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To Find Excellent Pizza, Accept Pizza.

“Good luck is nothing but preparedness and opportunity coming together” -Deepak Chopra

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Navigating through life and finding a new favorite pizza place can share the same anxieties, lessons and triumphs.  I uncovered this several years ago after I relocated to Madison, Wisconsin for work and found myself equal parts excited and overwhelmed. I had the stress of a new job, new living arrangements and the biggest challenge of all; discovering which pizza place would become “my new pizza place”?

Pizza compels me.

I should start out by explaining that I absolutely love pizza, more than most things. Everyone knows I have a serious passion for pizza, my friends tease me about it, my co-workers regularly inquire about it, my wife’s embarrassed by it, and my parents seem confused over it.  I crave it all the time and every week build anticipation for my next pizza adventure. So, this whole idea may seam trivial, but pizza, in my opinion is one of life’s finest pleasures.

Gus’ Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin is my all-time favorite pizza.  It’s very thin, cut in squares and really cheesy.  In my opinion close to the perfect pizza composition.

Off to my new home.

As I set off for Madison I had nerves about adapting to a new home, it was my first time moving away from the small town I grew up in.  I had traveled a bit and I knew I would adjust and probably come to love it, but at the end of the day I also wanted a good piece of pizza.

Though I had many things on the table, I would commonly find myself asking “How was anything around here going to compete with Gus’ pizza?”  “Who’s going to have a little hand pinched crust like them?” “What place would deliver that borderline excessive amount of cheese?”

Gus’ and their cracker thin crust had transformed into the security of back home, it was a warm a quilt of high quality mozzarella snuggling me in, delicate hints of basil assuring me I’d be ok.  Worse than that, Gus’ had become the metric by which I was judging all other pizza.

I had put Gus’ pizza on a pedestal.

What I was really asking is “How can a new pizza restaurant compete with the idea of Gus’ pizza” I’ve created in my mind?”

In my first few weeks in Madison, what do you know?  I tried too hard to replicate that cheesy cracker thin-crust I missed from Gus’ back home.  Often, I would force a solution: I would order thin-crust pizza from a notorious deep-dish pizza place, then walk away in disappointment because it didn’t live up to expectations.  I would order chain pizza with extra cheese to mimic the “hole in the wall” pizza I craved so much.  I was forcing outcomes into square “tavern style party cuts”.

Then I learned to let go.

I’m an avid reader, especially into mindfulness, behavioral psychology, personal development, leadership etc.  Through my extra curricular learning, I found how to enjoy myself and enjoy pizza even more.

I discovered how to take delight in an experience and let it soak in, the new pizza along the way was a perk. I started reaching out of my comfort zone and trying new varieties of pizza and savoring every bit of the uniqueness they brought.   Along the way I found new favorites and created fond memories.  And of course I found new favorite spots.

What pizza taught me:

When I attached to a specific result in my pizza quests I set myself up for disappointment.  The pictures I created in my mind of how I wanted situations to play out, created unrealistic expectations and often left me feeling like things didn’t go my way.  By opening up my mind to alternative options and to the infinite ways life can go, I felt the real joy of living.  I was free to ebb and flow with the world and let opportunities present themselves.

We should all invite change and different experiences and enjoy them for what they are. I have to force myself to do this everyday, but the results are worth it.  You will be able to seize unforeseen opportunities because you won’t be set on one specific outcome. Know what you want, detach from the result, enjoy the moment and just be; you will find what you’re looking for.

  • What I’m eating: Rosati’s, Madison West, super thin crust (yes, that’s an option) extra cheese, pepperoni.
  • What I’m reading: “The Happiness Hypothesis”-Jonathan Haidt

Transferring my Thoughts

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” -John Milton

After a bout of the flu, the winter-blues have me caught within their frigid grip.  With February dragging on, the short dreary Wisconsin days allow my negative emotions to seep in. When the days are so dark and cold, it’s easy for doubts from the past and anxieties of the future to surface. As I almost succumb to the desire to curl up and hibernate, a series of simple texts from a great friend across the country reminded me to embrace the moment, get up and get out for some righteous pizza.

