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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

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

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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

 

 

Communication is as Key as the Crust

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives”-Tony Robbins

Recently I had the extraordinary honor to be the best man in my brother Jeff’s wedding.  In true Luther fashion we couldn’t let a life-time milestone pass us by without some pizza.  Jeff and his bride Jaime not only had some amazing wood-fired pizza at the rehearsal dinner, but even surprised everyone with late night Dominos at the reception.  They know how to pizza party.

In preparation for my best man speech I contemplated the qualities of a lasting relationship. As I swept my mind for the characteristics that keep two people together forever, I kept circling back to communication.  Sharing pizza with our loved ones is a no-brainer, but it’s even more important to share our feelings with them as well.

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I’m a proud member of the pizza planning committee.

At Oakfire Pizza in Lake Geneva a long table of family and friends reminisce and enjoy some laughs around an elegant spread of neapolitan style pizzas.  Love is in the air as we excitedly share in anticipation with the bride and groom and some thin chewy pizza.

Little did everyone know that thoughtful planning went into the array of pizzas before them.  My favorite best man duty was working with my brother and Jaime to pick out the pizzas for the rehearsal dinner.  I was delighted and deeply honored that my brother asked me to help finalize the pizza selection

Putting our heads together for the perfect pizza spread.  

We took into account everyone’s likes and dislikes we delivered a feast of pizzas for the whole family.  Of course a classic cheese option was necessary, so we went with a Margherita that consisted of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, pecorino romano and olive oil.  The sauce was vibrant and was a nice contrast with the subtle smoothness of the fresh mozzarella.

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Slice of Margherita

My personal favorite was the Diavola which was basically a pepperoni option that came with soppressata (spicy italian salami), mozzarella, fresh basil and pecorino romano.  The spicy italian salami, had a nice spicy kick and seemed to be a hit at my end of the table.  Another fan fave was the Bosco; a sausage and mushroom pie with mozzarella, fresh basil and pecorino romano.  The sausage was crumbly and savory.

It was a beautiful sight to see our ideas come to life as the pies were plucked out of a big wood-fired oven and served right before our eyes.  We communicated effectively to provide a dinner that would suit everyone’s tastes, we even had a gluten free option. Of course Jeff and Jaime were the stars of the rehearsal dinner, but the pizza we brainstormed up was definitely a highlight.

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The Diavola

Communication is key.  

According to best selling author and speaker Brian Tracy in his book Advanced Selling Strategies “Most of your success in life will depend on your ability to get along well with others, and on the quality of your relationships. Phycologist Sidney Jourard found that 85 percent of a person’s happiness in life comes from happy interactions with other people.”

Several communication practices I’ve adopted that have helped me in my own relationships.  

  1. Listen.  Great communication is more about listening than speaking.  When we actively listen to those around us we become invested in them, and in turn they build trust in us.   Jeff, Jaime and I realized we needed a gluten free option, a cheese option and a pepperoni by taking into account everyones desires.
  2. Keep it simple. We can take note from the Margarita pizza and remember sometimes less is more.  Often a clear cut, concise message is more effective.
  3. It’s all in the delivery. We need to be mindful of the way our message is received.  Our message can be drastically misconstrued by the tone of our voice and the pace of our delivery.  We don’t want to come off harsh, impatient or sarcastic.
  4. Give more than you take.  When we open up to others it should be to benefit one another and compromise. We should accommodate and work to solve problems, so both parties end up happy.

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What pizza taught me:

In a solid relationship communication is key.  Just as important as sharing our pizza, is sharing our thoughts and feelings with the people in our lives.  Congrats Jeff and Jaime!

What I’m eating:  Oakfire Pizza; The Diavola; soppressata (Spicy Italian Salami), mozzarella, fresh basil, pecorino romano

What I’m reading:  TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking Chris Anderson

The Faithful Frozen

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle

When we order pizza at a restaurant, we are at their mercy. Our satisfaction largely depends on interactions with staff, the preparation of the pizza and the delivery of it.  Whether we encounter a rude employee or a cold pizza, there is a lot that can go wrong and it almost seems the odds are stacked against us.  

