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.

pizza hut little league

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