Like everyone else in this country, I have had my fair share of pizzas.  Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Dominos, Papa Johns, BJ’s, and the like.  I’m a subscriber to something I heard a while ago, “Even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good.”  So, if that axiom holds, I haven’t really had any “bad” pizza.  But some of the worst pizza I have ever had in my life, I hate to admit, came when we were in Italy.  You would think you couldn’t get bad pizza in Italy, but some of the worse I have ever had were when we were in Florence and in Rome.  We clearly went to the wrong places for pizza and before we left Rome, I was determined to redeem the awful pizza experience we had.  And then, we found Dar Poeta in the Trastevere district in Rome.  From that point forward, that would be the standard of all things sublime.  The dough was thin, yet chewy, and the toppings were the freshest during the summer – zucchini and peppers.  Everything about that pizza was perfect.  Even though there isn’t such a thing as “bad” pizza perhaps, it’s tough to go back to Pizza Hut and Dominos again with the same vigor as before.  I wish we had found Dar Poeta before one of our last nights in Rome a couple of years ago, but it still sticks in my mind as a great Roman pizza.  Of course, we didn’t go to Naples to try a Neapolitan pizza, so perhaps my mind will change yet again if we get to go there some day.

As much as I love deep dish pizza, like Zachary’s in Berkeley, a great pizza starts with the thin crust with really fresh ingredients.  Not too much sauce and not too much cheese.  And if you’re in Rome, you must try a pizza, if it’s on the menu, with a fried egg on it.  There are impostors out there that put a limp quarter of a hard-boiled egg.  That’s not real Roman pizza.  Must be an actual raw egg on top of the pizza when they slide it in the pizza oven so when it comes out, it is perfectly cooked.  Here in the States, as good as pizzas are, sometimes it’s a little too much of a good thing.  Meat lovers, Pig out, Double Meat pizzas are good, but can you really eat more than once slice and not call it a day?  The classic pizza, wherever that is, ought to be somewhat light in its ingredients.  Nothing too overwhelming.  Nothing too heavy.

A pizza is not just another pie.  They’re not all created equal because there are some that are definitely a class above the rest.  In Rome, we found it at Dar Poeta.  Here in the States, there are hundreds of places that serve great pizza.  I can name a few just thinking about it in SoCal alone:  Andre’s in West LA, Pizzeria Mozza in Hollywood, Pizzeria Ortica in Costa Mesa, and Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock.  We definitely have some great pies here.  Chicago.   New York.  The debate can be endless.  But there’s always that experience of a great pizza that sets the standard.  And that is Dar Poeta in Rome.  I can still smell the pizza there while sitting out in their little patio on uneven ground.  The table wobbly and the seats, a little hard.  But when that pizza comes out, all is forgotten.  The taste buds take over and it is off to pizza heaven.

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