My best friend lives just outside of San Francisco. Sadly, I live all the way across the country in good ol' NYC. Whilst adventuring out in SF, she befriended a girl whose family owns a pizza parlor called Cicero's.
Now let's get this straight right off the bat - I am not a pizza lover. Sure, I used to love pizza when it was the center of my 12 year old social life and all that I could afford (slumber parties, a slice for lunch or after the big game), and of course, in college it was a staple (what else can you get in Poughkeepsie at 2am when you are desperately in need of a study break?) . But as I grew older and my palate more sophisticated, I realized that there are many more foods that I would rather eat, even as a New Yorker, with the best pizza in the country.
So, when Best Friend starts telling me about Cicero's and how great it is, I am polite. I listen to her as she raves about the pizza and the family who makes it. I must admit, I do love a good family run business. And as an Italian girl at heart, I especially love one whose recipes are a family secret, passed down from generation to generation.
Deep down, I remain skeptical. Doesn't everyone in the food industry lay claim to "secret" recipes these days? And, family traditions, while valuable, are not always delicious, I remind myself.
The next visit to San Fran, of course, includes a visit to Cicero's. It is a simple, yet friendly environment with the standard pizza parlor decor of simple lamps hanging above leather booths. We wait for our pizza as we watch a baseball game on one of the large TVs mounted in the corner.
When they call our name, Best Friend goes up to the counter to pick up the pizza. She returns with the most lovely little thin crust pizza I have ever seen or tasted. The pie is smaller than the NYC pies that I am used to, but the flavor blows me away. I never should have doubted Best Friend. This little pizza parlor in California has mastered the pizza.
It is really the crust that makes the difference. It is thin and crispy, with the outermost edges almost cracker-like. It is almost as though the crust is fried, kind of like a pan pizza, and sometimes, there is even a whisper of flakiness to the crust.
The sausage pizza is by far the best (though my favorite is to get mushrooms and sausage together). Cicero's grinds their own sausage. And, as is always the case with Italian cooking, homemade is the way to go.
Like most long distance love affairs, this whole pizza thing has become complicated. Knowing that the best pizza in the world is 3,000 miles away haunts me. As a freelancer who is often unemployed, I do not have the means to fly to San Fran each time I have a craving for Cicero's. I have often joked with Best Friend that she should send me a pie via overnight air mail. She just laughs and says that it will spoil before it reaches NYC unless she packs it with dry ice or some equally costly packaging, which she is not inclined to do. I resign myself to my fate - Cicero's only when in the Bay Area, which is a once a year trip, at best.
But, yesterday, my doorbell rang at 9am. I staggered to the door half asleep, wondering who the hell was at my door at that hour. I opened the door to see a smiling UPS man, holding a Cicero's Pizza box with my address on it. No dry ice or special packaging needed. My life is forever changed.