Pizza is the universal food language. Though not popular in all countries, it is usually one of the first foods introduced to those who aren’t familiar with it. It is used as a bartering system for college students and teens alike. No event gets more attendance than one with free pizza! More often than not it is the standard backup or emergency food. When out of time, ideas, or the energy to make food, pizza always fills the space nicely.

I’ve been taught from a young age that pizza is somewhat of a treat, a special food. In Elementary school, we only had pizza on Fridays or at special events. It was pitched to us as though nothing could be more exciting than having pizza. My family, like many others had pizza night during the week and we would also get pizza on special occasions. I live in a tiny area between two small town’s in rural Pennsylvania, a place where pizza places are one of the only things of which we have more than one. If I had to estimate, I think I have eaten at all of them about more than 20 times. Pizza Hut, Dominoes, tiny family businesses, and even just places who have pizza as just a part of their menu.

Growing up in this environment, I didn’t really have pizza preferences. My family had their favorites, as did the other people that had grown up around the area. I usually didn’t care for any of the pizza places around, except for one: Grotto Pizza. “Grotto’s”, as it is more commonly known, is a popular chain of pizza stores around north east Pennsylvania. It’s pizza is concept, ingredients, and service are simple. They provide every combination of pizza you would expect on a menu of items that you picture accompanying pizza and sports and a lazy sunday. However, it was about 45 minutes away from my house and had a closer balance of pizza and sauce than anything than anything I had eaten at home. I liked it for it’s novelty of occurrence in my childhood. It was the biggest treat I had and therefore became the best.  Although, I can’t say I even enjoy Grotto’s that much anymore.

Getting older, traveling and experiencing pizza in many different places, I have learned to appreciate pizza as more than a treat but an item of food that should be flavorful, unique, fresh, and creative. Eating pizza should be it’s own experience and not just the twenty minutes you have to eat something with sauce and cheese in between jobs. I have come to love pizza for the individual story that comes along with each place, pie, and piece.

In the past few months, I have had some great pizza adventures that have increased my love for the delectable food and has motivated me to continue finding more and better pizza. They are as follows:

Grimaldi’s –  Best pizza atmosphere

Grimaldi’s is located in DUMBO just by the river. It is one of the most famous pizza places in the city, which really is an accomplishment. You have to wait in line to enter, especially at peak hours. You can tell the staff has been there for years, making pizza so fast that I hardly realized they had finished. Every room is incredibly crowded, filled to the brim with Brooklyn accents, happy couples, and the clinking of home brewed specialty beers. It’s exactly how one would imagine people eat pizza in Brooklyn. Though I would have to say the pizza was nothing spectacular, I certainly felt at pizza home and was glad I had dragged my Australian friends there to show them a little about pizza culture in America.

Buckalew’s – Best surprisingly good pizza

Just before heading to Long Beach Island, I found out that I am allergic to gluten and can no longer have the wonderful crust I love so much. When in Buckalew’s, a local favorite pub/restaurant on the island, I inquired about gluten free options, the waitress more then highly recommended the establishment’s gluten free pizza. It turned out to be magically delicious. It had a vinaigrette based sauce, minimal cheese and a heaping pile of sauteed vegetables. I can only say it was much better than I expected. SO good, in fact, that I made all 7 of my friend’s try it and they concurred that it was better than most of the meal’s they had ordered. By far the best part of the pizza is that I really wasn’t expecting much from it. It was one of two gluten free options they had on a menu of mostly breaded things, but it really was tasty.

Pala’s – Best Pizza… possibly ever?

Pala’s is a hipster (with food allergies) dream. Tucked in one of the many streets of NYC’s Lower East side, Pala caters to the gluten free crowd, with all of their pies available on a gluten-free dough. My friend who brought me to Pala’s is a Pala fanatic and fellow gluten-free love who is recognized by the staff because she goes so often. Her expertise in choosing the eggplant pizza was invaluable and her love for the pizza, the friendly and helpful wait staff, and candlelit warmth of the restaurant made the experience all that much more enjoyable.

Jules Thin Crust – Best pizza chain

This one came highly recommended by my friend’s as a pizza hideaway from the world. There are several of them around the area and they aren’t really being unique but they make some great fresh pizza. They have a large variety of long rectangular thin crust pizzas. You get to pick which slices you would like so you can have lots of flavors for not a lot of money. They heat up the slices or can create you your own pizza with fresh toppings like arugula, edamame, all types of cheeses, buffalo sauce, eggplant and more. It’s quick service with fancy drinks or free water. You can’t go wrong with Jules Thin Crust.

Go out and have your own pizza adventure!

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