Walking through Bloomfield is hardly predictable. The streets are lined with roaming characters with no destination and I’m not sure they know how they got to the Little Italy of Pittsburgh. Pizza and hoagie shops see a rotating cast of patrons that stumble by the plethora of outdoor seating occupying the sidewalk. One night a live band might be playing on a street corner, the next night there could be a farmer’s market. Every trip through Bloomfield is like walking through a mystical alley where you might bump into a man selling magic lamps.
On this particular night there was a church festival. Sprouting out of nothing, the Immaculate Conception church festival was a bastion of neon, fried foods, gambling, instant bingo, and pizza. Pizza I can only assumed has been blessed in some way.
Pizza partner, Christa, and I wandered around the booths before stumbling on the pizza. The usual suspects were there: the money wheel, instant bingo, funnel cake, a DJ playing top 40 hits, Angry Birds, and cheap stuffed animals that were guaranteed to rip open after settling into a child’s bed.
The pizza booth was selling pizzas for only $1. I’d be a fool not to participate. Buying a slice first meant visiting the ticket booth to exchange my american dollars for the preferred currency of the church festival, tickets.
The exchange went smoothly even though the ticket lady was baffled I was only getting $1 worth of food. I went to the pizza booth and handed them my ticket in exchange for a square of pizza that just popped out of their suite of ovens.
The three ovens sat behind the ladies working the booth waiting to cook pizzas like church patrons waiting to in line to receive a sacrament. I’m not sure of the logistics behind this oven technology, but that can’t possibly be safe, can it? One wrong jostling and you have a gas leak. Combine that with a couple open flames and the church festival becomes a hellish battleground. It’s outside, thank goodness, but ovens weren’t meant for the elements. I’m impressed by their craftiness and really want to try this for myself. Coming soon to Mintwood St, outside ovens.
Anyways, the pizza. It was square, gooey, and surprisingly crisp and doughy at the same time.
It was fairly undercooked which I wouldn’t hold against these little squares. Instead of three separate levels of pizza (crust, sauce and cheese) it all conforms into one limp rectangle. It tends to buckle under its own weight, but if you manage to get it into your mouth in one piece you'll experience a kind of tenderness reserved for the finest of meats. The softness gives your jaw a workout, like chewing a piece of gum, but it packs enough flavor that you don’t grow tired of hosting it in your mouth. It’s all very basic and elementary, but there was a simple joy in eating a cheap slice of pizza surrounded by neon lights and carnival games that may or may not take a dozen people lives during the course of this festival.
I can recommend this pizza with one caveat: don’t eat it outside of the festival. The pizza is an embodiment of the rag-tag church event. The amateurism of the pizza goes unnoticed compared to the old women tending to the instant bingo or the kids begging their parents for one more handful of funnel cake.