anyone know of a local store that makes good pizza, besides the big chain stores?
What changed the pizza-scape in this country forever was the proliferation of chains. Pizza Hut started in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958; Little Caesar's emerged in 1959 and Domino's in 1960 (both in Michigan); and Papa John's opened in 1989 in Indiana. None was started with the idea of making the great home-style pizza the founders grew up with. If you go to each of the websites, you find that they all started as, first and foremost, a business proposition.
The chains made pizza a commodity. Though they still made pizza by hand, they used sauce and cheese and dough made in a central location and shipped to each city and location. Pride in the pizza-maker's craft disappeared. Chain pizza shops sold cheap, communal food with a fun image. Independents couldn't compete on price. At House of Pizza and Calzone in Brooklyn, former owner John Teutonico told me that when a Domino's opened a couple of blocks away, he knew his business was in trouble. "How can I compete with this?" he asked, showing me a flyer offering a large pizza with two toppings for $10. Teutonico and his partner sold the business in 2004.
The chains produced a chain reaction (pun intended). The independent pizza makers were and are being driven out of business. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of independents decreased markedly while the number of pizza chain outlets increased exponentially. As a result, many people had their first exposure to pizza in a chain restaurant. The Pizza Huts of the world became the pizza taste standard bearer in their minds. Even chain pizza tastes eminently satisfying, especially if you've never had the real thing.
But the chains haven't won the war. I found there are still hundreds of independents selling good, honest, handmade pizza all over the country, and it's these pizza makers that I've tried to identify and celebrate in A Slice of Heaven. I'm sure I haven't hit them all, and for that I apologize. Please let me know about the ones I've missed. No matter where you live, you can find them. And you don't have to be a food critic to be able to taste the difference. The best pizza has the taste of great handmade food; it's the taste of love and family and community, and it's the taste we all should seek out no matter what we want to eat. The chains are not going to go away, but that doesn't mean we have to eat at them if we have a choice. And in most places we do have a choice. We might have to pay a little more for a pie, but what we get in return is a better-tasting pizza made by hand, with love and perhaps with a local ingredient or two