The frozen pizza on the other hand is in our control and is the perfect example of consistency. When you tear off that plastic wrapping, you know exactly what you’re in for.  You may have to rearrange a few pepperonis, but after 12 minutes in the oven, you and that pizza are golden.

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The pizza you can count on. 

The frozen has been a staple my whole life; comforting me at grade school sleep-overs, nourishing me as an afternoon snack in High School, and coming to the rescue at the wee hours of the morning in college. Even now into my 30’s the frozen pizza offers a platform to bond and connect with old friends.

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As a safety measure to avoid burning down our cabin we cooked our frozen pizza’s outside in a toaster oven. 

At a rented cabin in the North woods of Wisconsin a smörgåsbord of Jack’s and Tombstone frozen pizza’s helped feed my brothers bachelor party. We took turns tending a little toaster oven that continually churned out frozens all weekend long.

“What would you like on your Tombstone?”

One of the highlights for me was digging into a Tombstone classic sausage pizza.  The pizza was sprinkled with pea-gravel sized sausage that became embedded in a melty layer of cheese upon baking. 

The Tombstone original has a slightly thicker crust than most thin crust frozen pizza’s. When it comes out of our toaster oven the crust is a golden brown around the edges.  The middle is pooled with white melty cheese and grease from the toppings.  Sauce bubbles up through cracks created by the running of the pizza cutter.

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Consistent as the crunch of the corner piece.

The frozen pizza is a timeless classic because you get the same trusty pizza every time. If we take a lesson from the frozen pizza and we are consistent and disciplined in our positive behaviors, we improve.  We become reliable.  Retired Navy Seal, author and podcaster Jocko Willink says it well and simply with the title of his new book: “Discipline Equals Freedom”.

Willink describes how we have a psychological advantage when we consistently set ourselves up for success.  When we have the right mental attitude and follow healthy routines we feel in control, and it’s freeing.

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How can we begin to reach frozen pizza level consistency?  

  1. Be dependable. The frozen pizza is available 24/7, it’s reliable and pretty darn tasty.  We can be that rock for the people in our lives. Trust is everything.
  2. Stick to a routine.  There’s a certain level of comfort that comes from the predictability of a routine. When I make a Tombstone pizza I know what I’m going to get.    
  3. Follow through on goals. When we know our target, we can continually take steps to hit it. The outcome of the frozen pizza is up to us. We’ll end up with a properly cooked pizza if we preheat the oven correctly and set the timer.
  4. Reward yourself. When our pepperoni’s are in order, the oven is set at a proper 425º and we pull out a perfect bubbling pizza, that’s magic.  Take a moment and bask in it’s excellence.

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What pizza taught me:

We can take a lesson from the faithful frozen pizza by consistently sticking to positive practices. With rountines we can become as reliable as the frozen. 

What I’m eating: Tombstone-Classic Sausage Pizza

What I’m reading: Ryan Holiday The Obstacle is the Way

 

 

 

Cheat Day with Extra Cheese, Please

“Everything in moderation, including moderation” -Oscar Wilde

All hail the magnificent cheat day, where we can indulge in guilt-free pizza with extra cheese and extra pepperoni, because we’ve earned it. Whether we’ve persevered through a week of work or stuck to our exercise and diet routines, the cheat day can be the light at the end of the tunnel and we should take full advantage of it.

Pizza and the wonderful cheat day go hand-in-hand. This perfect match both soothes us and nurtures us, simultaneously reminding us to unwind and have some fun.  For me, it’s hard to fathom letting a cheat day pass without some form of pizza making an appearance.

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Pizza, pizza.

