Too Hot to Cook: Let’s Talk About Pizza

Ah yes, we’ve reached the time of year where we are laid out in a cool basement, or beneath a ceiling fan, or wandering around Target, soaking in the air conditioning. Unless your home is blessed with that mythical wonder that is Central Air, I’m guessing you’re a lot like me and haven’t wanted to do much cooking. So let’s talk about pizza instead.

Chicken Tomato Pesto Pizza
Pizza in Progress: Chicken, tomato and pesto pizza, with the mister’s homemade crust, before the cheese and the baking.

Now, I do like making pizza at home, when turning on the oven is a reasonable idea. My husband makes a fantastic dough using Pepsi made with real sugar or Mexican Coke, and he is the only person I’ve ever met who can approximate ingredient amounts while baking. He adds flour and whatnot until it seems “right,” and since the results are often great, I leave him to it. I’m usually in charge of making the sauce we’re using – tomato, pesto or peanut, usually.

Still, in 85+ degree (F) weather, I’d rather let someone else do the work.

Probably for many of us, ordering pizza means ordering from wherever has the best deal, toppings to price-wise. I’ll admit that there’s great convenience in picking up a $5 pepperoni from Little Caesars or doing whatever 2-topping deal Domino’s has, even though both places hardly make transcendent pizza. It’s good enough, but not the kind of meal where you think, “Oh man, I could eat this forever and die happy.”

Independent of cost and ease, what I want to know is, what is your perfect pizza?

For my eight-year-old daughter, the answer surprised me. Usually she is such a carnivore and would probably eat her weight in bacon if I let her, but the pizza she still goes on and on about, nine months later, was a vegetarian option from a restaurant in San Francisco. Made with thin crust and pesto, it was covered in yellow and orange heirloom tomatoes. About the only thing she said throughout the entire meal was, “This is so good.” She’s since requested that we recreate it with the tomatoes we can get at the farmers’ market here in Montana.

Me, I love a good veggie pizza, and I don’t eat pork unless it comes in the form of pepperoni. I find salami gross, but for whatever reason, its round cousin is especially delicious. Recently, my husband and I had a (glorious) child-free dinner in Spokane, WA at a new-ish place called South Perry Pizza. We ordered their veggie – tomato sauce, provolone, Parmesan, red onions, red peppers, roma tomatoes, fresh baby spinach – and added their uncured pepperoni as another topping. Three months later, I’m still thinking about when I can visit again and make the exact same order. If I lived in that neighborhood, as a few of my friends do, the employees would know me by name. I’m sure their other offerings are great, but what we ate was perfect.

So tell me, can you remember the best pizza you ever had? Do you love the cheapo stuff and you don’t care who knows it? Did you once try an unusual topping that you ended up loving? Let’s make each other hungry.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

32 replies on “Too Hot to Cook: Let’s Talk About Pizza”

When I lived in Tallahassee, FL during my masters degree, I frequented a place called Decent Pizza. The pizza was much better than decent, particularly their margarita pizza which was an olive oil base with herbs, mozza and tomatoes. Sadly, I probably won’t be getting back to Tallahassee any time soon.

I love pizza!  It’s so easy; I usually do a “garbage” pizza to help me get rid of veggies that are starting to go bad.  Veggie pizza, MMmmmm.

But my favorite pizza right now is something I just discovered. It’s a thin crust salami pizza that is so perfect it’s not even funny. I normally don’t like salami on pizza, but Mr. Nonsense wanted to try it and thank goodness we did because it was amazing. The only problem is that this place is maybe five minutes from my apartment and the temptation to get it every week is strong.

I love a good thin crust pizza with a sweeter tomato sauce. I hate it when it is overloaded with dried herbs! Ruins it.

My favorite pizza is from a little shop I loved in the last town I lived in. I even worked there for a summer. Just a simple tomato sauce, cheese, onions, and spinach. Maybe mushrooms. Then I would top it with sliced avocado at home. I love avocado on pizza. So amazing. I would eat that all day, every day.

After working there I learned that Julio the cook made the best pizza out of all of them. I would request a Julio pizza and would only order from there when I knew he was working. I miss him!

Mmmm pizza mmm pizza hurray.

My first fruit pizza was an amazing experience. Probably also because I was allowed to make and pick everything all by myself and I was eight or something (and supervised, of course).

Our first time in Italy ..a pizza with proscuitto di Parma and big mushrooms I can’t remember the name of, a mountain of rocket salad and Italian cheese curls on top of it with the lightest sprinkle of a balsamic vinegar. I still remember its name.

But I can also really really enjoy a big fat American pizza Hawaii or Salami. So big you can eat the crust in layers. If it’s a stuffed crust, I will sing Hallelujah.

