blend of cheeses and softened onions—climaxed by a ration of double-fudge chocolate mousse cake.”

Beth Kleber is the founding archivist of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives and the School of Visual Arts Archives in New York City. Kleber also curated the exhibition “Primary Sources: Documenting SVA and the New York Art World 1966–1985.” She lectures on design history and research, and assists students and researchers with inquiries on everything from Push Pin Studios to the activities of the renowned artists who have taught at SVA. Kleber has also worked in trade publishing and began her librarian and archivist career at New York Public Library. For more from the Glaser/SVA Archives, head to Instagram.