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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

No Place Like Home

We carry our homes within us, which enables us to fly.” John Cage

As the 4th of July weekend approached I was feeling restless, my brain held hostage by an exhausting work-week and an ever-broadening list of “daddy duties”.  I was bored with Madison. I wanted to run, to get free, to feel like a kid.  I wanted summer fun; a glistening sun, a pine-laden horizon, friends, fireworks and some great pizza (that’s a given).

I wanted that sense of freedom that arises when you get out into the country or dunk yourself into greenish-blue Wisconsin lake water; resurfacing with a rush—a swirl of adolescent giddiness.  That feeling of leaning back and looking into a vibrant blue sky blotted with fluffy, pillow-like clouds; your day-to-day tensions melting away like sidewalk chalk in the rain.

Most of all I wanted the excitement of seeing my favorite people and eating my favorite pizza. The question is then, where can I capture all these classic 4th of July feels in the same spot?

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Going home. 

Tess and I got a sitter for Ellis (Thanks Mom!) and ventured back to our old stomping grounds Whitewater WI. for the 4th of July, with our eye out for everything I’d been daydreaming of, especially my crème de la crème of Wisconsin pizza: Gus’ Pizza Palace.

If you know me or have read any of my stuff you may realize that Gus’ is not just any old pizza to me; it’s the best pizza, my favorite pizza. The all-time greatest pizza. It’s the rule—the measure—the standard by which I judge all pizza.

For the longest time, I was nervous to even write about Gus’ because it’s so special to me, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to do it justice. Or, worse yet, what if it had changed in some way.  I’ve only had the chance to eat it a handful of times since moving, but I figured I’d try to let the legend shine.

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Confession: I went to Gus’ twice in one day.

If you grew up in Whitewater, you undoubtedly know the passion and loyalty that the locals share for their Gus’ pizza.  It’s the gold standard for small-town, thin crust, cheesy pizza, sliced up in squares since 1962.  That’s right, it’s a legacy, it’s been whipped up by the same family using top-secret family recipes for 56 years (way to go guys!).

For Whitewater folk, it’s lovingly known as “Greasy Gus'”. 

Though they keep their formulas confidential, my conspiracy theory has it that the legendary grease factor is due to them using slices of mozzarella instead of shredded like most pizza places.  When the cheese melts in their old-school deck-ovens, the grease collects on top of the slices and creates this delicious blend of grease, melty cheese, and sauce.  I’ve had no other pizza that accomplishes this unique consistency. It’s bliss.

The crust is super thin—cracker thin and has a hand pinched rim that is efficient in holding an excessive, greasy pool of cheese.  The crust is like a little floury canyon. (Ahh, writing this makes me want to dive right in).

unnamedSimplicity and home go hand-in-hand for me.  With my Gus’ I follow suit; I want the pizza in it’s most pristine form: cheese. I’m a sucker for good quality cheese pizza.  I want to bask in the harmony of the cheese, sauce, and crust; let them join together and do a  sacred dance.  If a pizza place can’t get plain cheese right, then I see no future.

Tess often goes for green olives or we’ll share a pizza with gyro meat on it with a side of tzatziki sauce (their gyros are bomb by the way, meat carved from the spit and all).  I’ve heard rave reviews of topping combinations all over the map; from black olives and feta (put on after it’s cooked), to bacon and onion, to onion, green pepper, extra sauce, extra cheese, the infamous Gus’ Special and as I previously mentioned my friend who will give his right arm for beef, bacon, sausage.  I’ve even heard the old-timers talk about the joy of shrimp on their Gus’.

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Gus’s in recent years also got into the cheese-sticks biz to stay competitive in the college market and their sticks are holy wow, topped with at least a quarter inch of mozzarella, definitely among my top 3 three cheese-sticks (that’s a whole separate blog post).  Also, I just gotta say potato wedges, do it.

 

My 4th of July fuzzies wouldn’t be complete without Gus’. 

Just like home, Gus’ is one place that seems to be a constant in a world that’s always changing; it’s one thing all my old friends and family still share in common. For almost 60 years they’ve stuck to their guns and for the most part, the product goes unscathed (though I always remembered more cheese, my grandma agrees).

