Dede Wilson

co-founder of

A Pizza Education

When my children, now all young adults, read this story, they will have to let me know whether they remember any of what I am about to tell you. A child’s memory is a funny thing, with some things standing brilliantly in relief, others forgotten the moment they are done. It is hard to tell how it works for someone other than yourself, even one’s own child.

I grew up in the East Village of Manhattan and I have eaten many a slice of NY pizza. I had my usual haunts. Stromboli’s for a quick delectably oily slice with its spicy flavor profile; Ray’s for a thick, puffy Neapolitan; John’s for a charred slice with sliced tomato or anchovy.

When my daughter was about twelve and the twin boys were seven, I decided they should be exposed to the wonders of New York pizza. Their palates deserved the education and joy that mine had received and I figured there was no time like the present.

We were staying at my Dad’s apartment on tenth and University Place, where I had grown up. I told them we were going to eat a light breakfast, and then around noon, we were going to eat pizza at several locations! This was not received with the excitement I had expected. In fact, I was a little perturbed that they weren’t over the moon with anticipation. I reasoned to myself that once they began nibbling away on these pieces of yeasty, cheesy goodness that would declare the pizza amazing and their Mom very cool. I hoped they would be able to detect the differences among the slices and have favorites, and least favorites, and be able to tell me why.

We walked a few blocks up to Stromboli first. I ordered us the pizza of my youth. I took a bite; it took me back to days gone by. Their sauce was always very full of flavor and spice and it had a unique taste. The kids munched away, not saying much.

Next up, Ray’s. Now I could write a book on Ray’s alone, as there are many Ray’s Pizza in New York City. The one I liked was on eleventh street and 6th avenue. This is where I always ordered a Neopolitan, so that’s what I did that day. Again I was floored at how similar it was to the pizza of my younger days and again the kids just munched away. I took their silence to be serious concentration.

John’s was the last stop. Here we would have to get a whole pizza. We never said “pie” growing up, so it has never entered my lexicon. We ordered a whole pizza with tomato slices and pepperoni. The bits of black char on the bottom of the thin crusted pizza, the proportion of sauce, to cheese to toppings was just what I had hoped for. The kids, pretty full by now, nibbled along the edges of a slice or two.

We drove home to Massachusetts that day, and part way up the Merritt parkway, I was struck with a brilliant idea. We would go to New Haven and drive right to Sal’s for a white clam pizza! Crown off the trip with a Connecticut pizza experience, to round out the day. We arrived and were told there would be a forty-five minute wait. No problem, I said. It wasn’t like we were really hungry. This was about the experience, and waiting for a table is always part of a visit there.

The white clam pizza came, even more blistery and charred than John’s and I was in clammy pizza heaven. The kids had little more than a taste.

We piled in the car and we took off for home and somehow I couldn’t find the Merritt Parkway and I ended up on I-95. In my mind I thought it was I-91 and I started driving, until I realized that I was taking us way off course, along the coast, more toward Boston than Amherst, where we wanted to go.

The kids were sound asleep by this time, their tummies plump with pizza. I got us back on course, and actually enjoyed driving alone, with the quiet rumbling sounds of heavy breathing, as only children can emit.

I thought the day had been a success, but was it a success for me, or them? I hoped both, but I wasn’t so sure that my childhood pizza haunts had made the kind of impact that I had hoped for. When I asked them the next day how they had liked the pizzas, I basically got answers of “the pizza was good” from each one, and not much more elaboration.

Well, the story is done and perhaps my children will read this and let me know what they remember. It might be something along the lines of “oh that crazy day our crazy Mom made us eat all that damn pizza,” which I will gratefully accept. It was worth a try.