A Tale of Two Pizzas

“How’s your pizza?”

“It’s excellent.  You’ll love it.”

“No seriously, how’s your pizza?”  I lean in a little bit.  “I’m from Jersey,” I add, as I toss my unruly hair, still unsure how to behave with its newly acquired southeastern frizz, over my shoulder.  “Pizza’s important to me,” this last statement delivered with a reverence typically reserved for a discussion about someone’s church, or their family, or the Superbowl.

That’s how the conversation began when, one night, on our way to Walmart, I noticed a tiny storefront set back from the road with a sign outside advertising pizza.  Since landing in North Carolina, it was the first non-chain pizza place I had laid eyes on and prayed for the best as I pulled into the gravel parking lot.

“Should we try it?”  I asked the kids whose noses were in their Nintendo DS’.

“There’s no good pizza in North Carolina,” my son answered.  “You said so.”

“Well I think we should try it,” I say optimistically.  It wasn’t a Dominos or Pizza Hut.  It was at least worth some investigation.

“I’m from Jersey too,” the woman behind the counter replies.

“You are?”

I want to jump up and hug her.

A woman from New Jersey is going to make my pizza.  New Jersey!  The pizza capital of the country, if you ask me, and the one reason why I almost couldn’t stand to part with my home state.  My mouth starts to water.  This is gonna be good, I think to myself.

“We’ll take good care of you,” she says as she writes down my order.

“They’re from Jersey,” I say to the kids as I hurry back to the car.  “The people making our pizza are from Jersey!”

“Jersey’s in the house!” My kids scream in unison.

We rush to Walmart to run our errands.  As we pass the deli, I turn my nose up at the Take and Bake pizza that’s beckoned me on every visit.

As if this Jersey Girl would ever eat a pizza from Walmart.

We race back to the pizza place to pick up the goods.

The ride home was excruciating.

The walk from the car to the house felt endless.

I was so excited for the pizza that I forgot to take my keys out of the door.

I throw plates on the table and take that first, long anticipated bite….

To discover it was awful.  Rubbery cheese.  Tasteless sauce.  Crust with no character whatsoever.

Although I still ate three pieces.

Part of me wanted to call that “woman from Jersey” and say, “You call this pizza?”  But I thought better of it.  It’s a small world down here, y’all.  A small world.

The next week, I stood in the deli section of Walmart and tentatively eyed the Take and Bake pizza.  I sighed and threw one into my cart.

It’s the best pizza I’ve found down here to date.

There’s something so wrong with that ya’ll.  So, so wrong.

But admittedly, I’m a girl willing to sell her soul for a good slice of pizza.

Namate, y’all.


A Tale of Two Pizzas — 77 Comments

    • The anticipation almost killed me a well! I’m lucky I didn’t get a speeding ticket that night while racing home to eat my pizza!

    • The take and bakes will grow on me darlin’, especially if I can wash them down with some Bojangles fries and biscuits 😉

  1. Ilene, All I can say is, I feel your pain. I absolutely love living in Central PA, but their idea of good pizza around here is Papa Johns. 🙁 Some people believe that NY pizza can’t be replicated in other parts of the country because the secret is “in the water.” I don’t know. There is a good place around here that I’ve found and the rumor is that they are using NY water in the dough. I’m not sure it if it’s true, but that pizza is the best I can find around here. I’ve also been told that you have to use Polly-O cheese, which for some reason is hard to find in these parts. I sometimes make my own pizza, but I can’t seem to replicate that oh so perfect combination of elasticity and crunch in the dough. You know, it folds without cracking, but it still has a crispy bite. I think I need a brick oven to work on my technique, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

    When I go back to NY to visit family, I always make sure that everyone knows that I only want pizza for dinner and I savor every bite. Good luck in your quest.

    • Thanks, Em! I’ve heard that same rumor..that it’s in the water and I’ve heard of great pizza places around the country that actually fly in the water! Who knows? But you’re right – so much of the greatness of pizza is in the crust – getting that right combo of elasticity and crunch. I may have to invest in my own brick over if I stay here…or open a pizza place for that matter – and fly in the water! xxoo

    • I may actually ask S. to drive me down one – or two or five next month when he comes to visit. If so, I will have to blog about that for sure!

    • One of my local gals just tweeted me a place around here to try. So the hunt’s not over yet – but I will want to come visit you and eat pizza. Heck, I’d come visit you even without the promise of pizza, because you rock. xo

    • I’m telling you right now that if I stay here for life, I’ll have to build a brick oven in my backyard and ship the water in from New Jersey . There’s just no other way!

  2. I was so hoping for a happy ending to that story – I’m sorry Ilene! Too bad you can’t order pizza kits online from your favorite places in Jersey. Keep looking, though – there may be good pizza in NC yet!
    Dana recently posted…Brave for youMy Profile

    • Oh, online pizza kits….you may be onto something…but no, I’m not giving up on pizza yet. I’ll keep you posted!