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Cheese-sticks

In my glory days, I remember the goal for my friends and I on the 4th was to throw the biggest party we could, now it’s scrounging for babysitters and exchanging parenting tips (did you try this new swaddle!?).  That’s what makes life exciting, it’s constantly evolving as we are.

Phil Knight the founder of Nike says in his biography “Life is growth. Business is growth, You grow or you die.”  Whether it’s new additions to our families or nuances to our holiday traditions; we get reminders every day that everything changes, yet there is a resemblance, a fragment of the past that we can cherish.  That’s Gus’ for me.

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Potato Wedges.

What pizza taught me:

Simply going home can be all the negotiation our nagging mind needs in order to chill itself out.  It’s been six years since I left Whitewater and everything feels different but familiar at the same time. There will always be a part of me that finds comfort in going home and Gus’ is a piece of that history.  I hope everybody has a place like that.

What I’m eating: Gus’ cheese pizza, gyro meat pizza with side of tzatziki, cheese-sticks, wedges

What I’m reading:  Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike –Phil Knight

 

 

 

What’s Your Go-to?

“There are not more than five cardinal tastes; sour, acrid, salt, sweet and bitter, yet combinations of them yield more flavors than can ever be tasted” -Sun Tzu

We all have a “go-to”—the quintessential pie that hits our spot, that classic combination or twist on toppings that just sings to our soul; beckons us back for more.  The “go-to” could also be defined as our interpretation of the perfectly concocted pie; our favorite toppings, perfect cheese, proper portions, on the appropriate crust.

For me, it’s most often pepperoni and excessive cheese, for Tess it’s green olives, for my Dad it’s the kitchen sink. I have multiple friends who would give up their first born child for beef, bacon, sausage at Gus’ in Whitewater and a work colleague who gets sausage, bacon, jalapeno everywhere he goes, no matter what.  That’s the power of the “go-to”.

“Go-to’s” are like excuses, bellybuttons, opinions, and assholes in that everybody’s got one. That’s the beauty of pizza in general—everybody has their own spin on it and it’s reliable.  Therefore, “What’s your favorite pizza?” is my all-time favorite question because it’s a topic of conversation almost anyone can entertain and have a good time while doing so.

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Glass Nickel: the default for the many Madison folks.

Though, I’m pretty committed to thin crust, every now and again I’ll get the hankering for some extra cheesy hand-tossed pizza loaded with toppings and for that, my Madison go-to is Glass Nickel. Glass Nickel was founded in 1997 in Madison, WI, and now have several locations across the state.

When I think Madison pizza I think Glass Nickel and it makes sense because many in the area find Glass Nickel and the term “go-to” synonymous.   Everywhere I turn whether a luncheon or work-function there’s a Glass Nickel box in the vicinity—when I poll friends and colleagues Glass Nickel is the common denominator.

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Pepperoni & Sausage pizza with extra cheese (that I didn’t have to ask or pay for!)

Extra cheese without asking for it.

I personally appreciate Glass Nickel because I don’t need to order extra cheese, they come loaded that way. They use a “house cheese blend” that bakes up with a great oozy and gooey consistency.  The crust is stretchy and filled with little air pockets, like a good artisanal bread and is dusted with cornmeal.

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cornmeal dusted crust

While many times I will opt for classic pepperoni and sausage (dynamite hand-pinched sausage) I have to say they are on top of their “specialty” game.  Some of the stars include the Fetalicious, which is a pie loaded with tons of feta, the Thai Pie complete with Thai peanut sauce, and my personal favorite and “chicken bacon ranch go-to”  The Ranch.

As far as chicken bacon ranch pizza’s go, The Ranch is far superior.  First, off they use good quality chicken that is slow roasted in-house.  Roasted in-house? What pizza place does that? They use these little crispy bacon bits, red onions, and fresh tomatoes that are nestled in a bed of mozzarella.  The best part though is the creamy ranch base that bakes into the crust to form this pillowy, velvety golden base.

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Slice of  The Ranch

Go-tos are not only reliable, they’re relatable. 

You can’t read a book by its cover, but can you read a man by what he orders on his pizza?  I love learning about other people’s favorite pizzas because it almost feels like a glimpse into their soul; a quick look at their quirks and what comforts them.  When you ask “what’s your favorite pizza?” it feels like people open up to you one topping at a time.

