Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gianni's Pizza and My Neverending Love for Bad Pizza

No matter how old I get, no matter how many restaurants I try and no matter how developed my palate becomes, there will always be a special place in my heart for bad pizza. While I love the thin crust, artfully-topped pies at Mozza like they are my next of kin, and can’t visit NY without stopping for the quintessential margherita pizza at Lombardi’s, when I’m really craving comfort, I inexplicably gravitate toward the other end of the pizza spectrum.

I want a thick crust that is so doughy it almost renders the toppings negligible. I don’t want the cheese to be layered on with such liberation that grabbing a slice results in what some describe as the coveted “cheese pull,” and I want the pie to be smothered in something sacrilegious like barbecue sauce, chicken, cilantro, and red onions.

I love this template for the oft-loathed BBQ chicken pizza. Crave it. Drive down to Orange County in rush hour traffic so I can eat it with my parents at Gina’s in Irvine amidst a sea of starving college students.

It tastes repulsively good to me. And not even in a way that can be attributed to sentiment or fond memories honed during my childhood. I just like it. Just like I like watching ABC Family movies, and letting the little black hair on my wrist grow instead of plucking it out, and wearing frumpy socks with my purple athletic slides from Northwestern.

There is something sort of intoxicating about going against the grain of society – being a “rebel” with a lame cause. In a strange way, I’m proud of my lust for bad pizza – so much so, that I was positively giddy when I happened upon Gianni’s Pizza in Monterey during my trip to Pebble Beach.
“Heaven on Earth,” I thought as I strode through the glass door of the expansive restaurant, my eyes glistening with joy as I took in the red checked table cloths, powder-filled parmesan shakers and oversized patrons.

It was perfect for my mission that last evening of my trip – to comfort my work-weary soul with cuisine that would make my food-loving counterparts in Los Angeles cringe with horror. I grinned as I attacked the foot-long garlic bread stick with accompanying marinara. It tasted like heat lamp. I inhaled every chewy, garlic-laced bite.

I happily punched my fork into my side salad of straight-from-the-bag romaine lettuce, carrot shavings and boxed croutons. It didn’t even need the sherry vinegar I requested on the side to be palatable. It was gloriously gruesome on its own volition. I only paused long enough to Tweet of its existence, loudly proclaiming for my followers to hear, “Eating wonderfully bad garlic knots and house salad while I wait for my bbq chicken pizza. I'm a classy brod tonight.”

The pizza itself was everything I imagined it would be. The mini-pie ($8) was a vision of thick crust, restrained cheese, meaty chunks of white meat BBQ chicken, and clumps of cilantro. While a more substantial presence of saccharine sweet BBQ sauce and slightly undercooked red onions would have taken this pizza from bad to very very bad (ie. my version of pizza perfection), I ceremoniously devoured the entire thing in less than ten minutes.

With a knife and fork.

I snuck back to my hotel feeling a hot rush of guilty pleasure. It felt liberating to be free of the obligation and duty I usually feel to always (attempt) to “challenge my palate” and eat outside my white girl box. There’s no story of growth here. I didn’t conquer any fears or check off any items on my “to-eat” list that is still embarrassingly long for someone of my gastronomical persuasion. But it was exactly what I wanted. Exactly what I was craving. And exactly what I am going to continue to crave until the pizza crust is too thick to eat with dentures.

Gianni’s Pizza
725 Lighthouse Avenue
Monterey, CA 93940-1009
(831) 649-1500


Cathy Danh said...

BBQ chicken pizza is tasty. Ain't no shame in that!

Katie said...

I've always enjoyed your food blog, but when I just read that you love Gina's in Irvine I knew I had found a kindred spirit! Half the reason I'm going to OC on Friday is to hit it up!

Anna A. said...

Mmmmm heat lamp garlic bread :) and seriously, that pizza looks doughy delicious. Fork and knife, you are a classy brod indeed!

Eman said...

Your my effin hero man. I have been reading your blog for about a month now, (sorry for not commenting) but this post just solidified why I read. Kudos to you Diana. Keep rockin the way you do. Cheers!

weezermonkey said...

Even bad pizza is still pizza.

And that's good.

Pearl said...

i really like thick crust pizza, too. i grew up eating it so i can't really fall in love with the thin crust.

Diana said...

Cathy - No there ain't! There's more shame in saying, "ain't." ;)

Katie - I'm so glad I'm not the only one! Sometimes when I'm sitting in horrible traffic on the 405, I think I'm crazy. But it's so good! I'm almost considering going there for my birthday dinner with my parents/family. Is that wrong???

Anna - Fork and knife is the only way to go with a thick pie like that one. Gotta savor every doughy bite. ;)

Eman - Thank you! I will gladly accept the title of "effin hero." Especially when it's said in relation to my inhaling my thick crust BBQ chicken pies.

Weez - Hear hear!

Pearl - I think that's part of why I like it so much too. We never ordered the thin crust from Pizza Hut! It was always the hand-tossed crust.

stuffycheaks said...

hahah don't feel bad, i use a F&K too when I eat pizzas.. well, when i used to eat pizza

Joseph Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Carr said...

It seems like you enjoyed your meal there, especially the pizza. I like the small thick crust, topped with luscious meat, cheese, and greens. No wonder it only took you ten minutes to finish it all. I’m certain you’ll keep coming back there for more pizza. ->Fresh & Healthy Brands