GROWING UP, the birthday boy or girl in my family had several privileges on their special day:
- They could order their favorite meal
- They could invite one friend over for dinner
- Presents and cake, of course
More often than not, my siblings and I would choose pizza for the meal. Our mother, though Czech by heritage, prided herself on her mastery of Italian cuisine (there might have been just a bit of a competitive spirit going on there with her sisters-in-law).
They say in marketing that the most effective medium is word of mouth. It didn’t long for those neighborhood children who were guests at our birthdays to run home and rave about Mrs. Paolini’s homemade pizza.
And so, before long, when it was pizza night at the Paolini house, it was pizza night throughout the neighborhood. And it was Paolini’s pizzas they were eating.
How this happened, I am not entirely sure. But if I had to guess, it might have had something to do with one kid whom I’ll call “Ricky C.” Every neighborhood probably has a kid like this: Ricky C., though good natured, was a bit high strung and just plain got on his mother’s nerves.
Ricky C. was undoubtedly a guest more than once at our house during dinner, and he no doubt had the aforementioned brand of pizza. Ricky C. likely went home to his mother and pleaded for her to do the same for her children.
Mrs. C. knew just what to do, and it was not to learn the art of homemade pizza. She was more the TV dinner type of cook. So she called Mrs. P (our mother) and said: “How much for a pizza? Name your price. Just make Ricky stop.”
Mrs. Paolini, a tough negotiator if ever there was one, threw out the most outrageous number she could conjure up on a moment’s notice: one dollar. (That’s $1 U.S. for a full cookie-sheet size pizza with all the toppings.)
“Sold,” said Mrs. C.
Before long, other neighborhood mothers (yes, mostly women did the cooking back then), started putting in requests. And a neighborhood tradition was born.
Now, if you know anything about business, you know the term “scalability.” And you may be wondering how our mother managed to increase production to meet demand.
Easy! She outsourced, of course. And just like the big tech companies, this involved child labor.
That’s right, she put her kids to work. We set up an assembly line to crank out those pizzas. Were we paid? Of course! In pizza.
Our dear mother left us many years ago. But the tradition of making homemade pizza persists with many of her progeny.
For me, I won’t try to persuade you that there is any secret recipe that I use for pizza dough or sauce. There isn’t. I use a pretty standard formula of just water, yeast, flour, salt, olive oil.
As for sauce and toppings, it really depends on what I have on hand.
The one trick I believe in is to bake the dough plain for 3-5 minutes before applying the toppings. This prevents the crust from getting soggy once you apply the toppings and complete the cycle in the oven.
So go ahead, give it a try. Who knows? You might end up being the latest sensation in your neighborhood come pizza night.