Mayor Pete Buttigieg talks politics and pizza in city tour with The Post

This is why he’s New York’s favorite mayor.

Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., waxed poetic Thursday about the Big Apple as he joined The Post for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and a slice at Grimaldi’s — which, yes, he ate with his hands.

“I find this city just inexhaustible,” gushed Buttigieg, gazing out at the Lower Manhattan skyline from the world-famous span. “I mean, just walking around it’s exciting.”

Buttigieg, 37, was on the receiving end of that excitement Thursday, getting the kind of rockstar reception about which actual New York Mayor Bill de Blasio can seemingly only dream these days.

More than a dozen passersby stopped Buttigieg for handshakes, photos and well wishes — including one city traffic cop just steps from City Hall.

“New York just as a creation is one of the most remarkable things that humankind has ever produced … I just marvel at it,” said Buttigieg, in town for a media and fundraising blitz culminating with a Thursday night appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Across the bridge in Dumbo, Buttigieg enjoyed another triumph of human ingenuity: A New York slice at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.

“Do you have my fork?” Buttigieg jokingly asked an aide with a laugh and a shake of his head as he grabbed a slice from a margherita pie.

Dodging a hurdle that tripped up de Blasio — who in 2014 committed the cardinal New York sin of eating his pizza with cutlery just days after being sworn into his first term — Buttigieg sprinkled the slice with red pepper flakes then ate it by hand.

“Obviously everyone’s loyal to the pizza of his own homeland, so it’s not quite the same as my go-to in South Bend,” said Buttigieg, where he’s partial to joints Bruno’s and Rocco’s.

“[But] I appreciate New York pizza,” he said, washing down bites with gulps of a Diet Pepsi. “The basil is really good.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg sitting down for a meal at Grimaldi’s.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post


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Asked why he’d gained more traction in the race than de Blasio, mayor to 8.6 million people, Buttigieg said he felt that Hizzoner’s overtures to Middle America were tinged with a note of coastal elitism.

“Part of it is just a tone thing, I think. Especially when you hear folks say, ‘Well, why did these folks in the middle of the country vote against their own interests?’ ” said Buttigieg. “I think there’s this kind of sense of condescension.”

Buttigieg’s popularity even dwarfed de Blasio’s in the five boroughs, where, over one three-month span ending in mid-July, Buttigieg garnered more than double the donations de Blasio did nationwide.

Buttigieg also dinged de Blasio for his handling of the firestorm Eric Garner death, saying that de Blasio should have taken more decisive steps and leaned on the federal government to hasten their probe.

“I think in a case like that you need to be visibly demanding that the federal government pick up the pace,” said Buttigieg, who this year weathered a controversial police-involved death in his own city and admitted that he was loath to “second guess the way it works in New York.”

“I think the reason it hit a boiling point is people were asking what’s taking so long,” said Buttigieg of the Garner fiasco.

Buttigieg also touted his willingness to dip into his campaign’s coffers for security while on the trail — unlike de Blasio, who stuck New York taxpayers with the tab by using NYPD security during his primary-state jaunts.

“Even if I go to the Conference of Mayors, I just find it easier to use my campaign funds,” said Buttigieg. “It allows us to do those things without ever having to explain to taxpayers why they’re supporting them, even if it is legitimate business.”

One New Yorker about whom Buttigieg spoke fondly is City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, widely considered an early front-runner to succeed de Blasio in City Hall.

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“He strikes me as somebody who’s very action-oriented. He’s very much oriented around constituents and what they need,” said Buttigieg, giving Johnson particular kudos for the way he “snapped into action” during July’s massive blackout while de Blasio was on the campaign trail.

“He’s also an example of someone who very much lives — from what I can tell — lives the life of a New Yorker in the kind of everyday sense,” said Buttigieg.

For his own part, Buttigieg said that he’s looking forward to next week’s third Democratic debate as a chance to shine as a youthful, but moderate voice among some of his more far-left opponents.

“I’m for big, bold action,” he said. “To me, how bold you are is not always the same as how far left you are.

“And we have got to find solutions that are actually going to unify Americans to get problems solved.”

Additional reporting by Aaron Feis

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