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No Place Like Home

“We carry our homes within us, which enables us to fly.” John Cage

As the 4th of July weekend approached I was feeling restless, my brain held hostage by an exhausting work-week and an ever-broadening list of “daddy duties”.  I was bored with Madison. I wanted to run, to get free, to feel like a kid.  I wanted summer fun; a glistening sun, a pine-laden horizon, friends, fireworks and some great pizza (that’s a given).

I wanted that sense of freedom that arises when you get out into the country or dunk yourself into greenish-blue Wisconsin lake water; resurfacing with a rush—a swirl of adolescent giddiness.  That feeling of leaning back and looking into a vibrant blue sky blotted with fluffy, pillow-like clouds; your day-to-day tensions melting away like sidewalk chalk in the rain.

Most of all I wanted the excitement of seeing my favorite people and eating my favorite pizza. The question is then, where can I capture all these classic 4th of July feels in the same spot?

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Going home. 

Tess and I got a sitter for Ellis (Thanks Mom!) and ventured back to our old stomping grounds Whitewater WI. for the 4th of July, with our eye out for everything I’d been daydreaming of, especially my crème de la crème of Wisconsin pizza: Gus’ Pizza Palace.

If you know me or have read any of my stuff you may realize that Gus’ is not just any old pizza to me; it’s the best pizza, my favorite pizza. The all-time greatest pizza. It’s the rule—the measure—the standard by which I judge all pizza.

For the longest time, I was nervous to even write about Gus’ because it’s so special to me, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to do it justice. Or, worse yet, what if it had changed in some way.  I’ve only had the chance to eat it a handful of times since moving, but I figured I’d try to let the legend shine.

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Confession: I went to Gus’ twice in one day.

If you grew up in Whitewater, you undoubtedly know the passion and loyalty that the locals share for their Gus’ pizza.  It’s the gold standard for small-town, thin crust, cheesy pizza, sliced up in squares since 1962.  That’s right, it’s a legacy, it’s been whipped up by the same family using top-secret family recipes for 56 years (way to go guys!).

For Whitewater folk, it’s lovingly known as “Greasy Gus'”. 

Though they keep their formulas confidential, my conspiracy theory has it that the legendary grease factor is due to them using slices of mozzarella instead of shredded like most pizza places.  When the cheese melts in their old-school deck-ovens, the grease collects on top of the slices and creates this delicious blend of grease, melty cheese, and sauce.  I’ve had no other pizza that accomplishes this unique consistency. It’s bliss.

The crust is super thin—cracker thin and has a hand pinched rim that is efficient in holding an excessive, greasy pool of cheese.  The crust is like a little floury canyon. (Ahh, writing this makes me want to dive right in).

unnamedSimplicity and home go hand-in-hand for me.  With my Gus’ I follow suit; I want the pizza in it’s most pristine form: cheese. I’m a sucker for good quality cheese pizza.  I want to bask in the harmony of the cheese, sauce, and crust; let them join together and do a  sacred dance.  If a pizza place can’t get plain cheese right, then I see no future.

Tess often goes for green olives or we’ll share a pizza with gyro meat on it with a side of tzatziki sauce (their gyros are bomb by the way, meat carved from the spit and all).  I’ve heard rave reviews of topping combinations all over the map; from black olives and feta (put on after it’s cooked), to bacon and onion, to onion, green pepper, extra sauce, extra cheese, the infamous Gus’ Special and as I previously mentioned my friend who will give his right arm for beef, bacon, sausage.  I’ve even heard the old-timers talk about the joy of shrimp on their Gus’.

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Gus’s in recent years also got into the cheese-sticks biz to stay competitive in the college market and their sticks are holy wow, topped with at least a quarter inch of mozzarella, definitely among my top 3 three cheese-sticks (that’s a whole separate blog post).  Also, I just gotta say potato wedges, do it.

 

My 4th of July fuzzies wouldn’t be complete without Gus’. 