Henry David Thoreau said, “is there a greater miracle than to see through another’s eyes, even for an instant?”

The go-to is so intriguing because it can be so simple for some and so complex for others. I have a different go-to for pretty much every different pizza restaurant I frequent, so I get it.

What pizza taught me?

Your go-to is that pizza you can rely on; it’s that pizza that’s faithful to us when we need something familiar. Go-to’s offer us a way to connect and learn from others. The next time you’re stumped on how to spark up a conversation just ask “what’s your pizza “go-to?”

What I’m eating: Glass Nickel The Ranch and Deluxe

What I’m reading: Never Lose a Customer Again Joey Coleman

 

 

A Trip Down Memory Aisle

“The more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is.” -Vladimir Nabokov

When I was little one of my favorite occurrences was free pizza samples at the grocery store on a Saturday morning.  I’d be grocery shopping with my Mom and luck would have it our cart would roll by a little old lady tending a metal pizza oven, serving up tiny squares of piping hot pizza on little paper napkins.

For me, that memory is filled with mystique and a tinge of longing.  That’s nostalgia. 

Nostalgia is that warm, happy place that lives in our memories.  It’s the emotional feeling I get when I see that Pizza Hut commercial from the early 90’s with the kid’s playing baseball (The one before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS).  It’s that sentimental state I get into when I think about staying in on a rainy night, popping in a frozen and getting cozy on the couch with a movie.

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It’s my yearning for Rocky Rococo’s $1 slice Tuesdays when school let out in 8th grade; knowing I didn’t have a care in the world.  The thrill at 2 a.m. in college to have a grease soaked cardboard box with something that resembled pizza in it.  And how my Mom knew that I wanted squares and Jeff wanted triangles when she divvied up our frozen pizza growing up.

Nostalgia provides euphoria in the good times and can console us in times of loss. I’ve often turned to the fuzzy feelings of nostalgia when times get dark.

Fond memories and an oven preheated to 425˚.

I’m not one to get hung up on celebrity news and fanboyism, but I felt an immense sadness by the passing of Anthony Bourdain. He got me excited about exploring the world through food and writing about it.  He was a voice of reason. Though I don’t know the guy beyond reading his books and watching his TV shows, I felt like I lost an old friend.

Maybe that despair comes from the realization that all things grow and die, or that everything changes and that’s scary.  Maybe it’s witnessing an icon fall, and knowing those we look up to have their own weaknesses that can ruin them. Either way, I do believe recounting the beauty of our past can aid in that pain, so we can move forward. In homage to my fallen anti-hero, I spent my last pizza night revisiting the first season of No Reservations circa 2005 in which Anthony kicks off the show in Paris, France. It brought me back to a better place after a rough week.

What pizza taught me:

Moments are fleeting, but our memories are not.  Nostalgia can help us look past our current problems and see the bigger picture; the reasons why it’s worth getting up, dusting off and pushing forward.  When the world gets dark I’ll recall strolling down my favorite aisle with my Mom and find solace in that little old sample lady and the tiny slice she served.

What I’m eating:  Tombstone Original Pepperoni, cut in squares on a paper napkin.

What I’m reading: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott

 

Picking Up the Pizzas

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Victor Frankl

You want that perfect pizza night?  Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Ordered thin crust? You ended up with thick.

Excited about extra cheese? Looks like you got easy.

What about that side of sauce?  Forget about it; the driver forgot it.

Pessimism? No, just life. It’s easy to view these pizza mishaps as tragedies, but every day we will be faced with late deliveries, missing toppings, and cold pizzas. For most of my existence my knee-jerk reaction to life’s little jabs has been with anger, frustration, and despair, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

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The wrong Roman Candle.

Spring had sprung and it seemed like the perfect Friday night for pick-up, so Tess and I hit the road.  We opted for a scenic drive with baby Ellis in tow to a hip little joint called The Roman Candle.

After arriving at our Fitchburg location (there are four Roman Candles in Madison) the hostess dropped my heart to my stomach when she began searching her computer for our order with a perplexed expression.  After a couple “hmms” and a “are you sure it’s not under a different name?” I knew I had made a major goof.

I had placed our online order to a location about 30 minutes away.  Suddenly in my mind, I was the ultimate failure; the guy who ruined pizza night, the inept husband and worst father of the week; squandering all the fun Friday night hangs.

I was now faced with a hard decision and time was of the essence.  Drive further from home for cold pizza or place a new order and wait out another 25 minutes for a fresh order.  At that moment I had two choices: dwell on the problem or make a decision and work towards the solution. 

We decided to take the wait, but we couldn’t decide on a pizza, so we ordered three. 

Roman Candle is a unique spot; the menu is chock full of specialty pizzas that highlight ingredients you don’t normally see.  Items like beats, arugula and artichokes provide an elegant twist. Though pricey, but I gotta say they churn out really well-portioned pizzas. It’s nice to find a pie that’s so well balanced, with high quality ingredients to boot.

Tess’s usual is The Professional.  It starts with a blend of pesto and alfredo and is then topped with feta, broccoli, roasted chicken, and bacon.  The orginal version comes with green peppers and jalapenos too.  This combo seemed whacky to me at first, but it works.

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I went for their signature The Roman Candle with a few additions.  The pie has a spicy  base called firecracker sauce and is then covered with house-made ground sausage and banana peppers. I added thick artisanal pepperoni and extra house blend cheese. The combination of the meats and banana peppers create a salty, tangy flavor explosion.

I’m not usually one to jump for a taco pizza, but with the quality and craftsmanship of Roman Candle, I had to give their El Jefe a try.  This is definitely not your average taco pizza, the El Jefe begins with a taco sauce and alfredo mix and is then topped with cheddar, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and drizzled with sour cream.

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While waiting we got to catch up as we rocked a crying baby in the parking lot.  It was nice.

In that moment I changed my perception from wasting 25 minutes, to getting piping hot pizzas fresh out of the oven.  I accepted my situation and shifted my outlook from negative to positive and was able to drive off happily into the sunset.

In author Mark Manson’s bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k  he explains “We don’t always control what happens to us but we always control how we interpret what happens to us as well as how we respond”   Manson echoes the ancient Greek philosophy Stoicism which called this our “reasoned choice”.  “Reasoned choice” is basically the idea that our perceptions are the only thing we truly control and whether we view them as a blessing or a curse it’s up to us.

What pizza taught me:

When life throws us a big ol’ misshapen dough ball it’s up to us knead it into the pizza we want. Whether we stub our toe, lose our keys, or hit all the red lights on the way to work  how we respond is in our control.

What I’m eating: Roman Candle: Party for three: The Profressional, The Roman Candle, El Jefe.

What I’m reading: Mark Manson The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k

 

 

 

 

Helping Hands

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” Charles Dickens

I’ll never forget that sunny Saturday afternoon in May outside my mailbox.  I inattentively thumbed the weekly ads and routinely strolled to the dumpster to toss them, when I caught a glimpse of a page of coupons that glistened. Amidst the circulars shone a pizza I’d daydreamed of for years; I dashed inside to share the amazing news with Tess.

After years of relentless tinkering, chain behemoth Pizza Hut has finally yielded an ingenious payoff. They took two of their greatest inventions pan pizza and stuffed crust and converged them into a hybrid dubbed the Double Cheesy Crust Pan Pizza.

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What’s better than pizza on a Friday night? 

Friends over for pizza on a Friday night who bring you the new Double Cheese crust Pan Pizza (Thank you, Handy and Anna!).

One of the many perks of being a new parent is the incredible support provided by those closest to us (especially our mothers, Happy Mothers Day!).  From Grandma’s helping with the night shift to friends providing meals and grocery shopping; the level of support we have received is outstanding and so greatly appreciated.

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Pizza Hut please take my money.

For years Tess and I had talked about the possibility of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza conjoining with their stuffed crust.  After years of Pizza Hut tiptoeing around the idea with dozens of pizza concoctions finally, the stars have aligned and they have brought our two favorites together.

The stuffed crust portion of Pizza Hut’s “stuffed crust” is legit, but let’s face it the pizza portion leaves something to be desired.  Meanwhile, pan pizza is just all around righteous with it’s crispy, buttery crust.  With the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza, we get the best of both worlds.unnamed-8

The majority of the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza is like classic pan style pizza with the exception of a seasoning blend dusted across it and some parmesan baked on the crust.  The crust is not stuffed with cheese as I pictured it.  The cheese forms more of a moat that weaves its way around the outside of the traditional pan crust.

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Cheese moat

Slice support.

Pizza Hut is a Friday night staple for many, just as our family and friends are a constant for us in big life-changing circumstances; like having a baby. Pizza Hut’s new offering came at a perfect time for Tess and I as we work to find our groove in the new rhythm of parenting.

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Ellis and Uncle Andy after some pizza.

 

 

What pizza taught me:

We should nurture our circle of friends and family because just like our favorite pizza they are there for us when we need them.  Tess and I are truly blessed with an amazing network.  Thanks to my ultimate support Tess, happy first Mothers Day!

What I’m eating: Pizza Hut: Double Cheesy Crust Pizza

What I’m listening to: Beach House Pay No Mind

What I’m reading: Emotional Intelligence 2.0

 

 

Patience Has Its Rewards

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet” -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Last week in the dark lit delivery room of my first child, I came face-to-face with my oldest adversary.  My foe hijacked the clock, stalled it and taunted me with threats of making it go even slower. It was 36 hours since Tess’s labor induction began and my threshold for waiting wavered.  Could I prevail against my biggest weakness impatience?

I used to think waiting for the oven preheat to 425° was a true test of my self-restraint. Now, with a baby plopped on my lap, I realize I have absolutely no patience at all (especially if pizza is involved), but I have a feeling, if harnessed, patience may become one of my strongest allies.

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Celebratory Salvatore’s Tomato Pies.

I was blessed with my son Ellis at 2:28am Wednesday morning after an excruciatingly long labor process that started Monday night! By Wednesday evening all of our well-exerted effort (Tess is the true hero of the story) was rewarded; we celebrated in true Luther fashion with a pizza party in our hospital birth suite.  My brother Jeff and Jaime had the brilliant idea of welcoming Ellis into this world with Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, the notorious Madison area pizza joint.

With locations in Sun Prairie and Downtown Madison, Sal’s pride themselves on using all locally sourced fresh ingredients and have a reputation for being the best artisan pizza in the area. The website describes their rise to fame in Sun Prairie “They quickly built a reputation for crafting pizza like no other…  Using old world techniques of slow fermenting dough from locally derived wheat, locally made cheeses and Wisconsin-raised meats.”

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The tomato pies have a distinct structure that is a family legacy and according to the website has been passed down many generations.  The pizza is basically built in reverse.  It starts with whole milk mozzarella, olive oil, romano and is then drizzled with tomato “red sauce” and sprinkled with basil.

The crust has an excellent char on the bottom and with the sauce on top, its vibrancy really shines through.  The pepperoni is thicker-cut and when baked up turns into crispy little cups that hold a little grease at the bottom. The tomato pies are equal parts simple, elegant and rustic.

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pepperoni grease cups.

Waiting.

The birth of Ellis was one of the most magical experiences of my life, but there was a ton of waiting around and much of that time was extremely boring.  Although I was restless in the hospital, I realized I should be embracing those seemingly boring moments and appreciating them. I will surely look back on these days as being some of the best times of my life.  Dirty diapers, Doctors appointments and long sleepless nights are on the way, why not try to enjoy them?

There will always be times in our lives when we have to “kill time”; if we handle these moments with a constructive mindset they won’t feel like such a waste. Waiting isn’t so bad if we use our time wisely.

Conquering impatience:

  1. Keep busy.  Read a book, take a walk, write a blog about pizza.  At one point I was meditating in the birth suite bathroom and practicing Spanish via Duolingo as I paced the halls.
  2. Make it fun.  We can make a game out of whatever boring situation we’re in.  We can bring some humor and even make some pleasant lasting memories.
  3. Get Stoic and view it as an opportunity for growth.  We can look at a dull moment as a training of our will, something that will strengthen our resolve for the future.

What pizza taught me:

Patience is most definitely a virtue and is not always so easy to access.  By embracing and overcoming the restlessness and agitation that comes with impatience we’ll prevail. All my downtime at the hospital last week was well worth the wait as I ended up the best reward of all; pizza and a healthy son.