New pizza in a unique environment was the exact recipe I needed to snap me out of my funk and remember that the days are only getting longer.  I could think of no better way to jog myself out of my rut than spending a Saturday afternoon at a stylish little pizza joint in Milwaukee sampling pies.

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Time for Transfer Pizzeria Cafe.

I had several hours to kill for lunch in Milwaukee so I grabbed a table at Transfer Pizzeria Cafe. I was seated at a table near a window to people watch, put my phone down and intentionally tried to soak up the atmosphere.

Before long gentle whispers of indie singers and delayed guitars floated around me as I began to peruse the menu.  I was joined by The Shins, Bon Iver, then The Postal Service; the rapid fire of feel good classics, the aroma of fresh pizza and Transfers contemporary ambience caught up with me.  All of my distractions and worries in life suddenly began to fade as the glow of a warm pizza buzz snuggly wrapped itself around me.

Transfer Pizzeria Cafe was the suggestion of my dear friend Sean Williamson.  Sean is lucky enough to eat pizza in New York everyday, but Transfer was his #1 pick in his old stomping ground Milwaukee.  Sean and I have eaten pizza together for many years, so I take his opinion very seriously and he even encouraged me to order two pizzas; now that’s a true friend.

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Garlic Pies.

Transfer is renowned for their garlic pizzas, which all begin with base of a garlic cream sauce instead of red tomato sauce.  I started out the Garlic Special.  The Garlic Special came with large hand-pinched sausage and mushrooms that were smothered in high quality mozzarella. The crust is flaky, yet light and airy, so it provides a nice chew, but is still able to support ample toppings.  According to my waitress the dough is made in-house every day.

I took note of an older couple across the way from me sharing a more traditional looking deluxe pizza; pepperoni, onions, green peppers and mushrooms.  So, I opted to make that pizza course number two for me, though I was tempted to ask them for a slice.

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One of my favorite things about Transfer was that they put their toppings underneath the cheese.  I have a soft spot for joints that put the toppings under the cheese.  The cheese seems to melt at a different consistency and all the flavors seem to meld together better. Overall their pizza was rich, decedent and truly outstanding and I can understand how many claim it to be Milwaukee’s finest.  In addition to great pizza, they have an extensive wine and craft beer list and even have live music.

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At Transfer Pizzeria Cafe I was able to transform my negative emotions. 

Coming out of the winter-blues I realize I had started to let my worries take over.  I was starting to ruminate over things I would normally shrug off.  A reset was necessary and appreciating the subtleties of a new environment was key to getting me back on course.

The personal development classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie lent some timely advice:

  1.  Compartmentalize the past and future: Carnegie explains that we can eliminate worry by envisioning the past, present and future as different compartments, like the compartments of ship. We can lock off the regrets of the past and the fret of the future, leaving ourselves in the present.
  2. Plan: If something is stressing us out and we can change it, devise a plan to fix it. If the feared outcome is inevitable except it as it is, then move on.  By keeping busy making progress towards our goal our anxiety disintegrates.
  3. Put things in perspective:  Life is pretty dang good.  We live in a world where pizza is in abundance.  Carnegie quotes Abraham Lincoln “Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be”.

What pizza taught me:

Good ol’ Sean reminded me that when Wisconsin winter gloom rustles up regrets from the past and anxiety for the future, it’s more important than ever to live in present.  Incredible pizza from a modern Milwaukee pizza joint helped me gain perspective.

What I’m eating: Transfer Pizzeria Cafe– Garlic Special: sausage, mushroom, cheese on a garlic cream sauce.

What I’m reading: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living –Dale Carnegie

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Settling on a Slice

“Win-Win is a belief in the third alternative. It’s not your way, or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way” -Stephen Covey

Seeing eye to eye can be difficult, especially when pizza is on the line.  Many Friday nights Tess and I just aren’t on the same page as far as the pizza we’re craving. Whether we’re deciding between take n’ bake or delivery, thick vs. thin, or contemplating the necessity of extra cheese (it’s necessary); finding common ground can be tough. When the stars don’t align we have to put a little extra effort to meet in the middle.

Negotiating can seem strenuous with anyone we share our time with.  When it comes right down to the essential decisions in our lives (Dominos or Pizza Hut?) the answer is often very simple.