Just like home, Gus’ is one place that seems to be a constant in a world that’s always changing; it’s one thing all my old friends and family still share in common. For almost 60 years they’ve stuck to their guns and for the most part, the product goes unscathed (though I always remembered more cheese, my grandma agrees).

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Cheese-sticks

In my glory days, I remember the goal for my friends and I on the 4th was to throw the biggest party we could, now it’s scrounging for babysitters and exchanging parenting tips (did you try this new swaddle!?).  That’s what makes life exciting, it’s constantly evolving as we are.

Phil Knight the founder of Nike says in his biography “Life is growth. Business is growth, You grow or you die.”  Whether it’s new additions to our families or nuances to our holiday traditions; we get reminders every day that everything changes, yet there is a resemblance, a fragment of the past that we can cherish.  That’s Gus’ for me.

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Potato Wedges.

What pizza taught me:

Simply going home can be all the negotiation our nagging mind needs in order to chill itself out.  It’s been six years since I left Whitewater and everything feels different but familiar at the same time. There will always be a part of me that finds comfort in going home and Gus’ is a piece of that history.  I hope everybody has a place like that.

What I’m eating: Gus’ cheese pizza, gyro meat pizza with side of tzatziki, cheese-sticks, wedges

What I’m reading:  Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike –Phil Knight

 

 

 

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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

Chicago Style Through the Eyes of a Child

The best part of parenting is witnessing my kids experience all the nuances of pizza…. I mean…life for the first time. And yes, in our household pizza-eating provides many of those cherished moments.

About a month ago I got my annual urge for a pizza that’s reverse engineered with chunky tomato sauce on top, a hearty portion of mozzarella in the middle and buttery crust on the bottom.

With my first born Ellis a full blown Friday night pizza enthusiast I figured it would be the perfect time to introduce him to the behemoth staple of our windy city neighbor.

Chicago Style.

With how close Madison is to Chicago we are really lacking in the Chicago Style Deep Dish department. Rosati’s the chain based out of Illinois is really our only option (also, my go to for Italian Beefs).

Upon returning home from Rosati’s I plopped our several pound medium pie onto the counter and peered in the box at a red sea of steaming sauce. Between the thick slices I could see the gooey collision of two walls of extra mozzarella crashing into each other.

Watching Ellis behold the backwards composition of a Chicago slice was heartwarming. You could see his eyes go wide and his head tilt in bewilderment as he pondered how to go about taking a bite.

Upon diving in he pulled out a mozzarella tight rope that hung between his sauce covered mouth and the slice in his hands. My kiddo made an epic cheese stretch that resembled an electrical wire dangling between two utility poles. Proud. Dad. Moment.

I’m pretty sure Ellis is still a thin-crust devotee at heart like his old-man, but watching him experience Chicago style for the first time was enough to burn that cheese-stretch into my memory bank forever.

Experiencing all those firsts every Friday night through the eyes of my kids unlocks an even deeper appreciation into the joy and magic of pizza.

“And that’s all I have to say about that.” -Forrest Gump

The Carrot that Led Me to My Covid Vaccine

In early April I was on a mission to get a Covid vaccine before my kids’ birthdays at the end of the month. I had trips to the zoo and a real live birthday party with actual attendees to look forward to. But, in the Madison area, appointments were getting snatched up in the blink of an eye and the only solution proved to be to branching out a little bit.

Thankfully, I’ve got the kind of wife who will wake up in the wee hours of the morning to scour the internet for available openings and she prevailed. The winner was right outside my old stomping grounds of Whitewater. None other than our ol’ dumpy next door neighbor Fart Asskissin (Fort Atkinson).

I got on the list for their Walgreens and within a few days I would take the scenic drive down highway 12 to Fart. I hadn’t been through Fart in a while, but when I starting thinking of that little town one place in particular peaked my interest.

Salamone’s Italian Pizzeria.

Once upon a time Whitewater actually had its own Salamone’s and so that pizza will always have a faint flicker in my bank of joyful pizza memories. I haven’t been to Salamone’s in over a decade so I figured if I was going to get poked with some vax, I might as well pick up a pie for the car ride home.

