I remember back in grade school on the first day we would always pair up with someone and ask questions to get to know our classmates. Always things like “What’s your favorite color?” or “What’s your favorite song?” Always, always the question: “What’s your favorite food?” I remember answering this question the same for a few years: “Pizza” as did other kids. I remember one year one of my teachers got a little annoyed at this saying, “Come on everyone! Pizza is such a boring answer! Not very creative!” I tended to agree with her, but the more and more I experienced different pizza from different parts of not just the USA but in other countries – pizza is not boring at all!
Growing up in New England (Massachusetts) it was normal to have pizza one night a week (still do, sorry not sorry). We had hundreds (it felt like) mom and pop places to choose from, all with their different special. I remember Wednesday nights it was buy one get one free at the pizza spot across the street from my ballet studio. We’d pick it up on the way home and it was delicious. Nothing too special – regular (not super think) crust, cheese, pepperoni and marinara. Got the job done and it wasn’t Pizza Hut or Dominos (ew). But little did I know this isn’t the case everywhere. In New England there are a lot of Italian families that passed on their family’s tradition of supplying pizza to the masses. But places like California I found to be very different.
Bar, New Haven
Moving to Connecticut opened the door to New Haven pizza. People are always asking me, “What’s the big deal with New Haven pizza? It’s just pizza.” To those I say – “Um no, lets go to Bar.” Seriously, I’m all about pizza education. Bar is my
favorite pizza spot in New Haven because of their amazing coal-fired crust and their mashed potato pie. Yes I said mashed potato. Globs of mashed potatoes are put on top with garlic, awesome cheese and of course bacon. Sounds weird, but trust me – one of the best things you’ll put in your mouth or smell. New Haven also has Frank Pepe’s (get the clam pizza) and Modern. My other two favorites that you would not have to twist my arm to go to. The thing about New Haven pizza is you can track the
Old menu at Modern in New Haven (Amy Kundrat, Eater)
history of the city with pizza.
Frank’s was the first and the nationally-acclaimed and then the rest followed. They fed the workers in that area with their pizza on their lunch breaks. Pizza is deeply rooted in that city and other cities on the east coast, the most obvious one being New York City.
Okay how the hell am I going on and on about New Haven pizza knowing the king of pizza (NYC) is just less than 2 hours away. New York pizza is a little different as the crusts vary in thickness (New Haven style is really thin) and there are different ovens around the city. I’ve been lucky enough to get to taste Lombardi’s pizza which is the first pizza place in America. It’s freaking delicious. You can get a slice
Lombardi’s (Richard Grigonis)
if you want or sit down and have a pie and a beer with friends. Simple, fresh toppings and friendly staff. Another spot is Prince St. Pizza that used to be Original Ray’s but it was done over. Before I lose you – they make the BEST Sicilian slice ever. For those of you who don’t know, Sicilian slices are square with a thick crust (not as thick as Chicago style though) and they top it with high quality pepperonis. There is always a line out the door for these slices and nowhere to sit. You just set up shop on
Prince St. Pizza’s Sicilian Slice (J Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats)
the sidewalk. Seriously worth it. NYC’s pizza has a crispy bottom so when you pick it up you don’t get the flop. It melts in your mouth. NYC’s pizza scene is constantly changing but these two spots will stand the test of time. Also fun fact – Lombardi’s and some of the other original spots in NYC, have coal fire ovens that are no longer allowed to be built in the city. The spots that already have them established are allowed to keep them, just no new ones can be built. The rest are pretty much gas fire ovens but they’re still delicious. Try a little of both! Okay now comes California. I moved there when I was 18 to San Francisco and when I was looking for a neighborhood pizza joint I had some issues. There was this place called
Slice from Little Star (Rebecca A. Foertsch, Foodspotting)
Round Table. Not great, and my Cali friends raved about it. I was thinking, “Is this really
all they know?” I don’t believe any of them had been to the east coast, or at the very least went and didn’t have pizza (mistake!). So I was determined to find that pizza spot that reminded me of home. Full disclosure: I don’t hate Chicago style pizza. I know, I know. I’m supposed to pick a side and I’m supposed to hate eating pizza with a knife and a fork because I’m from the east coast, but I don’t. So shoot me. San Francisco has an amazing Chicago style spot on Divisadero called Little Star. They have a crust made with cornmeal which isn’t the norm for Chicago crust and it’s fantastic. I don’t mind waiting a little while for the pizza to be cooked, it only makes the anticipation greater. But Chicago style isn’t San Francisco! Where’s the spot I can go for a quick slice in the window like back home? Cut to me turning 21, getting drunk in the Marina, and looking for that perfect food at the end of the night. It’s always pizza. I turn the corner and there it is! Pizza Orgasmica. The line is long but if this pizza lives up to its name, we have a winner. And it did! Walked in, no where to sit, pizza by the slice, quick in and out. I’m home! And even if you’re not drunk – Pizza Orgasmica is awesome. And they brew their own beer. Get there if you’re ever in the city. After I left to take my talents back to the east
Pizza Orgasmica in the Marina District (sanfranciscodays.com)
coast, went to visit friends and they wanted to go for pizza. Geez easier said than done in SF, but one of my now favorite pizza places (out of both coasts) is Beretta in the Mission District. They have thin crust pizza (sorry New Haven still takes the cake or pie on that one) with very inventive toppings and a surprisingly awesome wine and beer list. I got a Hungarian wine there once and it paired perfectly to my pizza. So if you’re ever in SF and want pizza – these are the spots to go. But don’t expect the NYC experience. Still a lot of Round Tables, Pizza Huts and Dominos lurking around every corner.
So to that fifth grade teacher who told me pizza is boring as a favorite food choice – you’re wrong! Stop eating Dominos, lady.