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The fan favorite.

Tess and I have gotten pretty good at finding a compromise and the one pizza we can always agree on is a Jack’s Frozen Pizza.  A Jack’s classic cheese or pepperoni cut in squares is a pizza we will always cherish together.  Though I was raised a Tombstone man, I now find myself on the other side of the tracks like Romeo after forbidden Juliet, smitten with the deliciousness of Jack’s.

For many, Jack’s is the archetype of frozen pizza. When I polled my friends the consensus seemed to be that Jack’s is the most popular go-to frozen, with almost 90% choosing Jacks.  Sometimes the beauty of pizza is in it’s simplicity, convenience and nostalgia and Jack’s is the epitome of all three.  So, it’s an easy pizza to bargain with.

Surprisingly, Jack’s originated in 1960 in the smelly small town of Little Chute, Wisconsin.  It’s interesting to think a pizza so yummy could come from a town that smells like a fart (supposedly it’s the paper mill).  They are now owned by Nestle, but still pride themselves on using 100% Wisconsin cheese.

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For Tess and I, Jack’s is a Win-Win.  The Win-Win concept from Stephen Covey’s personal development classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states “Win-Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying.  With a Win-Win solution all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.”

Several reminders I give to myself when negotiating pizza with Tess. 

  1. Listen up.  To arrive at a win-win scenario we have to hear each other out.  We have to have a clear cut vision of what we’re trying to achieve.  If Tess wants stuffed-crust I need to know that, so I don’t order us a thin-crust.
  2. Give a little. The willingness to give a little can go a long way. If we open our mind to opportunities we may come across a pizza even better than the one we originally envisioned.
  3. Practice patience. When negotiating pizza it can take time to think up a proper plan that suits both parties.  Do we want a cracker thin-crust or little chew from some hand-tossed? In slowing down we can often find the best course of action.
  4. Detach from the outcome. By giving up any attachment to a particular pizza, we allow ourselves to find satisfaction in an alternative outcome.
  5. Be comfortable walking away. Some Fridays Tess ends up with Thai food and I end up with a frozen pizza and that’s alright. Stephen Covey describes this as the concept of a “No Deal” in which two people can’t come to terms and simply walk away in good graces.

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What pizza taught me:

Whether we’re figuring out Friday night pizza or making plans in life,  the ability to  sensitively negotiate can have a great impact on the quality of our relationships.  The solution can often end up as simple and yummy as a Jack’s frozen pizza.

What I’m eating:  Jack’s pepperoni and sausage

What I’m reading: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  -Stephen Covey

 

 

 

 

My “Must-Haves” in 2018

“Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals”-Deepak Chopra

For many January is a time to set resolutions, but for me it’s time to establish goals; pizza goals.  There’s a lot of pizza out there and so little time, so my top priority is mapping out the pizzeria’s around Wisconsin I’ve just gotta have in 2018.  I’ve received so many great recommendations over 2017 and appreciate them so much.  Now is my time to act upon them, so I’ve taken the advice and devised a highly anticipated pizza plan.

My 10 most anticipated Wisconsin pizzerias, pubs, parlors and ristorante’s in 2018:

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Marcines Image Source
  1. Marcines, Mt Vernon.  Marcines makes the top of the list because I’ve heard more recommendations to this rural dive bar than I can count. In 2017 this was by far the most recommended place.  The continual praise has me slightly ashamed that I haven’t tried it yet. All the pizza’s are house-made and 12 inches and supposedly overflowing with toppings and cheese. I need to get off my butt and take the scenic drive to get this.

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    Bernies
  2. Bernie’s Hometown Pizza, Racine;  I’ve heard the bold statement that this place is better the Gus’ in Whitewater WI, so game on.  That’s pretty much all that needs to be said for any pizza to make my list.
  3. Dom and Phil DeMarini’s, Milwaukee.  I trust a guy who can make a mean polish sausage, a delicate pasty and is passionate about oddly flavored potato chips.  So, I will seek the wisdom of my father-in-law Tom Radoszewki and try his “spot”.  The pizza’s are cooked on rectangular baking sheets and cut in squares.
  4. Tony’s Pizza, Waupun. The home of the “football pizza”. That’s right, a huge oval shaped pizza that is 30″x15″ and feeds 6-10 people. Several years ago I was introduced to this behemoth pie on double-date where we all shared the football pizza.  That was my kind of date night. I always day-dream of that magical evening every time I drive anywhere near Waupun.