On a crisp fall Saturday afternoon I decided to cheat to my heart out.  I’ve worked out, eaten clean and put in extra effort at work all week, so now it’s time to pizza party.  This cheat day I passed a Little Caesar’s and spontaneously pulled a u-turn for a “Hot N’ Ready”  I haven’t had Little Caesar’s since college and a cheap greasy pizza sounded like it would hit the spot. The power of the cheat day took affect, anything goes.

I picked up a “Hot N’ Ready” and in true cheat day fashion I splurged, spent an extra $1 and got the “Extra Most Bestest” which is an extra cheese and extra pepperoni pizza.  I even got an order of “Crazy Bread”.

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Many may argue against the likes of Little Caesar’s, but I do not discriminate. That Saturday afternoon Little Caesar’s, the notoriously cheapest pizza of them all was exactly what I wanted and that’s all that matters in a quality cheat day.  The point of cheat day is to fulfill your desires and indulge on your every whim.

Now and again we need to give ourselves a break.

Taking some time off is just as important as the hard work we put in.  Having a good balance in life keeps us sane and makes all of our efforts feel worth it.  By allowing ourselves to take a breather, we can stay focused and avoid burnout. We can reflect on our accomplishments and rejuvenate, so we can get back at it again.IMG_0688

Not only is the cheat day soothing for the soul, but it can also be good for us physically.  Tim Ferris references the cheat day in his book The Four Hour Body “I make myself a little sick each Saturday and don’t want to look at any junk for the rest of the week.  Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat-loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3, etc) doesn’t downshift from extended caloric restriction.

That’s right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia.”

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Recharging the batteries

The cheat day after some hard work is truly a beautiful occurrence.  I believe there are  several components to setting yourself up for a righteous cheat:

  1. Work hard, eat pizza hard.  Make the cheat day a goal at the end of the week.  A cheat day has to be earned, otherwise it doesn’t mean much.  Likewise you have to commit to yourself to return to your normal routine/work habits following the amazing day.
  2. Take mental notes: I’m a planner, so I like taking note of all the cravings that have teased me all week and I try to make them happen in some shape or form.  This leaves me feeling satisfied after my cheat day has come and gone.
  3. No regrets: Be prepared to forgive yourself for whatever debauchery occurs on cheat day. Tim Ferriss says “There are no limits or boundaries during this day of gluttonous enjoyment”.
  4. Live in the moment.  Feel gratitude for the day you get to indulge in.  Let go of last week’s worries and future anxieties and enjoy the present. Go with the flow, eat whatever pizza your heart desires.
  5. Let yourself off the hook.  Don’t worry about other people and just do what you want; satisfy that craving with pizza your partner or friends don’t normally care for. Go easy on yourself for a day.

What pizza taught me:

We have to have balance in our lives. A healthy dose of relaxation is just as important as the hard work we put towards a goal. There is no better occasion than the cheat day to enjoy some guilt-free pizza.

What I’m eating: Little Caesar’s Hot N’ Ready “Extra most Bestest”.

What I’m reading:  The Four Hour Body -Tim Ferriss

 

 

 

 

 

Practice Makes Perfect Pizza

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” -Bruce Lee

I’ve visited several old-school pizzeria’s around the midwest that put their pizzas in paper bags for carry-out.  No sturdy box to protect the precious cargo, just a flimsy paper bag and a cardboard base.  Though this seems odd and impractical, I imagine if a place has been practicing this for decades they’re putting a pretty darn good pie in that bag.

An established pizzeria like that can pack a big ol’ punch of nostalgia into their pizzas, and recently that’s exactly what I have been looking for.  “Hole-in-the-wall” pizzerias have always intrigued me.  I admire their pizza and ambiance, but I also can’t help but wonder how they got to where they are?  How does the “hole in the wall” earn their “hole” and keep customers coming back?

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A cult classic.

So, Tess and I strayed off the beaten path to find some good old fashioned hometown pizza and arrived in Neenah, Wisconsin.  I took the advice of a co-worker and tried Cranky Pat’s Pizzeria.  After my colleague described this place as having a “cult-like following” I had to look it up.

