The Pizza Phenomenon

Papa Del’s Pizza!

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do….“*

This has been my attitude towards consuming pizza since I began to eat it. It’s been one of my favorite foods since I was a child. I always thought it was so strange when I would see people who could eat ONE slice of pizza at a meal and claim to be satisfied. Granted, it depends on the size of the slice and if you live in New York City, one slice can certainly be the equivalent of two. But let’s say one is eating thin crust. I mean, come on. Like Imo’s from St. Louis and Monical’s from Central Illinois, a person simply can not be satisfied with one slice of thin crust. They’re cut into small squares and are designed to be eaten in larger quantities. Even Domino’s has capitalized on doing this.

Between that and the other non-New York slices, I just find it dumbfounding that people exist who can merely pick at pizza or take one and say, “I’m good.” Forreal?

Then I moved to Illinois, home of Chicago style pizza. I’d had this style before, if you count it when one frequents the chain called UNO’s. In Champaign-Urbana, there is a Chicago style place called Papa Del’s. There is one close by to my office and it’s very convenient to go and pick up a slice during the day.

Well. I am a changed woman.

I can actually consume one slice of this pizza and be totally satisfied. I never thought it would happen. I guess that’s why there’s that ‘never say never’ phrase. Oh, I can eat two or more slices, but for a quick and portion controlled lunch, it’s not exactly the best decision when one is working. The slices are thick and hearty with plenty of robust tomato sauce; even one topping suffices and I’m a multiple topping kind of gal.

I must congratulate the universe (or just those who invented Chicago style pizza, perhaps) because in all my decades of pizza consumption, I have never been able to stay away from eating multiple slices. And with this satisfying type of pizza, I don’t need to. I will say this, though – if you do not like thick crust, don’t bother. Then this won’t work for you if you’re similar to me regarding the “can’t have just one slice” thing. Thick lovers need only apply.

A nice side benny: I don’t feel like a piece of garbage when I’m finished because I’ve kept the portion reasonable and I take my time eating it. It’s….actually incredibly satisfying. And at the end of the day, I get to say I had pizza for lunch. It’s win-win-win. (The Office reference, for those of you familiar.)

There is hope for me yet as I go along with this portion control business. Win.

*Lyric from Harry Nilsson’s song “One”

An Egregious Sin

So….it’s come to my attention that if you live in New York City and you order AND enjoy Domino’s Pizza, that there’s something wrong with you. Perhaps I have some gene that needs to be removed because I actually enjoy…nay, PREFER Domino’s Pizza over some of NYC’s finest. Don’t get me wrong. I love New York style pizza. I like the big floppiness of the pieces, the consistency, the vast array of toppings that they come up with – some of the combinations are out of this world and crazy delicious. You can buy just one or two slices and be on your way.

But sometimes I don’t want just one or two slices. Sometimes I want to custom the order and do it in my pajamas. And God bless it, my tastebuds enjoy how this place throws together a pizza pie. I grew up in St. Louis, everyone. Missouri. Very Midwestern place. We didn’t have the local pizza joints on the corner where Giuseppe makes you a homemade pie from Sicily. Domino’s WAS the local pizza joint. The only thing that was really ours was Imo’s, which is St. Louis style pizza. It’s extra large, thin crust pizza with a distinct blend of cheeses…Man, I miss Imo’s. Okay I’m getting off track now. But you get my point.

So the other night on just such an occasion, I ordered a delicious, medium pizza with pepperoni and green peppers. It had a regular crust and it came with two 20oz bottles of Coke Zero. The deal was like $10 for this whole thing. It doesn’t get any better than that when you live in NYC. Oh wait, it does – I ordered it online. And they have their handy dandy pizza tracker thing. I didn’t have to leave the house, I didn’t have to worry about some inept person over the phone misunderstanding my order. It was beautiful. It showed up. It was piping hot, fantastically tasty and I had plenty to eat for the evening plus some leftover for lunch the next day. I’m not a leftovers fan but Domino’s Pizza (and their ranch dressing!) makes the cut. And Pizza Hut. Don’t even get me started on the fact that NYC is bereft of Pizza Hut.

At one point, my very nice new roommate came in and sat down to watch some TV. He finally looked over at me and the pizza and goes, “What’s with the Domino’s? Is this some holdover from the Midwest or Rochester or something?” I burst out laughing and conceded that he was not the first person to ask me about my love for this total commercialized chain pizza. Back when I worked in television production, there was a producer who mocked me pretty enthusiastically for lowering myself to order it, enjoy it and tell people about it. I guess I need to hide my preference like a politician who frequents the dirty brothel on the other side of the tracks. But seriously, if I wanted pizza (and I really did), what am I supposed to do? The nearest pizzeria to me in Astoria is Boston Pizza. I think it’s a safe bet to say that as a New Yorker, I’m not supposed to order pizza from a place called Boston Pizza. But also my roommate confirmed it tasted like ass. So there you have it.

How does anybody not think this looks yummy?

How does anybody not think this looks yummy?

At least while the conundrum of where to order pizza in our ‘hood hadn’t been solved, I had an out for why I had it in the house. Now when I see my pizza box in the recycling bin I feel like I’m supposed to be ashamed. But I’m not! I fucking like it! I did a little background search on the chain and I thought this part of the Wikipedia entry was pretty funny. Remember the character the Noid from the 80s? Avoid the Noid? Well here’s the scoop behind that:

In the 1980s, Domino’s Pizza was well known for its advertisements featuring The Noid. That concept was created by Group 243 Inc. who then hired Will Vinton Studios to produce the television commercials that they created. Customers were implored to order from Domino’s in order to “avoid the Noid.”

In 1989, a man, Kenneth Lamar Noid, who thought the ads were a personal attack on him, held two employees of an Atlanta, Georgia, Domino’s restaurant hostage for over five hours. After forcing them to make him a pizza, Noid surrendered to police. Noid was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, extortion, and possession of a firearm during a crime, but he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. [11] Contrary to popular belief, this incident did not cause Domino’s to pull the “Noid” campaign off the air; in reality, Noid creator and owner Will Vinton Studios asked for a larger amount of money for continued use of the Noid character, and Domino’s chose not to renew its contract.

I don’t remember that incident since I was 9 years-old, but I think that’s kinda funny. Poor guy. You have to wonder if he enjoyed the taste and if he boycotted the place after the Noid was created or what. But back to the point. Yes, I live in New York where we have 5,000 pizza joints that probably make better pizza than Domino’s. Is it cliche? Certainly. Am I supporting one of the most recognized worldwide brands on the planet, thereby making me somehow inferior because I’m denying Vinny the chance of heating me up a slice? Yes. But it’s not just that it’s delicious and cost-effective. It’s convenient, dammit. But to me, it’s worth it to pay the price of getting heckled so that I can answer the door in my “Everyone loves an Italian girl” t-shirt and snowman pajama pants and stuff my face with pizza that no one but me in all of New York City openly likes.

Domino’s popular slogan is, “Get the door. It’s Domino’s.” I will get the door, thank you – running and tripping and slipping with my money clutched tightly in my hand. Because my cheapass, “fake,” sweatshop pizza is here.