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    Dom & Phil DeMirini’s
  5. Anna’s Pizza, Sun Prairie.  My brother Jeff and I have been sharing glorious pizza moments for almost 30 years, so I definitely take his word on Anna’s. Simple, greasy and from what I hear often pushing the threshold of acceptable excessive cheese, which is fine by me.
  6. Log Tavern Pizza Co., Lodi.  My friend Christine and I have shared many milestones in life; we got married on the same day, we’re having kids at the same time and we both love Rosati’s Pizza.  She compared Log Tavern to Rosati’s, so I’m going.
  7. Grandpa’s Pizzeria, Madison.  Though I live in Madison I don’t get over to it’s east side much, so this year I want to change that.  Grandpa’s serves “gourmet thin-crust pizza” in a hip looking layout on Willie Street.
  8. Sammy’s Pizza, Neenah. After I visited Cranky Pat’s last fall I got wind that they have some fierce competition in the area, so this year I will make an effort to give both sides a chance and try Sammy’s; the opposing hometown legend.

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    Sammy’s
  9. Balistreri’s Italian-American Ristorante on 68th, Milwaukee. My boss knows my passion for pizza and with continuous references to this little Italian eatery that makes their pizza’s extra thin and cut in squares, it’s time to make it happen.  Supposedly, it’s got to be the one of 68th.
  10. Gus’ Pizza Palace, Whitewater.  Lately when I think of my hometown favorite Gus’ the infamous line from the TV serious Lost comes to mind, in which a desperate, disheveled Jack screams “We have to go back!”.  I need to go back home to where it all started. The cheese, the cracker thin crust, the grease, oh my. I haven’t been to my favorite hometown spot in far too long.

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    Gus’ Pizza Palace

The pursuit of pizza goals.

I was reading a journal of mine from almost a year ago in which I jotted down a note that I wanted to start writing a blog.  I thought to myself “heck yeah, I do that now!”.  It was neat to look back and see a goal come to fruition.

Establishing a goal to get from point A to point B makes everything way easier as it  provides us a clear path.  Author and speaker Brian Tracy describes a goal as “our road map” to keep us on track.  We have to know where we want to go in order to get there.

Personal reminders I gave myself when setting my pizza goals:

  1. Be specific: I need to know exactly where the pizzerias are located and what’s good on the menu in order to arrive, get the full experience and enjoy the pizza. When coming up with goals we have to be very detailed about what we want to achieve.
  2. Visualize achieving the goal. Taste the sauce, feel the stretch of the cheese and the grease of the pepperoni.  Picture the joy of accomplishing your goal and what that will feel like.
  3. Write them down.  The act of putting down the pizzas I want on paper, commits them to memory and increases my likelihood of eating them. Writing down our goals helps us bring them to life.  In research done by psychology professor Gail Matthews at Dominican University, people are 42% more likely to complete a goal if they write it down.
  4. Break it up into steps.  Just like a pizza cut in squares is easier to take down, ambitious goals aren’t as daunting if we slice them up into manageable pieces.

What pizza taught me:

January is a great time to put down some goals and set our trajectory for the year. Whether we’re excited about eating excellent pizza or making any changes in life, when we have the end in mind the odds of success are much higher.

What I’m eating:  A Tombstone pepperoni while contemplating my goals.

What I’m reading: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google –Scott Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pizz-servere in the New Year

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other” – Walter Elliot

When it’s -10° outside everything seems more difficult.  It’s harder to crawl out of bed, harder to get motivated and even harder to order a pizza, with higher volumes of people ordering for delivery. With a couple months of seasonal depression looming, we all have times when we simply don’t feel like doing anything.  In these moments when we are losing our passion, it’s more important than ever to persevere.

Fortunately, it’s always easy to eat pizza, and a cozy New Years Eve bash has me reflecting on small, simple daily wins we can give ourselves to endure and see our commitments through.

