Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pizza: "Have You Had a Piece Lately"

To me pizza is an American comfort food, and as with all comfort foods if it doesn’t taste like what you grew up with it just isn’t any good. Maybe an exaggeration, but it’s not far off the mark.

On the west side of Los Angeles, where I grew up, a popular place for pizza was named Piece of Pizza, and their slogan was “Have You Had A Piece Lately”. A small local restaurant chain, it had inside seating, red and white checkerboard plastic table cloths; all in all not too impressive. None the less, I remember that in the 1950’s and 60’s they made a good hand thrown pizza pie with a chewy crust, covered with Italian sausage, and mozzarella cheese. Sadly, when I returned a few years ago the pizza was just plain terrible. Too much success, loss of focus, I don’t know, but it’s rather sad.

Some may argue, but I think the best pizza pie in the Austin area is served at Frank & Angie’s, although the Brooklyn Pie Company in Georgetown makes a darn good pie. Frank & Angie’s is small, cozy with inside seating, and fast service. They serve a quality pizza pie with a rather thick tasty crust, loaded with most any combination of toppings you might want. There spaghetti, and meatballs, another American comfort food, is likewise very good.

Where is the best pizza in the country? That’s a question that may never be answered, but a guy named Ed Levine, who is from New York City, says in his book, Pizza, A Slice of Heaven, that the best is in Phoenix, Arizona at Chris Bianco’s Pizzeria Bianco, and that from a guy from NYC; it must be true. Levine’s book is good, and if you’re into pizza it will become a valuable resource.

Other restaurants serving good pizzas, and that I recommend include Bertucci's Italian Restaurant in Framingham, Massachusetts, Mac Kenzie River Pizza Company in Billings, Montana, and Nello’s Pizza in Scottsdale, Arizona. Interestingly, each of these is part of a small chain, local to their area, and in the case of Bertucci’s, and Nello’s, I was disappointed when I ate at a location other than the one listed.

Chicago style deep dish pizza is OK, but certainly not my favorite. What can I say; it’s not what I grew up with, and as somebody said, “Deep dish, that’s a casserole, not a pizza”.

When we were living in The Netherlands, our 12 year old son told my wife and I about a pizza place he had found, and insisted we go there that evening. When we went there he said he knew the best pie to order, so he ordered, and we ate the Hawaiian. The crazy thing was covered with ham, pineapple, and pizza sauce, and I was shaken by the thought that by taking our son to a foreign country, he would never know what made a proper pizza. Five years later, when we returned to the USA, nearly every pizza place was making a Hawaiian pizza, and much later our son introduced us to Frank & Angie’s.

The Hawaiian Pizza Pie

No comments: