Looking back on my fondest childhood memories in NJ, pizza is woven into so many remembrances I have of being a kid. For instance, any type of sports victory or accomplishment in school, no matter how tiny, was almost always met with the question, “Who wants to go for a slice?” Not to mention, Friday night was officially pizza night. Dad would call in our order and each week my brother and I took turns tagging along on the five-minute drive to pick up our pie (no one we knew ever called it a pizza). I can still remember the aroma of cheese, onions and peppers filling up the car and wanting so badly to take a just a small bite, but my dad would always convince me how much better the pizza would taste if we waited until we got home. I also remember when I was in college, a friend who always seemed able to convince me to make the 45-minute drive with him from Rutgers into Manhattan in the wee hours of a Saturday night just to grab a slice of Ray’s Famous Pizza.
According to a recent USDA report, loyalists like me have helped pizza grow into a $37 billion a year business in the U.S. While 54% of people say they primarily eat pizza for lunch, four percent eat it for breakfast and 42% eat it dinner. The top five most popular toppings are pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, sausage and bacon. True, prices have gone up a bit, but where else can two people essentially get dinner with enough leftover for lunch the next day for under $20?
As an adult, I have continued that Friday night pizza tradition in my own home, although given where I live the choices are limited: make it myself, buy frozen or drive 20 minutes or more to pick up a pizza. No home delivery (gasp) and no pizza chains nearby.
I tried making my own pizza from scratch this past year. I was thrilled to find my local supermarket carried everything I needed including the dough ($2.99). I even invested in one of those fancy pizza stones they sell at Pampered Chef parties with the delusion I, too, could produce pizza like the pros. In reality, each time I attempted to make pizza it always came out different, which is a polite way to say somewhat inedible. My pizza went by many nicknames, but the two that seemed to stick were “Pizza Surprise” and “Amoeba Pizza” as I never really mastered how to get the dough thin enough let alone even.
I have also tried nearly every frozen pizza option known to mankind and the only ones I cared for were the thin crust types. Recently, I tried Price Chopper’s Central Market brand frozen pizza with very low expectations due to the $5.99 price point and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. I’ve already gone back and stocked up on more. Who knew?