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Emil’s Pepperoni

Enduring the cold with Emil’s.

This New Years Eve with a bitter cold outside and the thought of staying out late partying looking bleak, Tess and I opted to watch the ball drop with a couple friends and some frozen pizzas. Emil’s frozen pizzas that is (my friends have long debated the correct pronunciation of Emil’s, with some claiming an emphasis on the E, like E mills (Kane I’m looking at you) or on the Em, like Em ills or even Em eals).

As midnight approached we were accompanied by one of our favorite couples Steve and Rachel.  We shared some laughs as we picked slices from a three course round of frozens and played “Heads Up!” on Tess’s phone.  Steve and Rachel know my passion for pizza well, and in anticipation of our little New Years celebration provided the pizzas (thank you Steve and Rachel, excellent selections and execution).  That night they also introduced me to Urban Pie Brady Street Eight Cheeses and Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce pizza, but that earns its own post later on.

I’m a big fan of Emil’s not just because my Great Grandfather shared the same name, but because they are native to Watertown, WI and are delicious.  Emil’s are typically served-up out of those old-school boxy metal pizza ovens in taverns and bowling alleys all across Wisconsin.  They bake great at home too and are found in many freezer sections.  Emil’s is always a solid choice loaded with a unique mozzarella/colby cheese blend and a thin yet flaky crust.

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Emil’s was my New Years Eve inspiration.  

Just as it can be increasingly difficult to muster the energy for a night of partying on New Years Eve in the cold, sometimes commitments in our life can feel equally as taxing. Even though I have an insatiable appetite for pizza, some days I just don’t feel like taking pictures of pizza or writing about it and I just want to eat it in peace.

When I start to feel like hibernating I know that if I just take bite size chunks out of my endeavors everyday I will feel accomplished.  That’s the magic of perseverance; we can break up tasks into small, manageable portions.  “Winning the daily private victory” was what Stephen R. Covey the best selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said. If we see our passions through we will have an internal pride and contentment within ourselves.

Here are some reminders I gave myself to get off my butt and write this blog (applicable to any situation where you need to get off your butt).

  1. Aim for small wins to build momentum. By continually chipping away at our goals we slowly but surely create a snowball effect and end up where we want to be. Our efforts compound.
  2. Visualize the big picture.  Imagine how great you will feel when you stick to your guns and get stuff done.  The end victory is more rewarding than any instant gratification.
  3. Remember a sense of purpose.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the “why?” in why we do what we do.  For me, writing this blog is about the daily practice of honing my skills with writing, challenging my creative thinking and problem solving. Committing to this discipline is fulfilling to me, so I just have to remember that “why”.

What pizza taught me:

Our perseverance is rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. We can find warmth in knowing  we didn’t stray from our path in the glum winter days and that pizza delivery times will only get shorter.

What I’m eating:  Emil’s pepperoni and Emil’s sausage & mushroom pizzas

What I’m reading: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People -Stephen R. Covey

 

Pizza as a Present

“The best gifts are those we not only cherish but put to use” Les Brown

Tis the season for giving and I can think of no better way to show someone you care than with the greatest gift of all; pizza.  A co-worker at my office actually received a large pizza as their Secret Santa present this year and I was taken aback by the sheer awesomeness of that gift idea.

I have to admit as I witnessed the pizza delivered to my co-workers desk, I was silently wishing that somehow there was a mix up and the pizza was intended for me.  I think this was apparent to my colleagues too as I bashfully asked to take pictures of the pizza. Beyond my extreme jealously though, I also felt inspired by the genius of the innovative offering. The potential gift giving possibilities of pizza began to flourish in my mind.

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The Secret Santa pizza.

I will never dodge a Secret Santa sign up again.

Approaching this years’ holiday season I had already been pondering the idea of giving and receiving pizza. I had even asked my Mom for a Gus’ Pizza as my Xmas gift, but she seemed to shrug it off, thinking I was just being silly. (I love your gifts Mom, thanks!)

In reality though I would be delighted to find a pizza under the Christmas tree; not only because I love pizza, but because holiday giving is all about bringing joy to others no matter the form of the gift.

