Pizza-watching

“People are the best show in the world. And you don’t even pay for the ticket” -Charles Bukowski

People-watching is one of my favorite past-times; second only to pizza-watching.  If you’ve ever made a trip around Madison’s capital square for the infamous farmer’s market you know what great territory it is to idly observe people from all walks of life.

Many Saturday mornings Tess and I will find ourselves marching along with the market masses doing the slow cheese-sampling shuffle—inching along like we’re caught in a swarm of zombies stuck in a quadrilateral slog.

Though it’s only 9am all the market delicacies like the warm cheesy-bread, fresh curds, beef sticks, and homemade hot sauces begin to remind me of my beloved pizza, but you can’t score a slice at 9am? Can you?

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Up and at’em.

At the square you expect to see folks of all shapes and sizes—statuses and statures; but you don’t expect to get a slice of pizza.  Most pizza shops open 11am at the earliest (some of my favorites don’t open until 4pm), but thanks to Ian’s Pizza on State you can now enjoy a piece of pizza along with your pastries and cold-brew.

Every market season Ian’s hones their revolutionary pizza riffing to breakfast as they start slinging slices bright and early.  You can grab a Denver Omelet slice, a Huevos Rancheros slice or even a sweet Apple Cobbler slice. And if breakfast pizza isn’t your thing, don’t fret, because nestled between Biscuits and Gravy inspired slices and Fruit Parfait pizzas you’ll find all of Ian’s late night classics.

The prime pizza-watching spot. 

Ian’s is the infamous midwestern slice joint that serves up eclectic slices and forever pushes the boundaries of what you’d expect to find on a pizza. My all-time favorites include the “Spicy Chicken Quesadilla” which is a slice with a quesadilla on top of it, Italian Beef complete with spicy giardiniera and of course the Buffalo Chicken layered with bleu cheese crumbles and chicken that packs some heat.

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Whether you want simple or complex there’s a slice for everyone.  Vegan? No problem.  Craving Mexican food? You’re covered. In the mood for pasta?  Do you want Lasagna or Penne Alfredo?  A childhood favorite?  You gotta try the Mac n’ Cheese.

I imagine that a sliver of Ian’s creativity is inspired by the diverse characters you find roaming the downtown area. Perusing Ian’s slice line-up and observing farmers market attendees share similar peculiarities.

People intrigue me as much as pizza. 

When I’m people-watching at the market I can’t help but imagine others daily lives. Where’s home? What motivates them? What’s their routine?  What kind of pizza do they eat?

There’s a lot to learn from people.  Robert Greene in his book Mastery says “the primal source of human intelligence comes from the development of mirror neurons which gives us the ability to place ourselves in the skin of another and imagine their experience. Through continual exposure to people and by attempting to think inside them we can gain an increasing sense of their perspective, but this requires effort on our part.”

Social intelligence is the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes—to take a look through another’s eyes and to imagine how their mind thinks and feels.  Harnessing this skill proves handy in almost any endeavor because it trains us in empathy.  It doesn’t matter how smart or skilled we are if we can’t connect with people.

What pizza taught me:

We all have different backgrounds and values; Ian’s slice selection is as unpredictable as our viewpoints. If we take a glimpse into someone else’s life we can gain a new level of understanding and empathy.

What I’m eating: Ian’s Pizza on State-Buffalo Chicken and Smoky the Bandit

What I’m reading:  Getting to Yes –Roger Fisher and William Ury

 

Hidden Gems

“You can only lose what you cling to” Buddha

What do I want?  Every Wednesday that question wracks my brain; whittle’s my wife’s patience to dust.  So much pizza, so little time, naturally mind goes in circles.

We all face that daily dilemma between a finite caloric intake and an infinite amount of pizza possibilities.  It feels as though we’ve got to pick our battles wisely; line up our cravings, shake ’em down and narrow down the cut.  We’ve got to contemplate crusts, consider cheese to sauce ratios and collaborate topping combinations to ensure a perfect pizza night.

Really though, it’s often after we stop over-analyzing that pizza destiny knocks.

Tess and I gratefully had a babysitter on a Saturday night and set out to relive our glory days of frolicking around downtown Madison, WI.  Fun for us comes from exploring uncharted culinary territory—our favorite past-time finding new restaurants.

To rekindle our spirit of adventure we wanted something new, something hip, somewhere we could observe Madison’s foodie elite.  We figured after 6 years we’d hit every spot downtown, but we had left one rock unturned.

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Natt Spil

Natt Spil has no sign and only accepts cash, but is ever so welcoming to the weary capital square traveler.  The space is as intimate as a Hobbit-hole; a DJ booth and globally influenced decor emit an aura that says “hot-spot for the hip”, the tattoed and those craving finely crafted cocktails.  Apparently, it’s also for those who are hungry for Asian inspired Dim Sum and pizza?

The name is Norwegian (meaning “night play”) and the menu is equal parts Asian, Mediterranean and pizza and that’s exactly the eclectic, eccentric sort of thing we were after.  I would say it’s Madison’s best-kept secret, but people have been telling me to go there for years.

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Stepping into an unmarked door. 

If you’re looking for Natt Spil just follow a trail of logs leading down an alley and you’ll hit their wood-burning pizza oven. The pizza has that great char and chew that you only find when your pie has been kissed by the flames of a raging hot wood-burning oven.

Tess and I opted for the Natt Spil Sausage that came delicately balanced with tomato, chevre, red onion and pepperoncini peppers (my favorite touch).  Bites of sausage and pepperoncini peppers excited the tastebuds with an acidic tang to savory counterbalance.

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Look no further.

Happiness and pizza are spun from the same dough. There are times in life when we don’t know what to do and maybe that’s when it’s more important than ever to detach and let the universe reveal the path.

Meditation master and spiritual leader Lama Gendun Rinpoche wrote: “Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already there, in relaxation and letting go.”  “Don’t search any further… Nothing to do, Nothing to force, Nothing to want, and everything happens by itself.”

What Pizza taught me:

The harder we try for happiness the further away it gets; just like our satisfaction when we set the bar too high for pizza night. When we relinquish our desires and let life happen that’s when a crispy, pristine Natt Spil pizza unexpectedly plops itself in our laps.

What I’m eating:  Natt Spil

What I’m reading:  Robert Greene Mastery