I want to dive right into that pizza. I don’t even care that it isn’t cooked.

The best pizza I’ve ever had is at a little bitty pizza place in D.C. a couple of blocks away from the Washington Hilton on Dupont Circle. I was there for two and a half days and went there four times. I want to go back to DC just for this pizza of the gods.

On another note, has anyone ever done the grilled pizza thing? I keep seeing recipes for it, but it looks difficult. And delicious.

I ate a Blue cheese, pear and Arugula pizza (is it even a pizza at that point) at a pizza/ wine bar in Crown Heights  that was half Ultra Orthodox Jews and half hipsters, so the experience there probably contributed to the delicousness. I just made pizza the other day with two of my friends from China, who had never made pizza before, so they were easy to wow, but it was fun making pizza into some kind of cultural experience, even if it all seemed kind of bizarre (here, I am an American Jew, have a pizza!) (That one was spicy motzeralla, onions, mushrooms, tomato sauce (from a jar, I’m lazy) and then cheddar on top to keep the excessive amounts of veggies from falling off. All on garlic trust from Trader Joe’s (that pizza dough in a bag rocks)).

Pizza is probably my most favorite food ever. I miss NYC pizza, though there’s one place in town that’s really good New York style. Usually these days I just go for plain cheese and then dump a metric fuckton of parmesan on top, but I also love pretty much any meat on pizza. I also have a weird nostalgic soft spot for Totino’s party pizzas. My favorites in NYC, in no particular order, were:

  • Bacon pizza and whole-wheat crust pizzas from PIE
  • The genoa salami pizza at Piola
  • Sausage pizza from Patsy’s
  • Meatball pizza at Nick’s in Forest Hills
  • Anything from Anna Maria on the Upper East

My favorite pizza of all time is cheese and ground beef from a small restaurant in Connecticut called Dimitri’s. It is heavenly, but I don’t live in CT so I don’t get it often. If I’m making it myself, I like meatball, ricotta, cheddar and possibly bacon. Some other options for yummy pizza appetizers are a cold pizza with ranch cream cheese and fresh veggies and cheese, or a crust baked with garlic butter and fontina. Or ricotta and barbecue chicken. I used to work in a gourmet pizza place, so I have lots of favorite recipes.

For the amount of commuters and proximity to NYC, you would think that there would be some decent pizza places in my area. But alas, there aren’t any. I’m in a pizza wasteland. Not that it stopped me from getting it for dinner tonight.

I’m a classic pizza kinda gal – there’s something magical about a good slice.

There’s an amazing local place near me that makes really unusual pizzas. They use cornmeal in the crust and rarely have any sauce. My favorite pizza is topped with white corn kernels and balsamic marinated shallots. I was skeptical when I saw it on the menu, but it is AMAZING. I’m sorely tempted to eat there at least once a week and I take all of my visitors there for dinner.

I’m a big fan of black olives and mushrooms on pizza when we order it out. There are a ton of family owned places and local chains in our area, so we never have to suffer Pizza Hut or Papa John’s.

When I make it here at home (my grandparents gave us a pizza stone and peel as a housewarming present), I do a red sauce with goat cheese, bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken breast, fresh cherry or grape tomatoes sliced in half, and fresh basil. I sometimes add diced mushrooms to my half, since the Mister doesn’t like them, and occasionally black olives. It is delicious!

Honestly, when it gets too hot to cook but we’re tired of pizza (OK, I’m tired of pizza; the Mister could never get sick of it), I break out the slow cooker. Most people think of it as a winter thing, but it’s pretty sweet for the summertime. My favorite is chicken breast stewed in a can of diced tomatoes, spiced with basil, garlic, and oregano. At the end of the day, shred the chicken, toss in some quick-cook couscous, and sprinkle feta and black olives on top. Voila. No heating of the kitchen, and it’s pretty light.

I don’t remember the name of the chain but it’s this really tasty restaurant in England, they even have one in one of the London airports. The pizzas are amazing, and for a non-tomato-sauce eater like myself, it was the first time I’d ever seen pizza without tomato sauce (pesto and alfredo options). I think I ate there like three or four times in my 6 months over England-side as a student abroad. It would be more if they had one in the town my family is from in Norfolk. So far as tasty and more localized: Papa Murphy’s Veggie de-lite and Beaujeau’s calzones are my go-to favorites mmm!

Unfortunately, I have to take 2 of those Lactaid pills every time I eat pizza because I’m lactose intolerant, and even those are powerless against Alfredo! But I can see how that would be really good, especially with something like grilled chicken and roasted red peppers. The little bit of Parmesan in pesto, I can handle.

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