Taking inventory. 

As I unpack the gifts I received this year, I feel so grateful as I consider all the thought that went into the gifts.  A gift is a reflection of how much we care for others.  It shows the details we picked up on throughout the year, whether it be in conversation or simply observing behaviors.

It feels great when others recognize our interests and deliver a gift that suites our interests perfectly.  For example, I couldn’t wait to give my brother a gift box that included a cheese I knew he would love- the perfect combination of aged cheddar and blue cheese. Or, the fidget cube Tess gave me for my desk wrapped in a holiday themed pizza bag.

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What pizza taught me:

The best feeling is realizing someone has been mentally taking notes throughout the year to show you they care.  Holiday giving is all about those warm and fuzzies you get when you see your recipient light up.

What I wish I was eating: Roman Candle large pizza delivered to my desk at work as a Secret Santa gift.

What I’m reading: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less –Greg McKeown

 

 

 

 

 

A Lesson in Leadership from Legendary New York Style Pizza

“Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank” -Simon Sinek

On my recent trek to New York City I was on the prowl for the quintessential New York street slice.  I was looking to find the best of the best, and figured there is no better place to explore than the heart of the big apple, Manhattan.  After searching online and taking the advice of friends I found the authentic slice I was looking for at Joe’s Pizza on Carmine.

Joe’s Pizza has been around for 40 years and is referred to as a “Greenwich Village institution”.  New York Magazine hails Joe’s Pizza as “the best of New York” and by the line out the door you can tell many other people agree.  The place is frequented by a wide array of celebrities from Bill Murray to Leonardo DiCaprio, and there is proof from a collage of photos on the wall.  From my understanding it’s about as classic New York pizza as you can get and it seems to set the standard for the classic New York slice joint.

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Joe’s Pizza is on another level. 

Joe’s Pizza isn’t the prettiest place, it’s actually really small, it’s simple, but it executes. There are no frills or gimmicks that generate the constant line out the door, it’s just great pizza churned out on white paper plates for cash.

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The menu is as barebones as it gets; cheese slice, pepperoni slice, fresh mozzarella slice and Sicilian slice. That’s it, four options.  The pizza is the same way; composed of simple high quality ingredients that have been prepared the same way for decades.  The crust is very thin yet chewy and can barely hold the cheese; thus the classic New York fold is necessary. The sauce is vibrant and not over loaded with spices.  The pizza and menu are basic, but the quality is exceptional.

“Pizza is made from your heart” says the third generation owner Sal Pozzuoli in a video on Gold Belly where you can have their pizza delivered to you nationwide (a great Christmas gift).  He speaks alongside his Grandfather who opened the infamous pizza joint and they discuss the values that have made them a leader in the competitive New York pizza scene.

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Smooth operators. 

After four days of pizza eating in Manhattan, the mecca for pizza, it’s clear Joe’s is the the top dog.  Not only is their pizza fantastic, but I was fascinated by how they ran the tiny shop.

During my visit the place was a madhouse with a line winding out the door onto the sidewalk.  As I approached the counter I observed an older fellow I imagined was a manager or owner smoothly running the show.  He calmly did about five things at once.  He coached employees stretching dough balls, tended the oven, delegated counting the till, all while keeping a warm demeanor as he welcomed and took orders from a huge rush of customers.

We can all take a lesson from Joe’s Pizza.   

In between blissful memories of New York slices the size of my head I’ve contemplated several practices that comprise a solid leader.

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Working on my fold
  • Lead by example:  The manager at Joe’s was on the front line during the busy rush with his team. He set an example with his organization, hustle and pleasant customer service.
  • Motivate:  Everyone should be inspired to keep the pizzas flowing and the customers smiling.  Employees need an understanding of the big picture in any work environment in order to excel.
  • Delegate:  A single person can’t run a whole pizza shop during a busy rush.  A leader has to rely on a team to get the job done and know when to pass the pizza cutter.
  • Build trust: Others have to respect and trust you if your going to get any slices out the door.  The easiest way to build trust is to communicate and be transparent.  John C Maxwell leadership expert says “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
  • Be decisive:  How many pizza’s do we need in the oven for this dinner rush?  How many dough balls do we need for tomorrow? A leader has to make decisions and see them through.