I went with their thin option (which really isn’t that thin). It’s about a quarter inch and kinda flimsy (think the thickness of a Tombstone Original crust). It has a light texture that is soft and gives a little chew.

The sauce gives Salamone’s it’s characteristic flavor and to my delight without asking for extra cheese, there was a plethora of it. I will admit that sauce and cheese combo gave me goosebumps of nostalgia (or maybe that was the vaccine?).

As proud Whitewater Alum all things Fart will always be second rate, but Salomone’s is most definitely their saving grace. It doesn’t live up to greasy legends of Whitewater, but if your eastbound from Madison and too lazy to go an extra 20 minutes to Gus’ Pizza Palace it’s a fine substitute.

This little trip taught me a simple lesson: Pizza is the best reward for doing all the things in life we’ve got to do, that we don’t really want to do. Salamone’s turned a two hour trip to get a shot into a pleasant trek down pizza memory lane.

Trying My Luck With Pothole Pizza


Taking a gamble on a new frozen pizza gives me equal parts excitement and equal parts anxiety. Especially when rolling the dice means having to chalk up $8-$10 for one of those up-and-coming “craft” pizzas that are flooding the freezer sections.

To be clear, I’m in no way complaining about the deluge of those “craft” frozens that are taking the Midwest supermarkets by storm. I’m grateful the likes of Lotzza Motzza, Screaming Sicilian and Outsiders Pizza Company are elevating the frozen pizza game by adding more cheese and more toppings than ever before.

But, you’ve got to pay a premium to taste those premium offerings and with the multitude of new options that are begging to be had it can start to hurt the pocket book. And now, it appears, I not only need to watch my wallet at the grocery store, but at the gas station too.

You know the world is turning for the better when the gas station frozen pizza selection starts to rival the selections of the most well-stocked grocery stores. Recently a chain typically trusted for grab-and-go cheese stuffed breadsticks, taquitos, and corn dogs started featuring a new favorite gourmet frozen pizza.

Kwik-Trip

My work “pizza posse” had been hyping this new frozen like a hot stock on Wall Street all week long. Pizza enthusiasm can quickly get the best of me, so after work I drove straight for the nearest Kwik-Trip.

As I approached the freezer door and veered in at three fully loaded frozens titled Meat Sweats. Pep Rally. Sausage Palooza I knew the odds were in my favor and it was going to be worth pulling over for Pothole Pizza.

Though, picking up a Pothole Pizza didn’t feel quite like rolling the dice on shares of GameStop stock, it did have my heart rate up. Not because I was nervous but because they looked so epic.

On my first buy-in, I went for the “Meatsweats” pizza. This pie was loaded to the brim with toppings: over-sized sausages (rarely found on frozens), lot’s of thick cut pepperoni, and half-an-inch of a four-cheese blend.

The tastiness of the sauce is at the upper echelon of frozen pizza sauces. The cheese is thick, dare I say even making me reevaluate my allegiance to “Lotzza Motzza” (I know that’s a bold statement). This pizza had me pretty pumped up and I don’t think you can find them outside of Kwik-Trip.

Making smart bets.

With Kwik-Trips all over the surrounding area, this frozen pie will surely become a freezer staple. Thus, my $10 gamble yielded a mighty fine return. Turns out forking out the dough for frozen pizzas carries no financial risk at all and will actually provide dividends of happiness for years to come.

What I’m eating: Pothole Pizza Meatsweats (pepperoni and sausage pizza)

What I’m reading: The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management -Peter Drucker

Moving Past the Sweatpants

“Commitment is the ignitor of momentum.” -Peggy Wood

Dropping pounds and eating pizza don’t typically go together; actually they fit in the same sentence about as well as my waist into my skinny jeans after the holidays (not well). This January, I witnessed the very real hardship that comes along with a little extra yuletide weight.