    • I feel you on the Mexican food! My in-laws live in Southern Cali and I would assume that I get the same quality Mexican food there that you were getting in Texas. I took stuff home with me on the plane every time and ate it while I was there the way I’m going to eat pizza in New Jersey when I’m there in November!

  3. Okay- you SERIOUSLY need to just bite the bullet (or that crappy pizza slice) and start looking into your dream- at least ONE of your dreams!! Knowing you, you could seriously do a start up privately run pizza business in about a week!!! DO IT!!!

    Call all your pizza peeps. Get the sauce a makin’. Cheese a bubblin’. Crust a crackin’!!! (Okay- that was funny)

    DO IT! DO IT! DO IT! (You KNOW I am literally chanting at my laptop screen.)

    BAM!!! I’ll take one cheese with vegies and sausage please. To go… 😉
    Chris Carter recently posted…Devotional Diary: Locks Of Love. Locks Of Life.My Profile

    • I’m with Chris on this one!! I’d totally order a pie as well. And you’ve got a market there! Give that Jersey woman with the faux Jersey pizza a run for her money. 🙂

      • Aw, Maribel – between you and Chris I’d have my first two orders! Maybe you’ve all planted a seed in my head!

    • One business at a time girl…although opening up a (good) pizza joint down here may not be such a bad idea!

    • It really does suck, and I feel my standards dropping every time I stick another take and bake in the oven!

  4. King Arthur flour had a thick crust pizza dough recipe that I made with the kids the other night. It took six hours rather than the Domino’s thirty minutes, but it tasted pretty good. Of course, I’ve got to get the hang of melting the cheese, and, seriously, I’m too lazy to be a good pizza baker. But other than those things, I’m well on my way to Jersey, right?
    Jester Queen recently posted…Mornings With MerrimansMy Profile

    • Six hours? Although I must say, I’d hang in there 6 hours for good pizza. Hey, my drive to Jersey is ten so six hours seems like a good deal to me!

  5. We went through the exact same transition after moving from TX when we tried the NC Mexican food restaurants. We have finally accepted the fact that we will never find the same kind again. It is sad.-Ashley

    • Oh, Ashley I feel for you. As I said to Kim, I’ve eaten the Mexican in Southern Cali which I assume is comparable to Texas. How do you ever eat Mexican in any other place after eating it in those two states?

  6. Being from Chicago, I totally get it. I could not live without Lou Malnati’s on a Friday night. Pizza is my go-to meal, my comfort food so getting a good slice is everything. It’s one of the reasons I still live in this weather-challenged city. Next time I’m in Florida visiting the in-laws, I’m trying the Walmart pizza.
    AnnMarie recently posted…Some Favorite WordsMy Profile

    • Seriously, if you’re hard up for pizza in Florida, go to Walmart. I can’t promise you Lou Malnati’s, but it’s the best I’ve found since Jersey!

    • Oh, that is so wrong. Papa John’s is big down this way, and I can’t bring myself to eat it. But then again, in NJ, there’s no reason to go to a pizza chain ever!

  7. I remember a lot of transitions when I moved to California! The bagels..the bagels! It’s not as if I even eat bagels more than a few times a year on holidays! It was just that there were none! And the Dunkin Donuts, which is considerably crappier than nearly any coffee shop in San Francisco. It was just about the comforts of home. The familiar.
    The pizza problem was solved by our SF friends who were also east coast natives. They found a secret places that makes New Haven style pizza. That’s one of my favorites. It did not disappoint!
    Hoping you find such a treasure SOON. Or I may be sending some pizza down. Or taking you out for pizza in December.
    Tamara recently posted…Live To Tell.My Profile

    • Somewhere nearby, there has to be a treasure. There just has to be. I just need to meet the right people to lead me to those secret places. And if not, we’re totally going for pizza in December.

    • Yeah, well, Bklyn is a whole different level of awesome pizza. It would not be pretty for you down here at all. Not at all my friend…

      • Omgosh, your friend knows about L&B! It is impossible to replicate certain pizza down here. We have found two places that come as close as it is going to get, and even then, honestly? Their slices are too big. They are good, and worth it, but still wrong.

        We end up ordering Papa John’s (sigh) and for a while I did the Walmart take and bakes. They aren’t bad, all things considered … 😉
        Andrea recently posted…Weak at the Knees, Jo Kessel ~ book reviewMy Profile

  8. Oh so terrible, but also kind of comical. That poor lady probably really does like her pizza. I feel like I would have the same struggle if I ever left So Cal and I couldn’t find good Mexican food. I’m just wondering if the Universe is telling you to open a Pizza Shop.
    Stevie recently posted…Ever So SubtlyMy Profile

    • Thanks Tammi! I feel like I have a huge learning curve for making my own great pizza, but maybe now’s the time to start!