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What I’m eating: Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, pepperoni and half cheese, half veggie

What I’m reading: Learned Optimism -Martin Seligman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra Cheese: The Antidote for an Anxious Dad-To-Be

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

With my wife, Tess 39 weeks pregnant my pizza is about to get an undeniable upgrade to family size.  I’m excited about a new addition to the pizza-party, but the anticipation of his arrival and the coming obliteration of my care-free lifestyle has me a little on edge. I know a new little pizza buddy will be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but it will also be the greatest amount of responsibility I’ve ever taken on and my nerves are getting twisted up like garlic knots.

As I mentally prepare to split my pizza three ways I selfishly ruminate over all the ways life will change.   Will I have the patience?  Will I get enough sleep?  Will my routines be disrupted? Will there be enough time for the things I enjoy?  Will the baby even like pizza?

Fortunately for me, I’ve got one fantastic support system of family, friends, and co-workers who have done wonders over the last several weeks to help calm my nerves. Just last weekend I ventured to Sun Prairie to the home of my brother Jeff where Tess and I were guests of honor for a “Huggies for Chuggies” party.

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There is nothing like the stretch of cheese between friends. 

The “Huggies for Chuggies” party is sort of like a bachelor party for parents, where the host supplies food and libations in exchange for diapers from the guests (aka an excuse to hang out with friends before life changes forever).

For the occasion, Jeff provided pizzas from one of Sun Prairie’s oldest and finest establishments Anna’s Pizzeria.   Anna’s is one of my brothers’ favorite spots in Sun Prairie and it’s easy to see why.  Anna’s is insanely cheesy, I’m talking like at least a quarter inch of melted cheese across the whole pie.  Grabbing a slice of Anna’s is half the fun because you get the most epic, food-porn worthy cheese stretches.

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Epic Stretch

The sauce is sweeter than most but is balanced out by the saltiness of the excessive cheese.  The pepperoni and sausage pizza was even better because of this salt to sweet combination created by the sauce and toppings.  Anna’s menu is extremely old school and basic; pizzas with classic topping options, garlic bread, and soda, that’s it. If you want to get some Anna’s plan accordingly because they are only open 4-10pm six days a week and only accept cash.

Old friends and sage advice over Anna’s pizza.

Surrounded by my best friends and the cheesy pizza of Anna’s I found solace and my anxieties about the future began to lift.  Beyond the pizza, I received encouragement that really meant a lot, things like “you’ll be a great Dad” and “you have nothing to worry about”. I also got some guidance about the day-to-day life of parenting which gave me more perspective.  Soaking up some advice from some new fathers also alleviated a lot of the tension I had built up, I even learned how to change a diaper (thanks Aaron, Sarah, and Alex!).

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The party was a great send off into parenthood.  My friends helped me take a rational step back and realize the anticipation of becoming a Dad can be far more overwhelming than actually taking on the daily duties of fatherhood.

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Me and Brother Jeff (the host that can boast the most roast)

95% of things we stress about will not happen.

Often the anticipation of an event can deal out more anxiety than the actual outcome.   My apprehensions about becoming a Dad are really just fear of the unknown. In the book, Radical Acceptance author Tara Brach makes the point that “the fear of pain is often the most unpleasant part of a painful experience”.

All the things that I’ve worried about will most likely work out just fine and worrying about them will do nothing but make them worse.

Dealing with the worries of becoming a Dad:

  1. Seek advice from someone who been through it before.  Talking through a scenario can bring a lot of relief as we familiarize our selves with the issues at hand.  We can learn and come up with a plan to guide us through.
  2. Try to remain in the moment. Try to accept things as they are, and to do that start out with some deep breaths.  Focus on the feeling of your body, fingers, and toes.  By focusing on our physical sensations, we are brought into the present, where the anxiety of the future is more easily released.
  3. Trust your instincts.  Everyone keeps telling me that once I have the little guy, it will all come naturally.  So, I will trust their advice and just take each situation as it comes, one day at a time.

What pizza taught me:

Becoming a Dad will surely be an adjustment, but as with anything new in life, we’ll figure it out. When anticipation of the future starts wreaking havoc on our emotions the support and guidance of loved ones can melt our anxieties away.  Some extra cheesy pizza doesn’t hurt either.

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What I’m eating:  Anna’s cheese pizza and Anna’s half sausage, half pepperoni pizza (we didn’t even ask for extra cheese, that’s just how it comes!)

What I’m reading:  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha –Tara Brach