BEST PIZZA …
If I could select my last meal on earth, it might well be a pepperoni pizza from Coccia House in Wooster, my hometown. Just thinking about it makes me hungry.
Coccia’s circular pizzas are large and heavy with lots of bang for the buck, oodles of cheese, lots of garlicky red sauce and generous toppings.
They are so garlicky that the morning after I went to Coccia House with my friends, my mom always could smell it on me. And if I brought her home a slice, I was golden all day.
One of the biggest mealtime treats growing up was when we’d get a Coccia House pizza for supper on the weekend. We’d go pick it up, and I couldn’t wait until we got home so I’d pull a hot slice out of the box and burn the roof of my mouth from the cheese. This happened again and again. I never learned my lesson.
In Wooster, we love Coccia’s pizza as much as Cantonians love Pizza Oven and Kraus’ Pizza. Now in its 60th year in the same location, Coccia House is still packing ‘em in.
WORST THING I COOKED …
I once made a cheesy pasta salsa skillet that was supposed to be macaroni noodles mixed with ground beef, cheese, salsa and corn.
I was a dirt-poor grad student and am pretty sure I picked the recipe because I had about half of what the recipe called for and figured that would be good enough. It was not.
If I remember correctly, I left out the corn and ground beef. I think I just made some macaroni, mixed in some salsa and cheese and hoped for the best. It was super gross and was a total waste of the food I did have. I should have just sprung for some tortilla chips and made nachos. Lesson learned.
BEST PIZZA …
The best pizza I ever ate was after golf.
I didn’t dine on sausage or pepperoni pies every time I played golf. The special pizza came only once a year.
A 9-hole league in which I played annually provided pizza following one of the final rounds of the season. Players hung around after that evening of golf instead of hurrying off to resume their lives. We talked. We laughed. We shared companionship. And we showed compassion for any among us who might be struggling.
The pizza always was from Pizza Oven, which I have a taste for anyway. Beyond that preference, an appetite from walking and swinging and searching for errant shots no doubt worked up an appetite.
Still, as I look back on those pizzas and realize I still have a memory of them, I can’t help thinking that their special nature was derived less from their flavor or my hunger, and more from the camaraderie of the occasion.
BEST PIZZA …
I graduated from Ohio University in America’s best college town, Athens (sorry, Kent). Athens has no shortage of hip, funky local restaurants, and Avalanche Pizza is no exception.
Avalanche offers a lot of local, fresh ingredients, and it has snagged several awards for its pizzas. It also sports some pretty weird toppings such as tuna, french fries and kimchi. I’ve had plenty of nontraditional pizzas in my life—I don’t like pepperoni, and I love pineapple—but Avalanche is still my favorite. In particular, I’m still obsessed with its barbecue chicken pizza featuring, outside of the obvious, cheddar cheese and bacon. I always would add cashews for the perfect crunch. I know it sounds weird, but trust me: add the cashews.
BEST PIZZA …
The best pizza I ever had came from a shop in Canton that is long-closed and hasn’t existed for decades, but I still remember how it tasted.
It was that good.
Ann’s Pizza Shoppe was located at 800 Cherry Avenue NE. Its secret was in the sauce. It was creamy white instead of the traditional tomato.
It takes a lot for me not to like a pizza, no matter how bad it may be, but I haven’t seen or eaten such a good one since.