After perusing Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews I’ve come to learn that Cranky Pat’s Pizzeria has been a Fox Valley staple since 1955.   If you scroll the online reviews you can see that people take this place very seriously.  Loyal locals throughout Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay sing the gospel of their greasy thin-crust hometown hero. I figured Cranky Pat’s was a great place to observe the characteristics that lead to small-town pizzeria success.

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A taste of Titletown.

The pizza is ultra thin. It may have been the thinnest pizza I’ve ever had. It’s cut in squares and covered with a glistening layer of greasy melty cheese.  It’s definitely a nice portrayal of my favorite midwestern style tavern-cut.  They make their own sausage in house too; it’s served in medium-sized hand pinched chunks.

On the side we tried the “Cranky Sticks” which were basically a small thin pizza, without sauce and basted with garlic butter.  The “Cranky Sticks” are cut in strips and served with sauces for dipping.

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It was fitting we enjoyed our dinner at Cranky Pat’s during a preseason Green Bay Packer game on a Thursday night.  Even for a preseason game the bar was packed and a live DJ read raffle tickets and played pump-up songs during commercials.  Though the level of devotion these folks share for Cranky Pat’s might pale in comparison to that of the almighty Green and Gold, they do seem pretty committed to their cracker thin-crust pizza.

Cranky Pat’s gave me the same nostalgic sensation as my favorite Gus’ Pizza back in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  In both of these pizzerias you get the sense that they have been around the block and they know what they are doing.  While so many new restaurants fail, these places stand the test of time.  It’s said that only 10% of new businesses survive three years. So, what makes our old-school favorites stick?

The 10,000 hour rule.

The 10,000 hour rule says that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is needed to become the master of a craft.  I figure I’ve been alive for around 11,000 days and I’ve eaten pizza probably somewhere around 2,000 times.  According to the 10,000 hour rule I’ve got a long way to go before I become a true pizza eating pro.

Cranky Pat’s has been around since 1955 that means they have hand-crafted homemade sausage, cut pizza into squares and put it all in a bag for 62 years.  The owner and employees have spent thousands of hours honing their craft. Places like Cranky Pat’s and Gus’s Pizza (est. 1962) have put in well over 10,000 hours of making pizza and you can tell in their product.

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10,000 pizzas devoted.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s New York Times best seller Outliers he says “ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness.” He gives the example of The Beatles hitting their 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” by playing 8-hour sets, seven days a week in Hamburg, Germany years before their mass success in America.  He also discusses how Bill Gates hit his 10,000 early on with unique exposure to computers and coding as a teenager.  That experience allowed him years of extra practice and a huge advantage in the emerging computer business in the 1970’s.

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The takeaway from these success stories is that you’ve got to put in the time to be great at something.  Practice and dedication are what enable people and businesses to achieve the highest level of accomplishment. Years of commitment to honing a craft is a big piece of what allows establishments like Cranky Pat’s and Gus’s Pizza to create lasting legacies.

What pizza taught me:

By devoting our time and committing ourselves to a skill, we can master it. A quality pizza consistently served over 62 years is bound to become a “hole in the wall” cult classic, even if it’s served in a bag.

What I’m eating: Cranky Pat’s Pizzeria; cheese pizza, sausage and pepperoni pizza, “Cranky Sticks” with ranch and marinara.

What I’m reading: Outliers -Malcolm Gladwell

 

 

 

 

The More Mozzarella the Merrier

“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” -African Proverb

Ordering pizza with a group is great; the more people, the more pizzas you order. The best part though is sharing that pizza with the extraordinary people that surround us. Every August my family gathers in Door County and we have an annual “Luther Bash”.  We sing karaoke, hit up a supper club, take long walks and lucky for me, we eat pizza.  Delicious wood-fired pizza.

A weekend getaway filled with great conversation and plenty of laughter reminds me of how awesome my family is.   It also reminds me the importance of maintaining and continually expanding a network of great people in our lives.