While normally I remain disciplined and practice a balanced diet, it was apparent that two back to back long weekends filled with frozen pizzas and Christmas cookies had gotten the best of me. In order to get the weight loss pendulum swinging I would have no choice but to limit my pizza intake.

Or would I?

Sure, pizza comes loaded with a lot of unhealthy obstacles: A delicious carb-loaded crust, high saturated fat filled mozzarella and pepperoni, and a sugary tomato sauce. But I knew there had to be a way to get my fix without having to use all my Amazon gift cards on new XXL size clothes.

So, I mulled over my Christmas conundrum and brainstormed several solutions:

Option 1. The cauliflower crust/healthy flatbread route: I could make a healthy-ish homemade pizza on a low carb protein loaded wrap. With all the low-carb rage, products like this are all over the place. I could load it with toppings and I bet that would suffice.

Option 2. A pizza bowl: Skip that crust all together and pile the toppings sky high. It’s pretty easy to trick yourself, or at least wet your whistle with 66% of what makes a pizza great.

Option 3. Portion control: I could always just limit yourself to one slice, but let’s face it this option sucks (booo!!).

While all of those options would be o k…., none of them really get me too excited to go on diet anytime soon.

As I started to stir on my first Friday morning after the New Year the urge for pizza crust began to crescendo in my mind, I thought to myself: Maybe I should just embrace the dad-bod. After all I am 35 years old with two kids, who do I have to impress?

But, I shook the vision of myself raising a slice to “cheers” my two year old and realized it was no time to give in. I wanted to comfortably wear jeans again. I began to tinker with another idea as pizza night was just hours away.

What if I could build a Frankenstein low carb concoction piled high with all of my favorite pieces of the pie?

Though slightly wasteful (unless you’re lucky enough to have a 2 and half year old who loves pizza crust like I do), I decided to simply scrape the toppings off multiple slices and sculpt them into one giant slice. Thus assembling a mega slice that would surely fulfill my fattiest of cravings.

After I ate that jumbo slice I felt pleasantly satisfied, even with just a fraction of the normal crust. Yes, the pizza was delicious, but more importantly I was proud of my self for sticking to my guns.

It was a step in the right direction to get me out of sweatpants dependency. Though I love the food buzz that comes from the doughy shovel, I have to admit that a little momentum in the right direction feels even better.

What I’m eating: Rosa’s in Whitewater,WI; pepperoni, sausage, extra cheese from multiple pieces piled on one slice.

What I’m reading: The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You -Julie Zhuo

You Spin Me Round

“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.” Benjamin Franklin

Thanksgiving weekend is always a cherished time for me because beyond the stuffing, gravy and decorating for Christmas, I’ve got four days off in a row perfect for feasting on frozen pizzas.

Especially this year, with restaurants closed and limited family festivities, it was the perfect opportunity to hunker down with The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and fire up my freezer stash.

But, to cook up the perfect frozen you’ve got to have the proper equipment. While my conventional oven does a fine job, it’s all the way upstairs in the kitchen; despairingly far from my man cave in the lower level.

To fix this dilemma, I took action to boost my basement pizza baking capabilities and purchased a new pizza oven off of Amazon. So, this year, I’m not only thankful for my frozen pizzas, but for my favorite new pizza maker as well.

The Pizzaz.

Have you ever been mesmerized by the steady swirl of a vinyl record spinning?

I invite you to try watching your frozen pizza rotate into greasy, golden brown perfection.

About a month ago I rekindled my long lost relationship with a modern marvel of pizza cooking innovation: The Presto Pizzaz Rotating Pizza Oven. The Pizzaz is a pizza cooker that sends your frozen a gentle ride atop a slowly spinning disk that passes through upper and lower infrared heating elements. Simply turn a dial and then you’ve got 12 minutes to watch your mozzarella merry-go-round into melty magnificence.

Trust me, there’s nothing like the hypnotic trance of witnessing your frozen pizza come to fruition.

