Homemade dough, topped with Contadina pizza sauce, grated mozzarella, Kraft Parmesan, canned mushrooms and ground beef. I loved it like a young girl loves her dolls.
Then there were the nights when Dad was working out of town, and she would get a Pizza Hut pie with pepperoni or ground beef with mushrooms on extra thin crust. I loved it like 10-year-olds love their bikes.
Then in high school, I ate my weight in Mazzio's pizza. I was there every Wednesday and Sunday night after church and some nights in between. I loved it just like my first high school boyfriend.
In college, I discovered Double Dave's. The pepperoni rolls were the best thing ever. Why didn't anyone think of this before? I loved them as much as I loved skipping class.
Considering I was a very poor college student, sometimes I couldn't afford Double Dave's or Little Caesars, my other college pizza discovery. During those rough times my roommates and I would make little pizzas out of English muffins topped with Ragu sauce and mozzarella cheese. We had hidden a toaster oven in our dorm room and came up with many creative ways to make cheap meals. The pizzas were our best creation. We loved them as much as we did date parties at the fraternity house.
These unusual toppings led me to many fresh varieties and vegetable toppings. Collina's was a favorite pizza place in Houston where I always had to order the Mona Lisa — pillowy dough topped with roma tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and feta with extra garlic. My love was maturing.
True wood-fired crust was discovered in Denver at Proto's Napoletana Pizzeria. This was my first glimpse of real Italian pizza and I found perfect crispy crust and minimal toppings just as Italians meant pizza to be. Little did I know in a few short years I would be in Italy learning to make pizza with a Neapolitan chef — the place where true love would be revealed.
Naples, Italy, makes claims that it is the birthplace of pizza. That may or may not be true, but chefs there have definitely perfected the technique. It doesn't hurt that the area is also known for the coveted San Marzano tomatoes, Campania buffalo mozzarella and basil, growing by the bunch, everywhere you look.
It was simple, yet perfect, and when combined with the handmade dough that is tenderly kneaded and pressed, not stretched, into shape it becomes a stunning combination of beautiful dough mixed with gorgeous toppings. And for only a few Euros, almost every day I was there, I enjoyed my own personal slice of heaven. I had found true love, forever love, until death do us part love for a lifetime.
Around the Plate Update
It's a way to start a conversation about what you are eating at home and on the town. Let me know where you're eating, what you've heard and what was good. We will also discuss new products, menu items, upcoming food events and anything else that adds more flavor to our lives.
A lot has happened in the food scene in the last couple of weeks. We've seen closings, expansions and places open.
The Downtown Coffee Lounge closed – something I will definitely miss since I walked there a few times a week for a latte and turkey wrap. From now on I will be heading to Brady's Coffee on the corner of Rusk and Bois d'Arc.
Other moves around East Texas include Chef Jackson York from Edom Bakery moving to the Methodist Lakeview Conference Center in Palestine. The bakery has been sold and he will be leaving at the end of August. Get out to Edom soon and enjoy his award-winning fare one last time.
In Tyler, ZaZa's Northern Italian Cuisine celebrated their grand opening last Friday. They offer an authentic approach to Italian food with creative pasta dishes, brick oven pizzas and a variety of entrees including stuffed quail, lamb and steak. For lunch they offer half price pizzas.
Moving back to Tyler is Chef Alyssa Wilhite, culinary instructor for Sweet Gourmet. She will be planning a new series of cooking classes for the store. Other exciting changes happening at Sweet Gourmet will be revealed soon.
FRESH by Brookshire's is gearing up for the Some Like it Hot Festival that starts Aug. 24. My sources tell me some very well-known Tylerites will be competing in a sandwich showdown where you will vote for the best recipe. The winner will be added to the chef's case sandwich menu.
Construction on the Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Que expansion is progressing and Nick Pencis is making plans for some exciting events this fall. His barbecue has recently attracted national attention with mentions in Food & Wine magazine and livability.com as one of the best BBQ cities.
What's new, what's popular and what are you planning? There's plenty of great flavor to share! Send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 410 W. Erwin, Tyler, TX 75702.
Christine Gardner can also be found on Facebook at Christine Gardner Tyler Paper Food and on Twitter and Pinterest @TylerFlavor.