I was talking to someone today who was telling me how after Bread & Salt was written up in the NY Times, their friend went to grab a slice of pizza but they were all sold out. Of everything but lentil soup. They said it was the best lentil soup they had.
But that’s Bread & Salt for ya. Everything there tastes like it was delivered fresh from heaven. You pay by the ounce for pizza because every ounce is worth its weight in gold. Rick Easton doesn’t skimp. He doesn’t pander. He’s a guy who wants to build the best pizza. And, ya know, maybe he has.
It was so good it made Mark Bittman retire. Just kidding. His last column in the NY Times details Rick’s process and pursuit of quality.
More telling, Mark Bittman ends his column by saying:
When I started writing it, I never would have guessed that it would end in Pittsburgh. That it does confirms that good food here is hardly limited to a couple of smug metropolitan areas, and validates my feeling that cooking in the United States is as interesting as it is anywhere in the world.
That’s the story of Pittsburgh Pizza. It’s interesting. It’s exotic. It’s practical. All at the same time.
1 & 2 - Spak Brothers Misfortune & Community Support
Is it cheating to make this both the number 1 and number 2? The story is so stunning and heart warming. It is typical pizza community and I’m so amazed how everyone came together to help out a pizza shop that stumbled into misfortune.
So, near the middle of August, Spak Brothers (a pizza place that is Andrew W.K. certified) was robbed. That certainly sucks. But on top of that their cooler died. According to Ryan Spak, he said:
We were robbed overnight Thursday and the walk-in cooler machinery decided it would shit the bed the past two nights.
The monetary loss is pretty epic due to recent events and I have no way to contact the masses any more besides twitter (which I hate) so any help spreading the word would be greatly appreciated.
What happens next is amazing. Posts went up on Pittsburgh community websites, Pittsburgh Magazine wrote about the support, and I Heart PGH got the word out. The Spak Milita knew what they had to do: eat Spak Brothers pizza.
The day they opened Spak Brothers was flooded with patrons. They sold hoagies and pizza to just about everyone in the area.
I reached out to Ryan afterwards to see what sort of impact the outreach had on the business. You can read the full interview here, but the best part is when he said:
It's been insanely busy around here. We've had a ton of exposure and new customers. The Thursday and Friday immediately following were our best sales to date which is just awe-inspiring. Everyone here feels loved (and sweaty) and I thank everyone who came through from the bottom of my heart.
Best. Sales. Ever.
Commonwealth Press also pitched in and sold a limited edition shirt with proceeds going to Spak Brothers.
Now, would this happen to every other pizza shop on this list? I don’t know. I love to think so. But Spak has spent years building good will. They put on an absurd scavenger hunt every year. The winner gets a free pizza every week for a year.
They put on a pizza eating contest at the Pittsburgh Pizza Festival. They’re community first and a business second. The karma they’ve generated is unreal, something every other pizza shop could learn from.
This takes up two spots because 1) It’s a tremendous story detailing the love Pittsburgh has for its neighborhood pizza shops and 2) The interview with Ryan is one of my favorite articles I wrote this year.
Seeing Spak Brothers recover so quickly from being on the ropes is inspiring. Pittsburgh knows a good thing when they got it and no one was ready to lose the wonderful Spak brothers. To everyone that stepped up, nice work. Now go buy yourself a pizza.
So that's the best pizza moments of 2015. It was an exciting year for Pittsburgh pizza and I have no doubt that there are more moments in store for next year. I know my goal for Pizza Walk With Me will be to make it one of the premier pizza websites. There are some great things planned.
Before I end 2015, I want to share one of my personal favorite pizza moments. I hope it's similar to one of yours. There's nothing better than sharing pizza with pals. I have two really great pizza friends that indulge many of my pizza requests. They've gone to bad pizza places with me and some of the best pizza places.
Pizza pal Chad and Pizza pal Adam went with me to Slice Island this summer. It was probably the most perfect day on record. We got a box of pizza, sat in the sun, talked about London Calling and had a hell of a time. Chad captured that perfectly in this Instagram video. Enjoy and see ya next year!