Since I was a teenager it’s been one of my tribes most trusted devices; always twirling in the background of High School hangouts and college hangovers. But somehow, in the transition to adulthood through marriage and homeownership I lost touch with the simple pleasure of the Pizzaz. In a time when we are urged to stay home I can think of no better $45 investment.

Now after scoring one I sit hunched over it, losing myself in the steady swirl of my pepperoni speckled dinner baking; like a cavemen ancestor gazing into the magical flicker of his fire at night.

Then it dawned on me, I have two more four day weekends coming up with the wonderful layout of Christmas and New Year’s this year. I may have to invest in one of those metal bowling alley pizza ovens too…..

What I’m eating: Jack’s frozen pizza hot off the Pizzazz.

What I’m reading: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts -Annie Duke

I Don’t Want Papa Murphy’s!

“What is more principled than giving up some part of your position to advance the greater good?” -Arnold Schwarzenegger


What happens when you and your pizza-eating partner in crime don’t see pie to pie?

Some Fridays in the Luther household getting the stars aligned for the perfect pizza night can be a little tricky. Especially when the wifey wants gourmet veggie and I’m all about the grease laden pepperoni.

Well, this is a tale about a boy (me) who wanted a pepperoni slice the-size-of-his-head and a girl (Tess) who wanted a take n’ bake thin-crust with all the veggies and how we met in the middle and found happiness despite our differences.

It all started one Friday afternoon when a usually cherished topic of conversation turned into a heated debate. Tess had a deep desire for a Papa Murphy’s Gourmet Veggie, and I wanted, well anything, but, Papa Murphy’s.

I was sold on Chicago tavern-style pizza. I wanted something thin and party-cut in squares and loaded with cheese and pepperoni. And for that, Dahmens at Hawks Landing is the answer.

Now, I’ve got nothing against Papa Murphy’s, it’s great for a cozy night in and I love how they chop their veggies in small chunks (it’s one of the few places where my go-to is a pizza loaded with toppings), but that Friday I knew for certain, it simply would not do.

That left us in a pizza-night pickle.

I was tempted to slam my parmesan-shaker down and demand that we get the pizza my way! But, years of marriage experience have taught me that is no way to start the weekend.

On the contrary, I could always just give-in…but that’s a hard bite to swallow, especially when you look forward to Friday-night pizza as much as I do.

The best course of action?

Take a step back, open up our lines of communication and get to the root of the problem.

What were the “pizza-particulars” that were driving us in different directions anyway?

To uncover that mystery we had to do some digging. We needed to cross-examine each other and use questions to uncover our severed connection.

Step #1 when problem solving is to shut up and listen; that’s where the magic happens. So, it was time to put my pizza passion to the side and open my ears.

For starters, why did she want Papa Murphy’s? And why did I detest the idea?

Did Tess want Papa Murphy’s because she likes the experience of making it at home as a family? She likes it leftover? She wasn’t in the mood for red sauce (gourmet veggie comes on creamy garlic base)? Or did a thin crust veggie pizza just sound yummy to her?

It turned out that one of her ruling desires was a cracker thin crust (who can blame her) and pizza that would hold up leftover. I could work with that.

When we probed my mozzarella-covered motivations it was revealed that I too wanted thin crust, but I wanted traditional pizza flavors; red sauce, pepperoni, stretchy mozzarella.

By unearthing our real motivations, we could start to work towards common ground.

Now we had a common denominator, we both wanted thin. From there we could build the Friday night pizza eating experience we were both after. And thanks to the ease of building custom half and half pizzas on Papa Murphy’s website, we built a pizza that suited both out needs.

Tess got her Gourmet Veggie and I was won over with crispy thin-crust layered with pepperoni and extra cheese . A win-win.

The Luther pizza night negotiations showed me that beneath the surface, our interests are often more inline than we may think. Though the world seems polarized right now, we should remember to listen, attempt to see through other’s eyes and make an effort to meet in the middle.

What I’m eating: Papa Murphy’s half gourmet veggie, half pepperoni extra cheese.

