If you've spent time around Slice land, you'll recognize Lauren Vincelli's name. She's the blogger behind Pizzalicious, and she also shows up here writing the United States of Pizza series. I don't know why it's taken me this long to put her in the Pizza Obsessives hot seat. —The Mgmt.
You're the gal behind Pizzalicious. When did you start blogging about the crusty, saucy, cheesy stuff?
I started Pizzalicious in April 2008. I had been posting on another blog with some friends and a lot of my posts were about pizza. I think my older sister suggested that I start a blog that was just about pizza. So I did. It was off to a pretty slow start because I wasn't sure how people would respond to it, but then I realized that I really do love pizza and could talk about it for hours. I started posting more and more and the feedback from my friends was really positive.
I hate this question because I have a hard time answering it myself, so it's fun to subject someone else to it ... WHY PIZZA?!?
I love pizza because it is just a really fun food and it is amazingly versatile. It can change so drastically from place to place, but everybody loves it. I really believe that pizza brings people together. Really, pizza is fun to eat, fun to share, fun to make, to talk about. It makes appearances in the silliest movies, it brings families to the table together, teams come together to celebrate victory or commiserate in defeat etc. It has a brilliant history that is always evolving. I think it is awesome that something from my heritage has been translated and adapted by so many different cultures.
What type of pizza do you prefer?
The Pizza Cognition Theory states that "the first slice of pizza a child sees and tastes ... becomes, for him, pizza." Do you remember your first slice? Where was it from, is the place still around, and if so, does it hold up? On that note, has your taste in pizza evolved over time?
I grew up in a city that didn't have a strong local pizzeria faction when I was young, so I'm sure my first slice was from a chain or supermarket. I have recently been reminiscing about my favorite pizza memories from childhood on Pizzalicious, and I think it is very likely that my first slice was from a Chef Boyardee pizza kit. I also remember really vividly going to Little Caesar's and tasting my first white pizza at Bottoms Up. Richmond, Virginia, is only just starting to pick up the ball on the local pizzeria game, but there are already some really great contenders and more opening up all the time.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
I have really been into mushrooms lately. I like pizza with different kinds of wild mushrooms.
Where do you go for pizza in your area?
There are a few great places I like to go. JoJo's is great for a New York–style slice, Tarantino's is good for white pizza, but without a doubt my favorite pizza in Richmond is from a place called 8 1/2. Not only is it named after my all-time favorite movie, but it has the best pizza in the city. It is owned by Ed Vasaio, an amazing local restaurateur, who I think has made a very deep and personal investment in making good food with really high-quality ingredients. I think pizza should always be made with the best ingredients available. 8 1/2 pies are best described as New York–Neapolitan-style pizza except here there are no coal ovens. Is there such a thing as gas-oven New York–Neapolitan? To me 8 1/2 has totally nailed the sauce-cheese ratio. The sauce is perfectly spicy; they have great mushrooms and really delicious anchovies, too. You just can't go cheap with anchovies.
What's been your favorite pizzeria you've eaten at so far?
Do you make pizza at home? If so, how? What recipes do you use?
I love making pizza at home. I like to use a dough recipe that I made with a friend after reading Jeff Varasano's website. I crank the oven up as hot as it will go to preheat a baking stone and then bake the pizza for a couple of minutes. One of my favorite pies to make is prosciutto, fig, and blue cheese.
What's most important to you: crust, sauce, or cheese?
AH! Don't make me choose! I gotta say crust, I guess. When I met Ed Levine, he told me that at the end of the day, pizza should basically just be good bread, and I totally agree.
What one thing should NEVER go on a pizza?
Dirty, stinky socks.
Weirdest pizza you've ever eaten?
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
I like to go to NYC for pizza field trips when I can. And I had pizza when I was in Italy, of course, but I guess the farthest I have traveled specifically for pizza is Dallas. I flew to Dallas for a fancy job interview with a big pizza chain once.
Anything you'd like to get off your chest?
Pizza purists should have a better sense of humor about pizza novelties and weird toppings. It is just pizza, after all!
Now: Who would *you* like to see interviewed next?
My homeboys Andy Stites and Grant Fanning from the Richmond-centric pizza blog, Pamparius.
Consider it done! Thanks for playing, Lauren.