  9. Ah, what a bummer! And I thought for sure that would be a really tasty pizza; it sounded to promising! It’s amazing how much you crave something when you don’t have access to it (I never wanted peanut butter so much in my life as I did when I was in South America and it was nearly impossible to find).
    Bev recently posted…Sock Puppets!: An Interview with Arlette LaanMy Profile

    • You are so right about the cravings. I want pizza down here every day because there is no good pizza – although come to think of it, I wanted it every day in Jersey too…

    • I hear you on the REALLY important. Although it’s amazing how quickly I’ve become accustomed to Walmart take and bake. I wonder if I’ll crave THAT when I’m eating the “real thing” over Thanksgiving break in New Jersey!

    • I have to try baking your deep dish pizza cake. That may ease the blow a little until I can get back to NJ

  10. Mr. Bis is from Connecticut and grew up in Jersey so finding the right pizza place here was his first goal. We tried every place and were not satisfied – we do not have the large chains – they are all mom and pop here. From my island to the next 3 south of me there are a total of 4 pizza places and then there are atleast 3 more before you get to Key West and out of all of these – there is only 2 that are worth eating…one is in a pub but is VERY pricey and so that one is reserved for when we get visitors. The other is in the shopping center where the grocery store is and that one is AMAZING!!! and the best part – the price is perfect. We were hesitant to try it because of the previous failures – now I buy from there every weekend! Have you tried making your own?
    Krystal recently posted…Really QuickMy Profile

    • I am so glad you have found the amazing pizza by you! I will have to try my own. It may be my best bet down here!

  11. So so disappointing! Maybe you need to open up your own pizza joint? There’s a pizza place in my hometown that I crave and I have never found a replacement. It hurts though sometimes when I want it so bad and have to wait for it until I go back to my hometown (to visit my mother, which takes the excitement out of having pizza! Lol)
    leah davidosn recently posted…Monthly Snaps of LifeMy Profile

    • Thanks, Amber. There’s nothing like a mom and pop pizza joint. I was spoiled in NJ with how many we had and how good they all were.

  12. Oh, gosh, it felt like a lie! She said she was from Jersey, surely she would have a decent pizza. But if you are taking the Walmart Take N Bake that says it all.
    Carla recently posted…October LovesMy Profile

    • It DID feel like a lie! I felt betrayed! Like, “You’re from Jersey and this is the BEST you can do???” I think she needs to go back to the home state for a while and be reminded how it’s done!

    • Oh, honey, that would not have been dramatic and over the top. That would have been appropriate for bad pizza. If this weren’t such a small town I would have down the same!

  13. Note to self: Do not read Ilene’s post at work. I just burst out laughing soo loud. OMG!! I hung on to every word, anticipating the taste of the NJ pizza. Oh gosh! I’m still chuckling…especially after the “Jersey’s in the house!” excitement. Oh my (calm down Hope). I’ve purchased Walmart pizza. it was good…of course I don’t have much to compare it to…after all, I’ve never tasted Jersey Pizza.
    Hope recently posted…Women of Faith Conference (a little recap plus The God Squad 29:11)My Profile

    • The Walmart pizza isn’t bad..since writing this post I’ve found better. My “Jersey Pizza Standards” were beginning to plummet there, hope! Fortunately, NJ has this one redeeming quality!

  14. Maybe you can buy it online? I don’t know!! I’m trying to help you out. Living without good pizza is a tough pill to swallow!! I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. Keep searching and in the meantime, eat up that Walmart pizza:-(
    Allie recently posted…My Fear? Flying!My Profile

    • Thanks for the brainstorm, Allie! It’s gotten better in the last week, There IS a good local place that a friend led me to – thank goodness for the little things!

    • I’m just gonna say it – I think you and I have both lowered our standards, sister. I mean, geesh – I was calling the Walmart take and bake “good pizza!”

  15. Sister, I hate to tell you but you’ve found the only legit pizza joint there I think. I agree with the others.. time to master your own pizza making skills. I live with a Jersey boy so I get the snobbery. We have a couple of places here but even they can’t get it right all the time. I’ll tell you our secret.. a good ol’ southern cast iron skillet is a perfect vessel to baking a good Jersey pie 😉
    Kristen Daukas recently posted…Cleverbug – The Clever Little Card Making AppMy Profile

    • I’m gonna have to invest in a good cast iron skillet – and I’m glad you get the snobbery. We New Jerseyans are maniacs about our pizza.

  16. I read this post after I read your latest so I’m glad to hear you’ve found some decent pizza in your new part of the world! I won’t knock Walmart pizza cause I’ve never tried it, but I imagine you can’t go from delicious NY/NJ pizza to Walmart’s without some serious withdrawal. I’m so happy to hear you’re loving NC!
    Mary @ A Teachable Mom recently posted…Respecting My LimitsMy Profile