I love pizza. My father used to joke (although I don't really think he was joking) that all I ate was pizza. Three meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner — pizza! He wasn't that far off, to be totally honest. I have eaten a lot of pizza in my life.
When I was a kid, there was a large discount market near my house. It had a number of individual businesses under one roof. It wasn't exactly a mall or a shopping center. They called themselves a "mart" and it was more along the lines of a farmer's market. There was a selection of food counters at the mart, including my first exposure to pizza. The concession was owned and operated by two women who, in hindsight, didn't know the first thing about making pizza. But, in my memory, that pizza was good. Cheese. Sauce. Crust. What else did one need?
As my life experiences expanded beyond my little Northeast Philadelphia cocoon, I encountered actual pizza. Pizza made by actual trained pizza chefs. Burly guys in athletic shirts, a red cloth tied tightly around their necks, expertly tossing a huge circle of pizza dough in the air like those jugglers I saw on the Ed Sullivan Show. They'd shove prepared pies into a hot narrow oven and extract the same a few moments later on a large wooden paddle — all in a choreographed ballet. They had names like "Piasano's" and "Luigi's" and "Frank's" (short for "Francesco") and the slices they served were as big as your head. And they were good. Of course, they were good. When I was in high school, I frequented Philadelphia's famed South Street nearly every weekend. It was the epicenter of "what was happening" among my peers. Whether you went to see a weekly midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or just came to hang out, South Street was hopping with activity. And where there was teenage activity, there was pizza. When my friends and I would descend upon South Street, our first stop was the aforementioned Franks, a small pizzeria next to a cool little stationery store. Frank, who I don't believe spoke a word of English, made great pizza. It was hot and cheesy and spicy and the slices, once lifted off the flimsy, grease-coated paper plate, needed to be supported by both hands. And — boy! — was it good!
I've had pizza all over Philadelphia. I've had pizza in other states — near and far. I've had pizza in the few other countries I've been to. I've even had pizza in the wee hours of the morning aboard several different cruise ships. And they were all good. All of them.
I reiterate. It is pretty hard to screw up pizza. You may have your particular favorite pizza place. A place that is your "go-to" place. A pizzeria to which you are loyal. One that you insist — insist! — is the best pizza in the world and where you bring friends in an effort to convince them to share your affection. You may engage in hours-long debates about who has the best pizza you've ever eaten, during which you reveal a little known hole-in-the-wall in an unexplored alley with no street address that is run by the great-great-great-great-grandnephew of the actual guy who invented pizza. You may turn your nose up at places like Pizza Hut or Little Caesars. You might cringe at the very idea of Ellio's or DiGiorno. Please. Argue among yourselves because I don't do any of that.
I just love pizza. And all pizza is good pizza.