Family Motto: “The only thing worse than bad pizza is no pizza.”
If you know me, you know that pizza is my favorite food. But it goes beyond just a favorite food. I don’t know if I can fully describe my affinity for this conglomeration of bubbly bread, scorching hot marina and ooey cheese, but the question of where my next slice of pizza will come from is floating in my mind at all times. Just out of the forefront of conscious thought, hiding in the shadowy folds of my brain, until it maneuvers its way to just the right spot, and then Wham! Pizza craving hits. Which happens with what some might categorize as alarming frequency.
My friend Paul called me the “Pizza Ninja” because no matter what was brought in for lunch at work, I would always end up turning it into pizza, oftentimes without meaning to. Taco day? Chips with salsa and cheese heated in the microwave = pizza. Sandwich day? Tomato and mozzarella panini = pizza. Pizza day? Well that one’s obvious.
I’ve also been known to argue that pizza can be 100% of a balanced diet: grains (crust), fruit (tomato sauce), dairy (cheese), vegetables (mushrooms), meat (pepperoni), fats (olive oil) and salts (salt). Look at the food pyramid. Check, check and check. You really don’t need to eat anything else!
Okay, I guess I have moved on from this college theory; you probably do need to eat something else once in a while 😉
Take, for instance, a few weeks ago:
Friday: Margherita pizza for lunch
Sunday (in Traverse City): Some pizza at That’sa Pizza. No joke, that was the name of the restaurant. Does this seem derogatory to anyone else? Or just cheesy…pun intended 🙂
Tuesday back in Baltimore: Got home late and made Triscuit pizzas. Yes, that is when you take Triscuit crackers, put little dollops of pasta sauce on them and then sprinkle each with a smidge of shredded mozz and microwave for 30 seconds. Deliciously salty if you use regular Triscuits (not low salt, reduced fat, cardboard bits Triscuits). AKA “Nothing-left-in-the-house-to-eat” pizza. AKA I should be on The Food Network along with Rachael Ray and her “Late Night Bacon”: Read the comments at the bottom to cry with laughter
Wednesday in Baltimore: Wanted to try the newest branch of Sofi’s Crepes in Fells Point. Didn’t intentionally mean to get a pizza crepe, but “The Motz” (diced tomato, shredded mozzarella and fresh basil) was essentially a margherita pizza in a crepe. Survey says: they should have used a savory crepe, not a sweet shell…I wouldn’t get this one again.
Friday: Mark’s flight home was uber delayed and he didn’t get to the apartment until 9, so I ordered delivery from our go-to Baltimore pizza spot: Bagby. LOVE their spicy shrimp pizza.
Sunday: Made oven-roasted “virtual sun-dried” tomatoes in the oven Saturday. It takes about 4 hours of cooking over low heat, but they tasted just like store bought sun-dried tomatoes, and maybe even a bit better because they aren’t like sticks of jerky when you bite into them. Put a quarter of a tomato on a Triscuit with slices of fresh mozzarella, et voila! Le pizza!
Recipe for “Home-Dried Tomatoes” from Food & Wine Magazine: “Cut larger tomatoes into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds. Trickle with olive oil, season well and scatter with chopped thyme and sliced garlic. Slow-roast at about 250 degrees for three to four hours, until they are intense, condensed and slightly chewy – but still essentially tender. They keep for a bit in the refrigerator, covered in olive oil.” Time consuming but so easy and versatile! Use them on salad, with mozzarella and basil for caprese, with grilled chicken, with a cheese and olive antipasti, or just to snack on as they are!
So as you can see, not only can pizza be eaten regularly, it’s such a blank canvas to paint – there are so many ways to take something basic and make it more interesting.
For a few of my favorite places to find mouth-watering, crave-able pizza:
1. Bagby Pizza in Harbor East. OMG my absolute fav. Personal gourmet pizzas with thin crispy crusts and neato toppings like chicken pesto with red onion and tomato. Spicy shrimp with a spicy marinara sauce base. And I hear the chicken parm sammy is addicting, but I just stick to the pizza (potentially with a salad added on the side for a few green veggies).
2. Italian Gardens in Kenilworth mall: Awww taking me back to elementary school when we used to go here on Fridays after school. We’d get out at 1pm and this intimately-sized mall would be overrun by kiddies eating pizza. Still delicious, classic NY style za (because you have to call it za when you’re with my dad obvi) with pep and mush. Somehow we really got into abbreviating when talking about pizza…I guess we were so excited we just had to find a way to get the words out faster. And perhaps that’s how my love of abbreviating came to be also.
3. Isabella’s in Little Italy: Fresh thin crust pizza with the perfect ratio of crust:sauce:cheese. Everything done thinly and delicately and in proportion.
4. Pizza Connection in Hunt Valley: Totally a greasy hole-in-the-wall, so it’s better to get delivery if you happen to fall within their very small delivery radius. Again, piping hot NY thin crust. Best with all the toppings (which are of course garlic powder, oregano: my all-time favorite herb which I love to put on everything, and crushed red: AKA crushed red pepper for those not abbreviating) and folded length-wise with one finger delicately positioned in the crease to keep the slice sturdy. This technique is also good for avoiding pizza burn (sometimes) because the roof of your mouth is positioned over the bread, rather than the hot cheese and sauce. Pizza burn is the worst pizza side-effect because then your mouth hurts, you can’t taste the rest of your pizza as well, and also the roof of your mouth peels off in skin sheets over the next day. Gross.
Other negative pizza side-effects (which do not outweigh the positives in case you had a doubt) include weight gain, lethargy and the dreaded pizza coma. This is when you fall asleep immediately after eating pizza due to the “carbo overload” which bloats you and makes your eyelids unusually heavy. It is especially bad when you’re totally dehydrated and start having crazy dreams from which you can’t wake up. You feel like you are screaming or thrashing around and you are desperate to open your eyes but you just can’t, and in real life you are sleeping perfectly still. Then you jerk awake, loudly gasping for air. You of course have terrible dry mouth (AKA poop mouth) and chug a glass of water and fall back asleep, potentially to have the same scene play out again 30 minutes later. This whole scenario can be prevented by drinking lots of water with your pizza and/or avoiding Papa John’s, which I’ve decided is the saltiest, most dehydrating pizza in the world.
Such a love-hate relationship with Papa John’s. In college I could eat a whole large PJ pizza for dinner by myself. Then I went without Papa John’s for 6 months while living in France, and when I got home and ate it again for the first time, I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach from the inside out. Apparently those Papa-John-pizza-breaking-down enzymes had vacated my body. Now I’ve built up my digestive track enough such that I can stomach a slice or two now and then, but it’s usually a last resort (see Family Motto at top of the post). It’s still pretty tasty, and that garlic butter sauce is quite the siren!
In Ann Arbor, I have thus far only had the pizza at NeoPapalis (the seemingly-family-owned spot mentioned in my last post), which was very tasty and I will definitely go back. I also look forward to trying out all sorts of other pizza joints and reviewing them via the blog. Any suggestions on where to start eating are more than welcome!! Bon appetit!