I picked my grandson, Gavyn, up from school yesterday afternoon. It’s less than two weeks before his 16th birthday. Most teens live for this birthday because they can start driving, but this is not the case with him. I guess he expects all of us to chauffeur him around town until all cars learn to drive themselves. Getting my driver’s license was a big deal, and I’d already gotten my learner’s permit before my sweet sixteenth. It was a proud badge of independence, but it also led to me first accident when I spun out in my dad’s 1965 Mustang on a rain-slickened road and took out a mailbox. I realized quickly what a huge responsibility it was to share the road. Fortunately, I’ve had few accidents since and none of them have been serious. 

I’m sure it was a big worry for my parents when I took off by myself during those high school years. Gavyn just might be saving my son Adam from that stressful aspect of child raising. At the very least, he won’t follow in my footsteps and take the car to California or loan it to a friend for an impromptu daytrip to Toledo. Adam was never this reckless behind the wheel, that I know of, when he got his license. However, he never had a sports car to drive like I did as a teen. 

Gavyn and I talked about pizza on our long drive back to North Port together. He was surprised that I like to think of myself as a pizza connoisseur, and so I shared some of my experiences with him. My favorite is from Greg’s Volcano Pizza in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. Most people naturally gravitate back to their familiar eating places when comparing. My wife relished Nubiano’s or Bruno’s Pizza that she grew up eating. One explanation for this homey appeal, that I believe to be true, is that we get hooked on the local water that’s used to drink and cook. I also had my share of frozen pizzas growing up since delivery was rare in those days. Our neighbor and a high school friend owned the Elkhart Noble Roman’s franchise, and I wanted to help support their business. It was entertaining to watch them throw the dough to stretch it into a round shape. Big John’s tavern once served a memorable pizza bread. Recently, we made a stop in Johnsonville, Tennessee at the sister Greg’s Volcano restaurant, proving that I will definitely go out of my way for this pizza.

The other hometown favorite was Shakey’s Pizza Parlor known for their all-you-can-eat buffet. They also had these mojo potatoes that I craved. When we moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Jimmy’s Pizza had a similar offering. Pizza Hut also served an unlimited spread. On Fridays, the gang from work would get together to gorge ourselves at one place or the other. Chuck E Cheese was a client of ours, and their mascot cheered for our WMEE basketball team. The animated entertainment was the main appeal, not necessarily the food. 

When we’d travel into Chicago, deep dish pizza was the craze. Pizzeria Uno and Giordano’s were popular back then and still around to this day. In New York City, Ray’s Pizza is on practically every corner. It was usually our go-to dinner before a Broadway Show. On one occasion we went to Amore for a quick slice after watching Bombay Dreams. There was also an Amore Pizzeria in Indy and seems to be a common name in the business. “Like a Big Pizza Pie…that’s Amore.” The next time in the Big Apple, we ate at Angelo’s Pizza between showings of The Color Purple and Putnam County Spelling Bee. In D.C., it was Pizzeria Paradiso for lunch or Matchbox, two of our daughters’ favs when they were studying at American and George Washington, then lived in our Nation’s Capital. 

Indianapolis was our next career stop, and Bazbeaux Pizza was a steady favorite. We also began to take advantage of the delivery services for Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa John’s, and Little Ceasars, among others. Papa Murphy’s was available to take-out and be heated in your home oven. Later, it was on grocery store shelves. Before we were married, my wife lived in the Broad Ripple area, so Some Guys was usually her #1 pick. Pucino’s and Donato’s were also Indy pizza destinations. 

Decatur had Monical’s Pizza, Del Carmen’s, and Jupiter when we craved a slice. We went into St. Louis on several occasions, including the Jersey Boys performance and ate at Pizzeria Due with friends. My wife and I ate in the finer restaurants in Vegas, where we were married and had numerous business events, so the only pizza stop I could find was at Bonanno’s for lunch near the Tropicana. Dinner was at Joe’s Stone Crab. 

I once bought a book about the 100 top pizza places in America and started a quest to visit them all. The book somehow got lost on a trip to Hilton Head and I didn’t give it much credit because Volcano wasn’t mentioned. Guisseppi’s was credited in the book, so we had stopped there for a bite. The #1 pick at that time was New York City’s Una Pizza Napoletana and it has become legendary. I still remember the long-lasting flavor in my mouth from the Margherita-style, wood-fired, flatbread that I wanted to savor forever, to the point that I actually passed-up my traditional NYC treat, a black-and-white-cookie. I kept the resource book nearby whenever we traveled and tried to visit as many as possible, crossing them off the list, before it mysteriously disappeared. The pictures in the book looked good enough to eat, so maybe someone did!

In Austin, it was more BBQ than pizza. The original Home Style Pizza on Congress Street was an institution that has since expanded to other locations in Texas. We also tried Yaghi’s, Pizza Nizza, Hog Island Deli, Rounders, Frank & Angie’s, Hotlips, East Side Pies, Villa, Double Dave’s, Tony’s Coal Fired, Buffalina, Pieous, Salvation, and Farmhouse during our years in the city. Sadly, most of the homeless in Austin seemed to be talented guitarists that played on the streets, hoping for a break. The local joke was knowing the difference between a pizza and a musician. The answer is that a pizza can feed a family of eight. I never tried a BBQ pizza pie, my preference was always sausage, and once again there was none better than Elkhart’s Volcano. I got one every time I returned home to northern Indiana. 

The career path then took us to Portland, Oregon. The city was known for its food trucks to an even greater degree than Austin. Apizza Scholls, Lovely Fifty-Fifty, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Sizzle Pie, and Oven & Shaker were some of our regular haunts. We also tried Pizzacato, Jerry’s, Lucky House, Brick Oven, and Firehouse, according to my diary notes. During the pandemic, we frequently got take-out pies from Seratto, next door to our apartment building, or walked down the block to Escape from New York for less pricy carry-out. Tally was not allowed to go inside but the pizza-makers would occasionally offer her a taste through an open window. We also lived next door to a sausage plant, so both of us would enjoy the neighborhood smells. 

Round the world travels took us to Venice, Italy and genuine Italian pizza at Girani Cage, then to Rome at da Luigi after visiting the Vatican, Sorrento’s Pizzeria Aurora, and finally by ferry to Positano for an Il Fornino pie. While in Paris, we had pizza and wine at Mornay. In British Columbia, we shared our pizza dinner at Megabite with stroller-bound Tinker and Tally after the ferry delivered us to Butchart Gardens. Before our recent Alaska/Hawaii cruise, we enjoyed Pacifico pizza in Vancouver. On various trips to California, we enjoyed Ghiradelli pizza in San Francisco, as much as their chocolate, and devoured Arthur Mac’s when visiting my stepdaughter’s home in Oakland. Early in her career she lived in Oklahoma City and took us to Hideaway for a pizza treat.

Finally, we officially retired in Venice, Florida, and have yet to try all the local fare. The closest pizza place is Bocca Lupo while Big Mike’s is our favorite with LI Guys close behind. It’s been many years since we’ve had pizza delivered, so I’ve lost touch with that outlet for my favorite dish. In a gated community, it’s easier to just go pick it up. Gavyn probably joined us for pizza at Mamma Lilla’s, Pioneer’s, Marco’s, and Fratelli’s near his hometown of North Port. He was not with us, nor was Adam, when Eliza, Maddux, and Nora shared a pie with us at Bobarino’s in nearby Englewood. Probably, our most memorable pizza moment was in South Beach, Miami where my wife tried to improvise and bake a frozen pizza slice in the toaster. Fire alarms went off! In her defense, when in a real kitchen, she makes the best pizza we’ve had down here in Florida.