A Wonderful Slice

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole doesn’t he?”-Clarence the Angel

The level of holiday cheer at the Luther household this year is about as cheesy as a pizza with extra mozzarella.  Christmas time always gives me the warm and fuzzies, but with a smiley little 8-month-old squirming around the house, it seems fitting to crank the Christmas spirit-o-meter to 11—amp up the decorations, music and classic movies.

I’ve got a duty to mold some great memories right?

As my family grows bigger I face the delightful dilemma of having an increasing amount of Christmas celebrations to attend within a short amount of time.  The solution for my immediate Luther side this year was a faux X-mas eve get together the Saturday night before Christmas Tuesday.  The result of that festivity was one for the record books.

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Gus’ Pizza for Christmas.

I’ve always felt pizza and Christmas go hand in hand, maybe watching Kevin from Home Alone ordering cheese pizzas and telling the delivery driver to “get the hell outta here” inspired me.  Every year I ask for a Gus’ pizza for Christmas and it usually gets shrugged off as a goof, but this year I got the yuletide miracle I was looking for.

A glistening greasy Gus’ pizza was about all I could ask for.  I was like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation crying in the attic while watching old family videos.  The folded cracker crust and stretchy cheese gave me a nostalgic sense of Christmas magic.

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Christmas memories share a lot in common with excessively cheesy pizza. 

While I welcome Gus’ as an addition to our Christmas festivities, one tradition that stands the test of time for the Luthers is watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  Every year we gather around the tree, eat way too many appetizers and enjoy each others company as the black and white glow of the 1946 Christmas Classic plays in the background.

It’s a Wonderful Life follows an ambitious man named George Baily, who has led a good life but has always put others ahead of himself in spite of his true passions.  He finds a new level of appreciation when an Angel named Clarence helps him see the world through an alternate lens—one that is void of his presence. He gets to witness the positive impact he has had on those in his family and community.

It’s a familiar Christmas theme, but one that reminds us of the importance of keeping our relationships strong.  I’ve eaten Gus’ my whole life and it provides me a similar reminder of comfort and gratitude. It’s a feeling I am excited to pass down to my son as every day we create memories I hope he will happily hold on to.

What pizza taught me:

Pizza, just like the holidays can be a good reminder of all our blessings.  Every interaction has a ripple effect, sometimes it takes a reminder from a holiday, a greasy Gus’ Pizza or an Angel names Clarence to realize its value.

What I’m eating:  Gus’ Pizza: cheese, half pepperoni half gyro meat, large order cheese sticks.

What I’m reading:  Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration -Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull

 

Presumptions

“Despair ruins some, presumption many.” -Ben Franklin

As I sat at the Cheers bar in Boston (the one of classic 80’s sitcom fame), I listened to some New Yorkers sitting next to me adamantly protesting the notion of any decent pizza in the vicinity of Boston (during a Yankee/Red Sox playoff game to boot).  As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston certainly is rich with history, from its role in the American Revolution to Fenway Park, but what about the pizza?

Though I’d expect some dynamite clam chowder or some signature baked beans, I’ve never heard much about the pizza and the opinions soaring around the bar made me wonder if these New Yorkers were biased or if Boston really has second-rate pizza.  So, with a finite amount of free time at my disposal, I set out to discover Boston’s finest.

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Step #1: Ask the locals. 

I had 24 hours to eat pizza in Boston, so every slice counted. With a limited amount of time, I wanted the best of the best—something authentic, historic and adorned by the locals—so my first move was to start by asking the natives.

For pizza advice, I usually skip the concierge and go straight to the valet—I want the voice of the people.  When you ask the average joes you skip the cookie-cutter touristy stuff and get real honest feedback and usually the best recommendations.

Step #2: Cross-reference the web.

Next, I like to fact-check against the internet.  Pizza preferences are relative to individual opinions and there’s a lot of puffery on the web, so it’s always helpful to cross-check promising pizza intel before making a commitment.  Pictures can really help validate the pizzas you have learned about from the locals.  Eater.com is my usual starting point, followed by a general Google image search.

When I end up on sites like Yelp I always avoid reading the reviews as people are fickle and I don’t want my pizza experience to be biased by someone’s crappy day and emotional meltdown.  I visit Yelp just to make sure that the pictures of the pizzas match cravings at the time.  I wanna make sure the thin is thin and that the cheese is in ample supply.

Step #3: Find the common denominator.

Then I go for the most recommended place between the two. For Boston, various top ten lists praised the likes of Ernesto, Picco, Antico Forno, and Regina Pizzeria. The common denominator between the Bostonians I questioned on the streets and the internet led me to the small Boston chain called Regina Pizzeria.

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Regina Pizzeria.

Since 1926 Regina Pizzeria has been one of the most famed pizza joints in Boston, so I ventured to its original Northend Italian neighborhood location on Thatcher St.  The tight-knit quarters of the dining room and natural wear and tear of the fading tabletops and booths gave a rich sense of the history of the restaurant, much like the cobblestone streets that disorderly zig and zag across the city.

At Regina we had the best seat in the house, we were parked directly next to the pizza cutting station.  The piping hot pizzas pulled out of the ancient looking brick oven, tossed up into a service window then pinched down onto a table designated for slicing them.  Grease would splash as rapid strokes of the pizza cutter swiped from end to end.  If pizza pictures are considered food porn, I was getting a real live striptease.

Regina Pizzeria pizza is like New York style but with a slightly thicker hand-tossed crust.  They use a brick oven that provides a nice char along the outer rim.

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Who to trust?

I’m glad I ignored the initial impressions about Boston pizza I heard at the bar.  It would have been easy to assume that the New Yorkers hailing from arguably the best pizza city in the world would know what they are talking about, but if I had taken their word I may have missed the awesomeness of Regina Pizzeria.

That’s the trouble with assumptions.  We may not only miss an opportunity if we follow the wrong guidance, but hearsay can also cloud our experiences with unnecessary stigma and lead us to a crummy time when conditions aren’t that crummy.  Opinions can be as loud as those New Yorkers at Cheers bar and the internet amplifies them even more.

Being too presumptuous can also be dangerous not only to our pizza but also to the people around us as we judge them.  Don Miguel Ruiz says in his best-seller The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom  “Don’t’ make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  With just this one agreement you can completely transform your life.”

What pizza taught me:

It’s a good idea to never assume gossip is gospel and to inform ourselves from a variety of sources before taking a stance. Whether surfing the net or interviewing the locals for the next binge-worthy pizza spot, it pays to keep an open mind.

What I’m eating: Regina Pizzeria half pepperoni, half sausage

What I’m Reading:  The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom Don Miguel Ruiz

 

 

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