Neal Rubin: One man’s noble quest — pizza every day for a year
The crust on the pizza is perfect, he says — crispy all the way from the cheese-dappled edges to the center of the pie.
It’s at least as good as the pizza Jason Hall had three times the day before from his favorite supplier. And the pizza from the day before that?
We’re having lunch at Vince’s Italian Restaurant, a classic neighborhood spot in southwest Detroit, and “if this was down the street from me,” Hall says, “I’d probably eat it every day.”
Literally. And quite possibly more than once.
Hall, 42, is on a quest: to eat pizza every day in 2017.
Across 2 1/2 months, the co-founder of Slow Roll Detroit has had marvelous pizza at Supino Pizzeria in Eastern Market, his amore. He’s had atrocious pizza at a roller rink in Oakland County, where the slice looked like it had been rotating in the heated case for three hours and it stuck to the cardboard when the kid behind the counter retrieved it.
He’s had emergency pizza, when the clock was running out and he realized he’d forgotten to find a piece all day. He’s had bonus pizza, when thoughtful associates arranged business meetings at pizza parlors just in case. He’s had gas station pizza, which is about what you’d expect.
“I have pizza in all situations,” he says. “No pizza should go unturned.”
Hall says that even without trying, he probably had only 45 pizza-free days last year.
Now that he’s putting some effort into it, he’s confirming his thesis that pizza is a conversation starter, be it with servers, owners, or other pizza patrons. It’s a commonality and a connector, something a vegetarian doesn’t always find in discussions about food.
Did you know that the blue steel pans cradling the first deep-dish pies from Buddy’s were originally used to hold nuts and bolts in auto plants, or that four brothers from Bangladesh are behind the ghost pepper test of bravery at Amar Pizza in Detroit and Fraser?
Hall knows now. So it’s a voyage of discovery, this campaign to savor a slice for every square of the calendar. And beyond that ...
Heck, who doesn’t want pizza?
Going by the rules
The first pizza Hall remembers showed up at his elementary school for a $1 a slice. His mom gave him $2 and even today, he can’t eat just one.
“The cheese! The pepperoni!” he remembers thinking. “This is better than a taco!”
As a teenager in Rosedale Park, he and a friend would hustle for slices from Little Caesars: Hey, mister, want to see us break dance? Now he lives in an upper flat almost literally in the shadow of MotorCity Casino, where the Little Caesars stays open until 4 a.m. on weekends.
That’s important knowledge when pizza becomes a driving force, especially for someone who rarely drives. His 1996 Volvo 850 “isn’t technically dead,” he says, but it makes anguished noises and he’d rather ride one of his five bicycles anyway.
Some nights he’ll pedal to Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza & Deli at the Majestic, open until 2 a.m. for your quest-fulfilling convenience. That’s where a half-baked challenge from a friend turned into a serious enough project that he’s had to establish rules.
Leftovers count. So does pizza for breakfast, though not something specifically sold as breakfast pizza. Frozen pizza works, though he hasn’t had one yet. Thanksgiving might be problematic, but there’s always Windsor, where it’s just a Thursday. For Christmas, see the rule about leftovers.
Finding the best
As director of the nonprofit Slow Roll, the recreational ride that might draw 8,000 pedalers on a summer Monday, Hall earns a small salary. A former associate TV director, he also pilots a pedal pub, which helps keep his weight at 180 pounds on a 6-foot frame — 60 pounds less than when he started riding in 2010, despite all the pies.
His favorite combination is the roasted garlic, feta and spinach at Supino. On his first visit somewhere, he’ll order plain cheese, the better to make comparisons.
That’s what he’s savoring at Vince’s, which started with four tables in Maria Perfilli’s house in 1960. Now her son-in-law, Frank Improta, is explaining the wonder of the crust — good ingredients and an old-school oven — and saying, “Every day? How can you do that?”
With a smile, and with a box for the leftovers.
They’d count for the next day, Hall says. But realistically, they won’t last that long.