Pizza — What About It

There are two things that Chicagoans and New Yorkers agree on. Where they live, they have the best pizza. New Yorkers are intolerable, only because they live in a city so large that they never have to escape their bubble and see other parts of the country. Chicagoans can do that, too, but they’re a Great Lakes city and they can fit into any Great Lakes community without feeling too uncomfortable.

I have had pizza in New York. I have had pizza in Chicago. I have not been to Lucali or Lou Malnati’s, but I have had good pizza in both cities. The worst pizza I ever had was from a restaurant in Chicago. The best pizza I ever had was in NE Ohio.

The thing about pizza in NE Ohio and Pittsburgh is that there are small mom and pops everywhere. Many run by families of Italian immigrants. There are also small local chains, run by families of Italian immigrants. They’re just not as easy to get to, although in some ways they’re easier.

You don’t walk everywhere like you do in New York and Chicago. You can’t. Everything is too far apart and the cities were built around the concept of the automobile. It’s good because the traffic is light and everyone has a car, so it’s easy to get to any pizza joint in the area. It’s not so good because the density isn’t quite the same, although there are a LOT of pizza places in the area.

The other thing about it is that it’s made to be eaten. There isn’t one kind but there is something lacking — ultra thin crust. You can find it if you’re desperate for it, but the really good pizza is the Sicilian style. You’ll have to look if you want to find an artisanal pizza like Lucali, but that isn’t what most of us are after.

Often, the crust is fried in a greasy pan, giving it extra flavor, covered with a spicy sauce and some mozzarella and provolone. It won’t win design awards from Chef Ramsay but the people love it. Like NY and Chicago, you will find many lousy places with powdery crust, undercooked crust, dull sauce that is lacking in flavor, and so on. You’ll also find plenty of cheap slices (but you have to buy the whole pie). Those places are everywhere and the Cleveland, Youngstown, Pittsburgh areas are not immune. If you want a good pie, however, the folks in these cities will be able to steer you to something delightful.


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