I was born in New York City. The Big Apple, baby. I was raised in Fort Lee, NJ, (you got a problem with that?) in a home on the Palisades, overlooking the NYC skyline. I’ve always loved pizza.
Growing up in NJ, pizza was always on the menu. Everyone had a favorite pizza place. Mine? Ft. Lee Pizza, which is still there and is still awesome. Jerry’s was great at well. Ft. Lee was, at the time, filled with Italians, so Italian food was everywhere. The pizza was excellent. Have I mentioned I love pizza and that I’ve always loved pizza?
Professionally, I’ve been in travel most of my life; I started an international tour company when I was in college. I sold that business in 1999. I also grew and sold a travel technology company. I’ve also had senior executive positions in travel, like President of Travel at USA Today, which was really fun. One of the benefits of being in travel is getting to practice your trade. So, I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled the world, and have seen the most beautiful places. I’ve also had some wonderful meals and best of all, I’ve made some wonderful friends. And, in cases where you can mix all of those? That’s heaven. Like eating pizza with best friends in Rome, Italy. But I digress.
Why did I spend the last thirteen years in Indiana, you ask? Great question. About ten years ago, my parents and sister moved to Florida. My favorite aunt and cousins moved to Colorado, so my pregnant wife, my 18-month old daughter and I, found ourselves alone. Sure, there were plenty of friends around, but it’s just not the same as family. After about a month, my wife and I caught the flu. Man, were we sick. We worried we’d get our daughter sick and we had no one around to help. My wife said “I know you swore you’d never move to Indiana, but if we lived there, we’d at least have help.” I was sick as a dog. Delirious. Vomiting. She caught me at my weakest….. and I said “fine, we’ll move to Indiana.” Next thing I know, the house was sold, my wife had a new job in Chicago and we were flying to Indiana to check out houses. Shortly after that, we were living in Northwest Indiana. Yes, LIVING IN INDIANA! (Thankfully, we made some wonderful friends. Hoosiers are kind, caring individuals. There’s no doubt about that.)
On move-in day, we ordered pizza for all the delivery guys. I called the place my realtor told me to call, because it was “the best pizza” apparently. The call went something like this…. Me: “Hi, I’d like to order 6 large plain pies.” Silence. The lady on the phone: “Um, we only sell pizza.” Me: “Right. OK, I’d like to order 6 large plain pizzas.” Her: “You don’t want cheese???” Me: “What? Yes, I do… OK…. I’d like to order 6 large cheese pizzas. We just moved here and the movers are hungry!” Her: “Movers? You should get the bigger one.” Me: “Um, ok, what’s bigger than large?” Her: “Well, we also have “family size” and giant.” Me: “OK, well may I please have 6, giant, cheese pizzas?” It was just about then I realized I truly didn’t live on the East coast any longer.
What seemed like 47 days later, the pizza shows up and, I’ll admit, it smelled wonderful. I and a few of the movers stood around the pizza boxes, paper plates in hand. We opened the box and sat there, amazed at what we saw. It was cut into uneven strips. STRIPS! One of the movers (from NJ) looked at me and said “WTF is that? Who cuts a round pizza into strips?” It was also a greasy mess. We ate it, of course, but we shook our heads the entire time. This was the best pizzas around? “Dear God” I thought to myself. “Please let this be a mistake. The pizza place was just really off today.” Well, it wasn’t off that day. It was off every day.
And so began my quest for pizza – real pizza – in Northwest Indiana. Spoiler alert; there really isn’t any “REAL” pizza there, in the NY/NJ style, but there IS some decent pizza. There’s also some truly horrific “pizza” there.
Now that I’m back East, I’ll keep trying and keep tasting pizza from all over, and I’ll write about it here. Hopefully, I’ll find something acceptable. – JOHN