Are there any New Yorkers in the room? Can I see some hands? OK, we're going to be talking about pizza here, so you need to leave.
I know you think you have the best pizza, because you are New York, but you don't. You have sauceless oversized triangles of limp crust and cheese whose primary advantage seems to be you can fold it up to eat it. You could say the same thing about a sheet of the newspaper covered with nacho sauce.
That said, I'm not here to castigate anyone's pizza preferences. You like New York-style, great. You like Chicago style, which is based on someone spilling a can of tomatoes on a manhole cover, great. When I was young, I went to Chicago and had my first deep-dish, and I was in heaven: This is, like, a bathtub of pizza.
Nowadays, the frozen pizza aisle has variations inconceivable a few years ago, and they call into question the very nature of pizza. Apparently you can load anything on a circle and bury it under cheese, and it's pizza. There is spinach pizza. To me this is like Beet Gelato. I like raw spinach, but I imagine a big, exciting nightclub called Pizza, with a bouncer at the door with sunglasses, and if spinach tries to get in, the bouncer says, "I'm sorry. Private party." I understand the Roasted Vegetable Medley pizzas for people who aren't getting their minimum daily requirements of mushy broccoli florets, but to me, it's not pizza. It's penance.
I bought a chicken tikka masala pizza the other day, out of curiosity. It bore no resemblance to Italian or Indian cuisine, but seemed an angry negation of both. I bought a mac-and-cheese pizza to sate Daughter's sudden fascination, and it was like having someone give you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Wisconsin-style. You couldn't get more empty carbs if you bought a stuffed-crust pizza whose crust-stuffing was stuffed with cheese-stuffed breadsticks stuffed with stuffing.
Sorry. I'm a purist. Pepperoni and sausage. Crust that doesn't make you think they ironed a loaf of Wonder Bread. Good sauce, which is the soul of pizza. There are fine frozen pizzas, but that's like saying there are fantastically adequate instant coffees. We all know fresh is best, but sometimes you have to improvise and grab something from the freezer. So your choices are …
• Mass-produced disk named after someone. Bob's! Hank's! Jack's! They might as well be in a freezer section marked "So you're having the soccer team over after practice." Along with the name, there's always a story: "In 1956 Hank invented pizza in a small restaurant, using only the freshest spoons and napkins. It's been a local favorite ever since, and one taste will tell you why! Hank's long dead, but we send a check to his kids in Arizona."
• Fancy Italian-named pizzas. Buona Mozza! Bellagusto! DiGestivo! Grippatummi! The package always assures you that they use only Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, as opposed to those ripped from the stem at birth and sent to cruel Tomato Orphanages. There's a story with these, too: "In Tuscany, the locals call it 'la pizza prima' — the best pizza. DiGestivo honors this tradition by using real cheese from cows who listen to Puccini while they lactate, and we put it in a box whose fine graphics justify a slightly higher price."
• Venerable Elder Brands, like Totino's Party Pizza, which got me through college because it was $1.48 and we didn't care that it had little nubbins of pepperoni that looked like severed pencil erasers. And, of course, Tombstone, the only pizza named after graveyard furniture. You actually expected them to come out with a store version called Potter's Field. Tombstone recently launched a super-spicy version called Diablo, in case you want to think about the devil and perdition when you buy a symbol of death.
I buy from the fancy category, because one or the other is always on sale. That's my point: Pizza is always on sale. If one isn't, the other is. No one should pay full price for frozen pizza, unless it's something new and spectacular. Which brings us to a new entry:
• Pizza Corner. You've seen it, right? The most unappealing packaging in the history of pizza packaging? Orange and Blue, with a little window that shows the vacuum-packed pizza looking like Han Solo in Corbomite. It has a tagline: None finer.
That's right: No pizza in the world is better. That's quite a claim.
This is a pizza that originated in North Dakota, and while it's possible that the apogee of pizzadom was achieved in the fine prairie town of Valley City, I wonder. But they couldn't say it if it wasn't true, could they? The FTC obviously has no problem with it. I'm dying to try it, but so far it's only a dollar off when it goes on sale.
I have my standards. When it's two-for-one, then I'll try it.