Sunday, June 30, 2013

Real Pizza

On various occasions, I have been involved in conversations regarding the subject matter of which brand of pizza is the most delicious. The other people in the conversation will list off their favorite, some of them are great pizzas, some of them are just good, but none of them is the best. I am always reminded of the day my life was opened up to a new pizza which I never could have imagined before. Its a memory that brings a multitude of emotions: joy as I remember the taste, disappointment as I listen to the other people describing their inferior favorites and realize that they can in no way relate to my pizza experience, longing to eat that pizza again, and sadness when I think about how unlikely I am to eat it again in the near future. I know that they other members of the discussion will never be able to understand the glory and magnitude of my first Giordanos pizza experience, but I always share it with them anyway.

When I was about 13, my family lived in West Lafayette Indiana. Being a faithful Latter-day Saint family, we often would travel to the nearest LDS temple, located in Chicago Illinois. On one trip, my parents decided to follow the recommendation of a friend and try Chicago style deep dish pizza in an award winning pizzeria called Giordanos. It seemed like something that would be a little too expensive to feed a family as large as mine but the friend esteemed the restaurant so highly that we decided to check it out.

When we arrived, sat down, and looked at the menu, we were shocked at the prices. How could they charge so much for such small pizzas? We thought about leaving, but we wanted to try the pizza's so badly that we decided to just order 2 or 3 small pizzas to share among the ten of us. This would mean only two or three slices for each of us, and then we would go get some fast food to fill ourselves the rest of the way up. Turned out, those 2 slices per person filled us up so much that we could barely walk and we waddled out of there with at least 2 To-Go boxes. The pizza was like nothing I had ever experienced. Every bite was like a rush of joy from my tongue to my toes. Many pizza places claim to make deep dish pizza because they have a pizza that is a little bit deeper than their normal card-board crust. These pizzas though, were 3 inches tall and consisted of a crust much like a pie crust, but not so sweet, a layer of toppings on the bottom, a good inch of cheese, and topped with a pool of tomato sauce. You can't believe how good they are until you try them.

And so, for 10 years I have been haunted by the memory of the deep dish pizzas which from then on I ate every time I was in Chicago. Every time someone mentions how good a pizza is, I think of how much better it could be. Every time someone mentions their favorite food, I think of how I mine is only found on the other side of the country. Every time someone says how they like deep dish, I think of how sad it is that they don't even know what deep dish is.

We moved back to California when I was 14 and for a time I thought I might never have the perfect pizza again, but a little glimmer of hope ignited when I discovered that Giordanos pizzas can be ordered online from anywhere in the nation. From the day I made this discovery, I have been dreaming of one day when I could justify spending the amount of money it takes to send an already expensive pizza in the mail on dry ice all the way to the West Coast from Chicago.

And so that is the way my life went for the next decade: enjoying pizzas and other delicious foods, but always hoping that one day, I would taste a real pizza again. I never forgot that Giordanos was only a few clicks away on but I am not an extravagant person and I couldn't justify ordering a gourmet pizza from 1667.91 miles away. After all, I was still paying tuition, rent, and living off a college students wages. Two days ago, June 28, 2013, my opportunity finally came.

I just graduated with my Bachelors degree in Computer Science and I just received my first paycheck from Yahoo! inc. On top of that, June 28 is my birthday, so my lovely wife agreed that in order to celebrate not being poor (for the first time in our marriage) and my birthday, we could splurge and order some Giordanos pizza. We decided to get two because the price per pizza was much less than it would be if we ordered one. We got a sausage one (perhaps my favorite) and a spinach one (which I believe is the pizza that has won Giordanos the most awards).

When the time came finally end my 10 year Giordanos famine, I was nervous. I knew it would be good, but could it possibly live up to my expectations which have been augmenting daily for years as I've fantasized. There was a possibility that a heavenly pizza to my 14 year old self was just a good pizza to my 24 year old self. What if it was like the first time you try a Squeez-It since you were in kindergarten and you're bursting with anticipation only to realize that its just half a gulp of colored sugar water. So I tried my best to calm my nerves and realized that while no food could ever be as good as what I had built up in my head, the pizza would still taste great and I should just avoid it.

Then I took the first bite.

When I took that first bite, all I could do was smile. I chewed for a bit and said "Oh man, that's good" with a quiver in my voice. It was better than my "unrealistic" expectations. The juicy mozzarella covered sausage seemed to enlighten my mouth and fill my whole body with a jovial sense of wonder and amazement. I have had food make me happy before, but this was the first time in my whole life, that food actually made my laugh with joy. I even had a slight urge to cry. My wife said that she has never seen me make the face I made while I was eating that pizza. I was amazed and relieved to know that my expectations were realized and exceeded and that there really was a food that good out there.

Now I'm still enjoying the leftovers one or two slices at a time :)