What I’m reading: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story -Arnold Schwarzenegger 

So Long, Sweet Summer

“Love is meant to be an adventure.” Gordon B. Hinckley

As I bid farewell to the infamous Covid-19 infused summer of 2020, I do my routine reflection on the best pizzas of the season. While retracing my pizza-eating escapades a sweet, sticky, molasses-brown infatuation became hard to ignore: BBQ sauce.

The last three months of sunshine didn’t have as many friend-filled backyard barbeques as usual, but I still celebrated by incorporating that cookout flavor into my Friday night pizza-nights.

My summer fling with BBQ on pizza began when the ol’ red sauce started to feel a little stale. In our decades together we built glorious memories, but it was time for a little more flair underneath my mozzarella. Out of boredom I began to peruse further into my favorite pizzeria menus and I noticed that BBQ Chicken pizzas were popping up as frequently as pepperoni.

After I succumbed to a couple sultry affairs, I was fully seduced by the sweet and salty pairing of savory chicken, salty cheeses and BBQ sauce. And as our chance encounters turned routine, my heart became smitten by hints of cilantro, the bite of red onion and sprinkles of bacon.

Now for a trip down memory lane with a list Summer 2020’s best BBQ Chicken pizzas.

Wild Tomato, Fish Creek, WI. “The Old Faithful”.

For the Luther’s the summer wouldn’t be complete without our annually trip to Door County and while Covid may derail the dine in experience at our mainstay Wild Tomato it is certainly not slowing down their carryout business.

Since we only visit once a year we usually go for our usual standby’s; the D-lux or Sausage & Pesto (add goat cheese), but this year in the midst of my BBQ Chicken Pizza affair I opted for the “The Old Faithful” (their version of a BBQ chicken pizza).

Though some were skeptical of the BBQ chicken pizza addition once it showed up everyone wanted a piece. (I’ve found that to be a common theme with BBQ chicken pizzas; it never quite seems to be anyone’s first choice, but once it’s there, everyone wants some.) This rendezvous confirmed that BBQ chicken pizza is phenomenal vacation pizza.

Luigi’s, Madison, WI “BBQ Chicken”.

When I think of Luigi’s I think creative Italian inspired takes; like meatballs, Italian chopped salads and pastas, but within their forward thinking menu sits a bomb BBQ chicken pizza.

The BBQ sauce that topped their thin crust was rich and savory and was covered with a combination of mozzarella and gouda cheeses. The charred thin crust, cilantro and addition of bacon made this one of my favorites of the summer.

Glass Nickel, Fitchburg, WI. “Santa Fe”.

If you’re in the mood for a dynamite hand-tossed pizza that’s loaded with toppings Glass Nickel is your place. They’ve got a menu chock full of specialty pies, so it’s not surprise they’ve got a solid BBQ chicken game with their “Santa Fe”.

Their juicy chunks of chicken are the star. Hand’s down the best quality chicken out of any of the BBQ chicken pizzas I’ve tried—no weird pieces, just quality cubes of chicken breast (rumor has it they actually roast their chickens in house.)

Pizza Di Roma West, Madison, WI. BBQ Chicken Slice.

BBQ chicken pizza and New York Style slices rarely get lumped together, but the BBQ chicken slice at Pizza Di’s is amazing and actually one of the first BBQ Chicken Pizza’s I’ve ever enjoyed (I had friends that worked their through college that would swear by this slice.)

The slice is not only the size of your head, but also it’s covered with shredded chicken that has been simmered in BBQ sauce. It’s sprinkled with crispy bits of bacon that sizzle up in their deck ovens.

And now, my appetite is aroused (lucky for me Tess whips up a mean home-made version.)

Tess’s homemade BBQ Chicken pizza

Even though the air is getting crisp and the leaves are changing colors, there is still time to hold onto the sweet(baby-ray)ness of summer. Remember, if life under the siege of Covid starts feeling dull, you can always flirt with a new pizza.