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A feast for the whole family.

Approaching Door County on a Friday night I strategize with my Mom over the phone about what to order from Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille in Fish Creek, WI. My mom has arrived a day early and bless her heart has offered to pick up pizza for the whole family.

In the 4 hour car ride up north Tess, my brother Jeff and his fiancé Jaime have come up with a delectable plan for our Friday night pizza party. We account for everyone’s likes, dislikes and imagine the right variety for our whole family.  We then coordinate this to my Mom.

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The mouth of the wood-fired oven.

When we arrive to our vacation destination, we are greeted with hot fresh pizzas and a packed condo of buzzing Luthers.  My wonderful Mother even went one step further and snapped pictures of the pizza that you see in this post.

That’s the power of a solid network. You have someone to share ideas with, lean on, and lift you up with a smorgasbord of wood-fired pizzas (along with pictures).

 The wood-fired wonder of the North. 

You may associate Door County the seasonal Wisconsin getaway with wineries, cranberries, sailboats and scenery, but would you expect some of the states best wood-fired pizza?

When I discovered Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza back in 2010, I suddenly felt a whole new level of appreciation for the relaxing touristy peninsula.  If one of these puppies existed in Madison, it would be my go to spot.

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The “Sausage and Pesto” with Goat Cheese

“Sausage and Pesto” perfection.

For several years now my immediate family has made it a tradition to get the “Sausage & Pesto” pizza with goat cheese added to it (Tess’s amazing idea, I married well).  The wood-fired pizza has a sturdy charred crust that provides an excellent chew.  The crust is just thick enough to hold a bountiful yet balanced layer of of high quality ingredients: Italian sausage, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto and our addition dollops of goat cheese.

Some combinations seem so simple, yet fit so perfectly that when they come together, you wonder why people don’t do it more often.  The ingredients of the “Sausage and Pesto” pie come together and create a pizza that is fun and memorable.  Just like the Luther Clan; we come together and create a comforting and supportive network.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

While family is often at the core of our network, continually expanding our circle is important.

“Networking is when you create a far bigger family around you than you could have ever imagined.” states best selling author and podcaster James Altucher.

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My uncle Pete’s combo: Sausage, pepperoni, mushroom and onion.

He references his podcast interview with Scot Cohen The Best Networker in the World. PERIOD. “Networking is when you create your “scene” over years. The people you can help. The people you learn to help. The people who can connect some dots and you become happy when you can introduce them to people who connect other dots.”

Harvey Mackay businessman and New York Times best selling author says in his book Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty “If I had to name the single characteristic shared by all truly successful people I’ve met over a lifetime, I’d say it is the ability to create and nurture a network of contacts.”

Developing and maintaining your network. 

  • Keep it fun by bringing enthusiasm to a conversation, be optimistic and uncover a shared interest.  One of my favorite ways to spark up a conversation is to ask someone about their favorite pizza.  You can’t go wrong.
  • Be a good listener and let others share what’s on their mind.  Give your full attention to them and affirm what they are saying. By being an attentive listener you become a trusted ally.
  • Reach out to your favorite people every couple months.  Always work on maintaining relationships even if it’s just a call, text or a simple “Like” on facebook.  Share a picture of some pizza you enjoyed.
  • The more the merrier holds true. Always add to your network.  The more we extend ourselves to others and create new relationships, the more opportunities we open up.  And the more excellent pizza we come across.
  • Have patience with those in your network and hold them accountable.  Sometimes we need to lean and sometimes we are leaned on, taking the initiative to help others will solidify a life-long bond.

What pizza taught me:

Surrounding ourselves with great people makes life exciting, enjoyable and sometimes even easier. Pizza is always there for us in the good times and the bad, and if we play our cards right so is a solid support system of family and friends.

What I’m eating:  Wild Tomato Wood Fired Pizza and Grille

What I’m reading: Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – Harvey Mackay