Tonight I had pizza for dinner. To many people this is not much of an event, more like a weekly occurrence. I, however, have always had a sort of strange relationship with pizza and so the fact that I willingly went out for pizza, and deep dish “Chicago” style pizza at that, is definitely a special occasion.
When I was young I think I liked pizza. We didn’t have it much when I lived with my mom. When we did, it was usually accompanied by skee-ball, wack-a-mole and lots of other bell-ringing games at Chuck E. Cheese. The pizza wasn’t the focus, the games, particularly skee-ball, were. As soon as our food was ordered, I’d beg for my tokens, grab them and run off to hurl balls up that ramp and exchange my tokens for prize winning tickets. Every now and then I’d head for the table to take a bite or two of pizza, only to scurry back off to my fun. On the rare occasions when we entered a Straw Hat or Pizza Hut, I picked at my pizza, a sort of silent protest to the fact there were no games and large, animatronic mice singing happy birthday to some random child (who once was me and it was SWEET).
My dad, on the other hand, lives for pizza. It’s one of his basic food groups. There’s the cheese group, the meat group, the Triscuit group and the pizza group. As far as he’s concerned, that’s pretty much it*. Every summer when I visited, Pizza Hut, Kilroy’s, Little Ceasar’s and Domino’s were staples of our house. If we went more than five days without pizza, he started to get a little crazy. We even made a special trip every year to Chicago just so we could go to Gino’s East. If you’ve ever lived in or been to Chicago, you know and love this place. I first went when I was seven years old. My dad took me to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and after the show let out, we went to Gino’s. I was enthralled. I actually don’t remember the pizza nearly as much as I remember being up way past my bedtime, hanging out with adults and my dad writing my name on the post by our table. It was so cool.
In addition to the take out pizza we got, usually when visiting grandparents, my dad loved to make his own pizza. Once again a box was involved. This time though, it was the Appian Way pizza kit. The dough powder had to be mixed with water and then my dad would stretch it so thin across a cookie sheet that he had to keep fixing holes in the dough. Then he topped it with Italian sausage and green peppers. This is when I entered my anti-pizza phase. There are only two toppings I hate on pizza. Guess what they are? Yup, the only two my dad likes. That combined with a crappy boxed sauce (that also might have had to be re-hydrated) and paper thin crust and there was no hope. I pretty much gave up on pizza.
Whenever my folks made pizza at home, I made ramen. Whenever they ordered out, usually from Pizza Hut, I had them order me breadsticks and that’s all I ate. Four years of high school and I never touched a single slice of pizza. Weird, I know.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I started eating pizza again. Oddly it was a $4 “no name” special from the local pizzeria in the “village.” They delivered late at night and one of my best friends was addicted, so I usually ended up sharing one with him on the back staircase at one in the morning.** The pizza had absolutely no frills and was just a thin spread of sauce and cheese. I think it was the simplicity of it, as well as the company, that made me enjoy pizza again.
I was doing ok with pizza until several of my guy friends decided that pretty much every Sunday we got together for Simpsons and X-Files (and later Malcolm in the Middle and Futurama as well), that they wanted pizza. And not just any pizza, extra-super-cheesy deep dish pizza from the local pub down the street. Although I’d loved Gino’s as a kid, for some reason, I couldn’t take this deep dish. Every bite I ate felt leden in my stomach. A full piece made me feel sick to my stomach. I gave up pizza again.
Recently I’ve gotten better about my pizza consumption. We have a Papa Murphy’s down the street and I really like their pie. I am especially fond of their Veggie De-Lite. That creamy garlic sauce with the spinach and tomatoes is fantastic. My husband really loves pizza and tonight I agreed to try a place just up the road that promised deep dish Chicago style pizza. It wasn’t bad. It definitely wasn’t Gino’s, (or Giordano’s, my second favorite actual pizza place in Chicago), but it was edible. I didn’t quite finish two slices, but I left very full. I would have liked a few more tomatoes on each slice. One downfall to Chicago style pizza is that for a lot of knock-off pizza joints, this seems to imply no sauce. I have always been a sauce girl. A good sauce makes a pizza for me and a bad one turns me off pizza for years. I can even deal without sauce as long as there are lots of crushed tomatoes. This one was a bit lacking. Still, I guess if my husband wants it, I could be persuaded to go back. He’ll just have to wait a few months. Or maybe I’ll have to take him up to Gino’s and show my Southern boy real pizza.
*With the exception of this absolutely horrid boxed spaghetti kit that Kraft makes. It comes in the same size box as their mac n’ cheese, but is green. The sauce comes in a pouch and it pretty much tastes like funky ketchup. My dad “grew up” on it and loves it. Last time I was at their house they had five boxes in the cabinet.
**My dorm was co-ed, sort of. Floors alternated between guys and girls, but we were only allowed to have guests of the opposite sex in our rooms until midnight M-F.