What I’m fondly daydreaming of eating: BBQ Chicken pizza on a sunny summer afternoon.

What I’m reading: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story -Arnold Schwarzenegger

The First Pizza of the House

“The pivotal moments in your life are always made up of smaller pieces, things that seemed insignificant at time, but in fact brought you to where you needed to be.” -Elizabeth Norris

After 14 hours of moving into our new home Tess, and I let out an exhausted sigh of relief.  We finally made it, after months of preparation and planning, all of our belongings were in our new pad.  Though we faced a whole lot of unpacking we were delighted to have a night alone together as the kiddos were at grandma and grandpas (no, this is not an erotic twist on the pizza blog!)

Really though, it was no time for joking, we lost track of time…. and…….missed dinner. 

It was nearly 9pm and after our grueling day, we were ready to eat needed to eat.  But, we had one giant stainless steel hurtle, our fridge was completely empty.  We had one last haul to make the following morning and that was to unpack the fridge and freezer.  Our new abode, had no food.

Trekking out for dinner was the last thought on our minds.

It was apparent we needed some delivery and with such a momentous occasion like the first meal in our new home, Luther Law would require pizza.

But, what pizza gets the privilege of the first night in the new house?

Perhaps a pizza spot that could connect us to our roots in Whitewater where we first met in college?  A place with options eclectic enough to stand out in history?

While some folks may get out the smudge sticks to help them spiritually settle into their new home, we opted for a Triple order of Topperstix (extra cheese please!) and a Buffalo Chicken and Mac and Cheese pizza from Toppers Pizza in Fitchburg.IMG-2476

We spared no expense and loaded up on all the dipping sauces.  And one of those sauces was Toppers sweet, tangy and spicy concoction “Boom, Boom Sauce”.

I had heard of Bang, Bang Sauce, I imagine a close cousin that is mayo based and layered with chilis that’s usually relegated for shrimp tacos, but never Boom, Boom.  After one dunk of a stick into that marvelous, creamy, creation and I was sold. 

If you’re a Toppers fan and the ranch, nacho and garlic cup just aren’t cutting it anymore I would suggest venturing into the realm of Boom, Boom. You’re in for a flavor bomb that will surely level up your cheesestick sauce game. 

As Tess and I debated paint swatches over slices and “stix” dunked in Boom, Boom, it became apparent that the new flavors were adding an extra glow to the first night in our new home.  The “stix” and that Boom, Boom were etching the night into stone. 

What pizza taught me:

For those pivotal moments in life, the right pizza (or sauce) can transform your average night into a rite of passage.

What I’m eating: Topper’s Pizza Buffalo Chicken Mac N’ Cheese Pizza and Triple order of Topperstix with Bang, Bang Sauce.

What I’m reading: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story –Arnold Schwarzenegger

Pepperoni Lovers

“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” -Seneca

Parenting two kids under two has taught me to find pride in keeping my emotions in check.  I’ve developed a whole system to squash feeling stressed and I’ve been putting my formula to the test.

It’s worked so far through one pandemic, two 24-hour long childbirths, and about three brand new trials and tribulations a day (who ate the last slice?!).

My little routine is pieced together like a collage of all the performance-enhancing hacks I’ve consumed over the years.  All the personal development books, podcasts, and article tidbits have merged into a physiological/psychological paper-mâché reboot blueprint that always leaves me feeling clear-headed and recharged.

That was, until about a month ago Tess and I decided to buy a new house.

With our home in a current “hot zone” on the west side of Madison (thanks Epic!), valued significantly higher than when we purchased and with super low-interest rates the timing seemed perfect.

“Selling the house that will be easy!” we proclaimed.

“Cleaning it out, no sweat!”  “Packing it up?  It’s a pandemic, what else do we have to do?!”

Holy, moly extra mozzarella did we NOT know what we were getting ourselves into.  The tight deadlines and contingencies of buying and selling a new home along with packing, unpacking, and cleaning an entire house can burn you out real quick.   Turns out, the two-month-long process would drain my reserves despite my rock-solid decompressing practice.