What pizza taught me:

We can all think of ourselves as leaders and apply basic leadership principles to any area of our lives.  There’s no better place to start learning than from the best of the best.  Thank you Joe’s Pizza for a delicious lesson.

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What I’m eating: Joe’s Pizza on Carmine, Greenwich Village NY, cheese slice and pepperoni slice.

What I’m reading: Advanced Selling Strategies Brian Tracy

Pizza Always Has a Place

“A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it” -Henry James

Thanksgiving is the ultimate day of gratitude and eating, so where’s the pizza?  The way I see it, on a day devoted to giving thanks and indulging on carb-loaded delicacies, pizza is a natural fit.  I know it doesn’t necessarily fit the traditional flavors of the Thanksgiving spread and doesn’t exactly match the classic ambiance we envision at the table with Grandma, but I believe there is a place for pizza somewhere.

It turns out many other people feel the same way.  And no, I’m not suggesting I was the weirdo that brought a pizza to the Thanksgiving dinner table (though I’ve considered it).  I’m talking about the pizza eating that takes place around the holidays when we are surrounded by family and friends.

Finding a place for some pie. 

Many people enjoy their pizza the night before Thanksgiving to avoid cooking or to recharge after drinks with old friends.  My Aunt Karen used it as an easy meal for traveling relatives with busy schedules in the days following Thanksgiving.  She explained that she had limited time to connect everyone before they departed; pizza was the most viable option.

My pizza indulgence takes place the night of Thanksgiving, long after the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes have made their appearance, when a faint glimpse of hunger starts to resurface.  I’ll be back at home, snuggled into my spot on the couch and while many may grab for the leftover Turkey sandwich, I spring for some pizza.

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Pizza brings a little more zest to round-two.  

For many years my brother Jeff and I have had a “pizza on Thanksgiving night” tradition. With all of the restaurants closed we always had to pick our pizza from the freezer section of our local grocery store or gas station (which ever was open).

Now after all these years I’ve swapped my brother for my my wonderful wife Tess. With this years festivities approaching we contemplated our frozen pizza options and decided to mix things up.

One of my favorite evolutions to take place in the frozen pizza aisle is the addition of cheese sticks.   The cheese stick is basically a sauceless pizza crust, basted with garlic butter, smothered in cheese, cut in strips and dunked into sides of sauce.  Over the years they’ve seemed to become more prevalent in restaurants (Toppers is king, but that’s a whole ‘nother post) and are now to my excitement even popping up the freezer section.

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Portesi Cheese Fries.

So, with a hankering for some cheese sticks and with Toppers my normal go to closed on Thanksgiving day (they are only closed 2 days a year), I went with Portesi thin crust Cheese Fries.  The Portesi Cheese Fries are native to central Wisconsin and hail from Stevens Point.  I originally found out about the Cheese Fries from a friend Steve, who has a serious passion for the garlicky, cheesy breadsticks and firmly suggests you have to go thin crust (there is a rising crust option).

The Cheese Fries are loaded with more cheese than your typical item from the frozen section. They come prepackaged with a marinara sauce for dipping, but with the generous portion of mozzarella and garlic butter base it’s almost unnecessary.

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Time to pop in a movie and preheat the oven.

The debut of the Portesi Cheese Fries into my Thanksgiving routine reminds me that the joy we take from such traditions is up to us and it’s fun to switch things up every now and again.  Our lives will inevitably change and if we cling to traditions too much we can end up disappointed.

The entry for November 23 (Thanksgiving) in Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic is fitting “The things we are attached to can come and go, our reasoned choice is resilient and adaptable.  The sooner we become aware of this the better.  The easier it will be to accept and adapt to what does happen.”

What pizza taught me:

Embracing a tradition can bring a lot of warm nostalgia, but we shouldn’t be bound by old ways.  We can change locations, invite new guests, or add some pizza, all that matters is that we enjoy ourselves and our favorite people.

What I’m eating: Portesi thin crust Cheese Fries

What I’m reading: Ryan Holiday The Daily Stoic