Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ode to Pizza

i do not eat pizza. perhaps i have mentioned that in the past. it does not agree with me. arguments abound between me and the saucy, cheesy dreamboat of so many people's lives -- including my own son's -- but our quarrel runs deep, long and, unfortunately, has caused us to have quite the riff.

oh, i'll make it. from scratch even. but, for me, pizza has become one of those foods that if i buy it frozen and plop it in the oven for my beloved chilly-b boys, i'm cool with that. yep. you read right. i'm cool with frozen pizza (although i also keep homemade dough in the freezer, so go figure). i'm actually not as keen on the pre-packaged pizza bready dough-like stuff that you can fashion into a pizza. for some reason that just doesn't trip my culinary trigger, but i am all about the joys and wonders of pizza, i remember it, value it, i just don't give in to it, for the most part.

when we went to chicago, that changed. at least during the trip to chicago.

there are a few places that serve the kind of pizza that stick, forever, in my heart and bring back memories of lovely, cheesy glory that dance upon my tongue and across my senses. mario's restaurant in westwood, california (which, i do believe, is gone) was one of those, along with barones, jacopo's (which my brother informed me was closed down not that long ago -- the one we grew up with on the corner of beverly drive and little santa monica in beverly hills... i cried a little over that), valentino restaurant in venice, california (a fine dining italian spot that became a fave of ours as kids and whose pizza always makes me smile), harpo's in manhattan beach (this is a place that existed for a blip in time, but had been opened by two guys from chicago, so it was chicago style pizza with this really lovely cornmeal infused crust and delicious toppings... fillings... whatever -- one of the guys also owned the manhattan beach health club for men at which i was the morning receptionist and from where i was summarily fired one late winter day, but that's a whole other story), ray's pizza in new york (and don't ask me which one, cuz they're on every freakin' street corner), this killer place my sister-in-law and, when he wasn't working, brother would invade during a stint in queensland, australia -- i would get their seafood pizza that had clams and squid on it. trust me, it was amazing just as the fresh out of the fryer and dusted with cinnamon sugar donuts we would get at this little shop in sanctuary cove, where my bro and sis-in-law and beloved jordman were living at the time (this is all pre-rachel, although rachel was certainly making a statement in my sister-in-law's ever expanding belly). kathy moriarty's place in beverly hills -- i think it's called bronx pizza where you can buy slices and it's awesome.

i now add to this list Giordano's Pizzeria in Chicago, Illinois. O... M... G. thank you, dan, and stacey for talking it up and convincing me, yes, it is worth putting aside your pizza phobia and diving in.

brandon, as you know, could live on pizza alone and be very happy. perhaps not healthy, but happy. he is well aware of chicago style pizza. we have eaten it not only here in the midwest, but also in los angeles. when he learned we would be taking a trip there, he made a point of telling me he wanted to eat pizza there and i promised him i would eat it with him (mentally shaking in my boots the whole time). and, so, i pile nicholas -- whose elementary school graduation we were celebrating with this trip -- and brandon into the tiny, gas efficient rented car, way too many distractions to really fit in this car, and make the trek to the outskirts of the windy city, Schaumberg. this is where medieval times resides, it is the attraction we were focused on for nicholas' sake -- he's a romantic, knights in shining armor kinda guy -- with every intention of making our way into the city for a day of adventure and pizza.

i won't bore you about the drive from schaumberg into chicago, because it will bore and not surprise you. fluffin' crazy, let's just say. but let me share our giordano experience, shall i?

we arrive at the pizzeria amidst a tornado warning. yep. we get there at a time pre-rush hour, which makes life VERY comfortable. we sit and look at the selections, feel the vibe of this serious chicago tradition and relax into it. after conferring with my pal, stacey, before we left for chicago, i pass along information to both nicholas and brandon that i hope will make our lives easier -- the pizza at this place is dense, full of yum and deceiving. do not buy more than you can chew. normally, curbing my sons' portions would send them into a semi-tizzy. however, as they watch the pizza go by our table and because they both adore and trust stacey, they believe me. so, we order two small, "individual" pizzas for our table -- brandon gets one with cheese, pepperoni and onions; i order one with cheese, shrimp and spinach for me and nicholas. we also get a chicken caesar salad for us all to share and nicholas orders lasagna.

the pizza came and we just sort of looked at it for a moment. no way was i gonna be able to make it through one piece, let alone the whole thing. brandon realizes the same thing, but he doesn't want to tell ME that. he grabs a slice or a deep, luscious, decadent piece, takes one fork filled bite -- yep, my son realized no way was he gonna be able to eat this just with his hands -- and stares at me. oh, man. he's in heaven. then i do the same and, truly, i was transported. this is what pizza should be -- delicious, cheesy without being TOO cheesy, saucy, tangy spicy and hot. the crust was firm, soft, crispy all at once, lovely flavor and the shrimp/spinach combo was a hit. i ate a half a piece, nicholas ate the other half then we sat back and looked at the two pizzas, realizing that the one piece each we took out of them made barely a dent and we have plenty of leftovers to take on our trip back and still have some at home. we are in heaven.

oh, i paid for it later. trust me. my stomach did back flips, forward tumbles and called the fire department. but it didn't matter. Giordano's made our day and we still talk about it. as i said, this was not our first foray into chicago style pizza. there's a place here in town that the kids like quite a bit and i'm sure it's lovely. but it's not giordano's and no amount of big eyed begging from my delightful children will get me to put the dreaded demon pizza into my mouth.

but invite me to giordano's again and i am so all about it. i'd even order my very own.