That’s when I reached out for help.  

Along with my 10-minute meditation sesh, yoga poses, cardio, and cold shower maybe I could introduce a delicious anxiety-reducing treat? One with extra cheese and extra pepperoni?

A little stress eating does go a long way after all and for my two-story sized stress, a pizza of epic proportions would be required.  I needed something with the capability to send me to cloud nine.

One day as I was wrapping newspaper around picture frames and placing them into a box labeled “fragile” the pizza Gods gave me my answer in the form of an advertising insert.

Pizza Hut’s Pepperoni Lovers.

I’ve been eating Pizza Hut my whole life.  There was always a red roof in Whitewater WI, and it was a common Friday night meal with the Fam or a buffet binge with the buddies, but, somehow I never ventured much into the “Lovers” section.  But, there alongside the Veggie Lovers and Meat Lovers resides Pepperoni Lovers and that’s where I found my solace.

Pepperoni Lovers has extra crispy layers of pepperoni that weave themselves through an extra portion of cheese and is perfectly suited for their thin-crust, though I’ve dabbled in pan, it’s very good as well.

It turns out that that thin-crust Pepperoni Lovers was the crutch I needed to get me through a crazy couple of months.  Though greasy pizza maybe a tad less healthy than some breathing exercises, recognizing and practicing ways to snap ourselves out of a funk certainly holds value.

What I’m eating: Pizza Hut thin crust “Pepperoni Lover’s”

What I’m reading: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story –Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

My Midsummer Night’s Dream Come True

“The earth has music for those who listen.” -William Shakespeare

It’s been a hot minute since me and the missus got out for a date night—let alone one that involves trying some new pizza.  But, last weekend we stumbled across the perfect pizza-indulging summer get-away in the funky little town of Spring Green, WI (and it happens to be great for social distancing).

The White School Collective Pizza Party.

Every Friday from May to September a refurbished old schoolhouse that operates as an event space for weddings and birthdays serves up wood-fired pizzas.  With only the presence of a Facebook page, you have to tune in every Thursday to see what’s on the menu.

If you’re into their offerings you’ve got until 5pm Friday to submit your order. Then simply take the scenic drive to Spring Green, show up at your designated time slot and your wood-fired pie awaits.

If you like it fresh, piping hot, and melty you can enjoy it right in their spacious backyard garden. And, let me tell you, at a picnic table back there you’ll soak up the summer vibes like a koozie soaks up the sweat beads of a frosty beverage on a hot day.

The pizza is as rustic as the hilly, rural Wisconsin terrain you have to travel through to get to it.  The pizza’s come out misshapen and flour-laden and remind you you’re in the country.

The menu varies from week to week but typically features three “specialty” options, like lamb gyro pizza, buffalo cauliflower pizza, or last week’s “sweet corn with bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic scapes, and a white cheese sauce”.  If you want it simple they always have “the regulars”: A four-cheese blend, a pepperoni, and a Margherita. 

In typical Tess and Tyler fashion, we couldn’t just try “one” pizza, we had to get a lay of the land.  So, we started out by sampling a four-cheese and a pepperoni to measure their core competencies.  The pepperoni stole the show for me, bless them, they stuck those pepperoni under the cheese and I love that.

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The “special pizza” that sung to us that night was the Southwestern; it came with “chicken breast and pineapple salsa, on a black bean puree with spicy pepper cheese.”  The sweet, spicy, and savory combo was a nice addition to our mini-vacation mood.

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Getting out of the house to White School Collective was a ray of sunshine thru a cloudy couple of months COVID.

While lately, it’s a little harder to capture all the traditional summer fun we’ve been yearning for, I’m thanking my lucky stars that backyard pizza and laughs with my love has remained pandemic proof.

What I’m eating: White School Collective, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, and “southwestern” with chicken, pineapple salsa, black bean puree, and spicy pepper cheese.

What I’m reading:  Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance -Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana

 

 

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