What’s the difference between a 99-cent slice of pizza and a $3 slice of pizza? Turns out, more than you might think. The Wall Street Journal recently tackled the delicate issue of New York City pizza shops. If there’s one thing that New Yorkers take pride in, it’s their pizza. But New Yorkers also love a good deal, and for many people, $1 pizza is one of the joys of living in what is otherwise an overpriced food town.

The bargain slice joints, which have rapidly colonized city blocks in recent years, are a perfect example of how competition can drive down prices. But for the mid-priced neighborhood pizzerias in Manhattan that don’t lower their prices and pride themselves on offering a higher-quality product in locations with high rent, $1 pizza is a threat to business.

Over at The Village Voice, Robert Sietsema offers a counterpoint to the WSJ’s argument that dollar pizza should be seen as the primary enemy in the plight of the neighborhood pizzeria. While he agrees that dollar pizza is often a lower quality product, not all of the bargain slices are created equal: some are actually decent. Also, large national pizza franchises like Dominos and Little Caesar’s that offer entire pies at bargain prices—as low as $5—are probably more to blame for stealing customers away from the smaller shops both in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs.

People will always be down for pizza and a bargain. Sometimes, quality is not part of the equation—and when it is, there is no shortage of excellent, higher-end pizzerias around the city that deserve their popularity. Middle-of-the-road pizzerias need to either step up to what their customers want (often, cheap pizza), or distinguish themselves enough that they can warrant charging higher prices from their customers.

Sietsema serves up a simple solution to helping the ailing pizzerias: “If you want to preserve the traditional gas-oven slice, visit your local pizzeria instead of some twee wood-oven place.” Otherwise, here’s to hoping that 75¢ pizza (spotted as recently in the city as last year) makes its return.

[via The Wall Street Journal and The Village Voice]