When I was growing up, my Italian-American family and I had a slew of favorite local pizzerias. They were plentiful in our part of the Northeast: Sal’s, Sabatini’s, the multiple locations of Grotto.
My very favorite pizza place was Revello’s in Old Forge, Pa., about a 25-minute drive from my parents’ house. As a child, 25 minutes felt like forever, and during the drive, I sat in the middle of the backseat of my mom’s silver-colored Buick, scrunched between my two brothers, impatiently awaiting the moment I could take a bite of a Revello’s slice.
For me, the sauce is what made Revello’s pizza so good. It was a red sauce, marinara, and it was peppery. It definitely had a kick.
My family and I—my mom, my dad, my two brothers, my sister and I—usually sat at a table in the rear of the restaurant, by the back door. We often came in through that door, because my dad parked on one of the back roads.
An older woman named Mary was our regular server through the years. I remember her as skinny with short, curly hair; round glasses; and a quick, friendly smile.
Old Forge says it’s the “pizza capital of the world.” This may even be true; I’ve certainly enjoyed my fair share of delicious pizza here, and so did two L.A.-based foodies on a “pizza crawl” through Old Forge this past fall.
When I go “home” to Northeastern Pennsylvania now, I love to stop by AmberDonia in Kingston and share a Romeo & Juliet pizza with my husband. We both love the flavor combination of prosciutto and basil atop the olive oil, crushed tomatoes and blend of cheeses. Heaven served wood-fired.
As a child, 25 minutes felt like forever…
As an adult, I’ve also been lucky to live in Richmond, Va., San Antonio, and Delmar, N.Y., and get to experience the (literal) local flavor of these three uniquely beautiful places.
In RVA, you can’t go wrong at Bottoms Up (downtown) or Mary Angela’s (Carytown). San Antonio may be better known for its tacos, but Luciano was a neighborhood favorite for pizza and calzones. And here in New York, Stanton, the girls and I enjoy many a Friday night at Romo’s (impossible to leave without ordering the fried dough knots for dessert).
All these years, all this time eating all kinds of pizza…certainly I can appreciate the art of freshly baked dough, tomatoes and cheese. Certainly I can. And yet in my house, today, we almost always eat frozen pizza on Tuesday.
That’s right, friends: Tuesday is frozen pizza night.
Having a weekly frozen pizza night isn’t something to brag about, especially when you have a regular going-out-to-eat-pizza night too. But this is life as we know it, for the moment at least.
My older daughter, Grace, has an after-school activity on Tuesdays. My younger daughter, Anna, gets hungry right before this activity starts. Thus, I got into the habit of heating up frozen pizza before we left the house for Grace’s activity. Then I’d pack it up in two travel food-storage containers, and off we’d go.
“You make the best pizza, Mom!” the girls often say. “And the best macaroni and cheese, and Helper!”
“Helper,” just FYI, is our family’s shorthand for “Hamburger Helper.”
Frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese, and Helper—welcome to our home, friends.
…this is life as we know it…
There are two brands of frozen pizza that we like. The first is Against the Grain Gourmet. It’s made in Vermont, a relatively short drive away, so is considered “local” at our Hannaford grocery store. We alternate between the three-cheese and pepperoni varieties. Against the Grain Gourmet is delicious and filling. It tastes like real food. As a frozen pizza connoisseur of sorts (again, not something I’m bragging about 😉 ), what more could I ask for?
Our other tried-and-true brand is Caulipower. This frozen pizza has a cauliflower crust. I was talking up Caulipower to someone recently, and they noted that cauliflower crust is trendy now. I am rarely on trend, so I didn’t know this.
(Another friend told me he finds cauliflower crust offensive, which made me laugh. I can certainly empathize with the perspective of, why mess with a good thing?)
I have always loved cauliflower, and the reason is because when I was little, my Poppy made fried cauliflower. This is one of my strongest memories of him—walking in the front door of my parents’ house on holidays, carrying a bowl of fried cauliflower.
The bowl was white with a light blue rim.
If Poppy were here today, he’d probably laugh if I told him he was being trendy with his favorite side dish.
So I’ve loved cauliflower forever, and when I noticed Caulipower in the frozen pizza aisle for the first time, I had to try it. We really like the cauliflower crust, but if you’re more of a classic pizza lover, then this may not be the top pick for you (or my friend).
This is one of my strongest memories of him—walking in the front door of my parents’ house on holidays, carrying a bowl of fried cauliflower.
Chefs and home cooks alike enjoy building on the classics, having fun with new ideas, trying different things. For example, “flatbread” is a word I’ve been seeing more and more. Kind of like pizza, kind of not.
And now you can get gluten-free or dairy-free pizza (or flatbread). The toppings seem endless too, whether you’re in the frozen food section of the grocery store or your favorite pizzeria: pepperoni, pineapple, roasted beets, truffle oil drizzle, fried eggs.
Now, I’m an adventurous eater. If my friend Megan from Richmond happens to read this, then she can attest to my appreciation for all kinds of cuisines, from Cuban to French to Vietnamese. (What I would give for another weekday lunch at Mekong!)
I’m an adventurous eater…and I appreciate the classics too. Truffle oil drizzle is delightful, but plain cheese makes me happy any day.
I read once that pizza is the perfect food. It’s circular (we like circles). It’s easily shareable. It covers a variety of food groups, and it’s not expensive.
I’m not an expert on any of these points, so I can’t say for sure if all of this is true.
I am a writer, though. And I’ve dabbled in poetry.
Truffle oil drizzle is delightful, but plain cheese makes me happy any day.
The poet in me believes that pizza is the perfect food. Because it brings people together.
A hot summer day, or a cold winter’s night. A party for more people than you expected (everyone RSVP-ed yes!). En route to an after-school activity.
I realized, as I was writing this, that pizza often is the first meal we eat when we move into a new home, sitting cross-legged on the floor amid boxes and memories waiting to be unpacked.
Often too, it’s the last thing we eat when we leave. Steadfast, when other things are in flux.
Whether frozen, takeout or homemade, pizza is the food we count on. It’s the food that’s with us through all the moments of our life, ranging from joy-filled to sorrowful to mundane. All the moments—good, bad and indifferent—that make up the full human experience.
The human experience varies cross-culturally, I know. Possibly I speak too much from my American perspective, or Italian-American perspective…and if so, my apologies.
The desire to share a meal together seems universal, though. To break bread together—whether the bread appears as pizza, baguettes, churros, dosas, tacos or any other carb-based specialty.
In my experience, the bread has been pizza. The people I’ve shared it with the most have been those closest to my heart.
Today is Tuesday, and you know what that means.
But you could do worse than break out one of your favorite frozen pizzas for dinner.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.