Thursday, April 1, 2010

You've tried the rest..

Last night, after a long and exhausting day at work, David and I headed out for dinner. Neither of us were very hungry and we ended up just kind of driving east on 6th Street looking for a place to eat. I suggested Grimaldi's Pizza at 6th and Campbell mostly so that we would have a short ride home. As we were seated and ordered, I started thinking about pizza - how's it's become such a part of the American culture and where it's going.

I remember my mother telling me that she had never even heard of pizza until she was 18 or 19 and was dating an Italian guy who wanted to take her out for some pizza. She was a little resistant because he described it as "tomato pie" and the only tomato pie she knew was the green tomato pie her grandmother made which she didn't like all that much. However, once she got a taste of pizza, she was hooked as I guess most of America became in the 50's. According to A Slice of Heaven: A History of Pizza in America, the period after WWII brought pizza from the big cities into the smaller American communities. So it's really been only about 50 years that pizza has become popular among those without Italian heritage.

Growing up on the east coast, we mostly ate the hand-thrown thin crust pizza common in the mid-Atlantic states. A few of the good ones: Brother Bruno's in Mount Penn and the old Marti's pizza from the 9th and Spruce area - oh that sauce! It had tiny bits of tomato plus some of the seeds. I'm not even sure there was anything in Marti's sauce except tomatoes. It's a fresh clean taste I can't ever re-create. One of my fondest childhood memories was when my father's co-worker whose name I can't recall now, except that his first name was Ed (and we were NOT allowed to call him Mr. Ed) would bring a pizza or 2 over to the house for us all. Sometimes he would even get there so late that my parents would get us up out of bed to eat pizza! Now that was a party for four little girls!

When I first got to Tucson, I was hard-pressed to find good pizza. The pizza in Tucson is good, but it lacks that fold-able crust and oh-so-slightly-sweet, but garlicly sauce. Maybe it's the dry air, but the crust here is a problem. A decent pizza can be found at Brooklyn Pizza on 4th Avenue which has the added bonus of using solar energy to run their very popular joint. I swear the longer I live here, the better it gets :-P  If you check out the Tucson Shopper, you can sometimes find coupons for Brooklyn for $8.88 for a large plain cheese. Sweet! There's also a full moon special which is a pie for $9 and change.

For those that aren't that budget-conscious (and who isn't these days?), Grimaldi's is a very good pizza. They have a wood fired oven and a comprehensive listing of toppings. Small plain start at $13 and large at $15. Most toppings are $2 each. Last night, we ate the more expensive white garlic pizza with 2 toppings (kalamata olives and fresh mushrooms), I had a glass of wine ($9) and David had ice tea for a whopping $35. Yikes!

If you're in the mood for a thicker crust, Rocco's Little Chicago is a good pick. I like this place because it has an authentic Chicago feel to it with red-checkered table cloths and $1.50 cans of Old Style" beer (just like you get in Dad's refrigerator). They also are cool about making vegan pizza, a favor with some of my friends. I recommend the Fungus Humongous with portabello and white mushrooms. Take a few friends though because this pizza is very filling! Wait times for the pizza can be long, so don;t go when you're in a hurry, but DO get the Spicy Hot Sticks while you're waiting. They're basically pizza dough coated in cayenne and tomato sauce, twirled, baked and served with ranch or blue cheese dressing. OMG sooo good!

So what's in store for pizza in the future? I can't say for sure, but perhaps something...Indian? Chutney, curry, samosas... mozzarella?

What's your favorite pizza place and why? What kind of toppings would make your ultimate pizza?

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