I find the ever-lit corner of Macdougal and W. 3rd Street belonging to Ben's Pizzeria—"Since 1956," "The Most Famous Pizza in the World"—to be ineffably sad, in the way a soup kitchen is sad. The double walls of glass doors always reveal the most despairing of midnight tableaus. Solitary, disheveled figures in heavy, rumbled clothes munch on heavy, reheated slices of what everyone knows is very far from the most famous people in the world. They don't speak. There's no life to the space. The pizzeria seems reserved for those members of the Village that no other place will take in. It's Bowery on Macdougal, pizza for the drunk, or for those so lost in their own existential trauma that they let the dinner hour pass, and the three hours after that, without eating anything.
The decor is grungy in that layered-with-time look some pizzerias get, in which one thing after another in hung or taped on the wall and nothing is ever taken down. The walls look like the pages of an aged, neglected scrapbook. There are three clocks for some reason, and a hard-to-look-at New York skyline etched into mirrored glass. The light is harsh and florescent. There are so many choices on the menu that you get the idea that Ben's doesn't care what they serve, as well as the suspicion that there's no way a place like this could make that many things well, so your odds of eating something good are quite low.
I like its never-changed-since-1977-because-that-would-cost-and-who-cares-anyway vibe. And Lord knows, I don't want it replaced by anything else. But the sadness of the place can't be ignored.