2011 July: Commentary

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret: When I was eight years old, I didn’t like pizza.

Can you believe it? Studies show that 93 percent of Americans eat pizza regularly — and we all know how much kids love this fine fare. But not me. I hated it.

Why? Well, I grew up in a small town and our pizza options were limited. Essentially, a major national chain was all I had available to me. I still hate that company’s pizza to this day.

As it turns out, I didn’t despise pizza — just this one particular bastardization of it.

I didn’t taste my first “real” pizza until I was a little older. I declined eating it every time it was offered to me because I mistakenly believed that all pizza must taste like the one particular pizza I hated. Needless to say, I went hungry at a lot of birthday parties.

But once I had good pizza, it was all over — a long and never-ending love affair began. I can fondly remember the “good” pizzas I grew up on. As can most people. That’s why pizzerias that are institutions in cities like New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh are able to get away with charging $40 to ship their product to former customers that have moved elsewhere.

This issue of Pizza Today addresses menu expansion. While I’m a proponent of utilizing your existing ingredients to come up with new and creative dishes, I’d also like to urge you to remember at all times that pizza is the centerpiece of your menu. Without a great pizza to draw regular customers, the rest of your menu is fruitless.

Take a day away from your shop this week, then walk through your front door and take a seat like a real customer. Order a pizza. If it doesn’t blow you away when it arrives tableside, then you have some work to do.

John Gutenkanst, owner of Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio, worked through this predicament a few years ago. His problem wasn’t with his pizza, but with the absolute lack of respect he showed to the pizza craft. After some soul searching, he made positive changes that turned his outlook around. Read his “My Turn” column on page 82. And, remember, it all starts with a great pizza.

SLICE OF HOPE: After our May and June issues hit and people started learning about Slice of Hope, the response was immediate. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to order t-shirts and to pledge a donation to the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation. We’re off to a good start, but we have a lot of work to do if we’re going to reach our fundraising goal. Remember, every Slice of Hope dollar the Karen Mullen Breast Cancer Foundation receives will be given to breast cancer research. This is a huge opportunity to give back and show society just how much the pizza indusry cares. If you haven’t yet pledged your involvement, do so now (learn how on page 21). October is only three months away — and we need your help.

Also, be sure to check out PizzaToday.com for more information on Slice of Hope.

Best,

Jeremy White, editor-in-chief
jwhite@pizzatoday.com

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