You've probably seen Meredith Smith's Massachusetts pizza explorations on Slice, from eggroll-wrapper thin pies at The Corner Grille in Worcester to crazy-sweet-sauce pizza in Beverly. Starting next week, she'll be at the helm here, so today we put her in the hot seat. Let's get to know our new Slice Queen!—MH
Name: Meredith Smith
Location: Somerville, MA
What type of pizza do you prefer?
When I have a strong, deep craving, it is always for a New York style slice. Thin crust and a crisp bottom are the real keys for me.
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 can't say with certainty what the very first pizza was, but I can deduce that it was most likely Pizza Hut or Showbiz Pizza. Pizza Hut is more likely because there is one in the town where I was raised (Middlesboro, Kentucky) and they had no pizza competition for the first six or seven years of my life. Showbiz was a 75 minute drive away, but I was really into it in my single digit years in a way that went beyond skee-ball fanaticism or a soft spot for that robotic hillbilly bear, Billy Bob.
Pizza Hut later became my least favorite of the three chain options that eventually split the pizza business in town. I started leaning toward a thin-crust style as soon as I knew that it was an option.
What's your favorite topping or topping combination?
I usually go for plain, but I am always open to adding a topping or two, especially of the pork variety. I have really been into sausage and cherry peppers lately. And guanciale and peas is something I wish I saw more of on pizzeria menus. If it's a Neapolitan pie we're talking about, then Margherita all the way. If in New Haven, white clam.
Where do you go for pizza in your area?
Ideally, to Andrew Janjigian's house. With the proper persuasion and encouragement he'll get really serious about pizza and open a place near my house so that I can have year-round access that doesn't require an invitation. When he's too busy to feed me, The Paddock, Nino's, Regina's, or Picco will do in a pinch.
Do you ever make pizza at home? If so, what methods do you use?
I am better at eating pizza than making it. I have had success with Kenji's Pizza Hack and the Cook's Illustrated Thin-Crust recipe. The cast-iron skillet pizza method is my last minute go-to that doesn't require much planning ahead.
What toppings should NEVER go on a pizza?
Hard-boiled eggs or corn on a red sauce pizza. During a Japanese study abroad program I was presented with a pizza with both. I still haven't fully recovered.
Wow, yeah. That sounds pretty brutal. What's the most unusual pizza you've ever eaten?
Living in Massachusetts, I've come across a number of unusual styles of pizza, like Beverly's sweet sauce and the cold, American-cheese topped bakery slices, but I think the most unusual has yet to come.
What's the farthest you've traveled for pizza?
Each year, I time my holiday drive home down South and back around stops in New Haven. If that counts, 911 miles. Otherwise, it is not uncommon for me to drive 2-3 hours for the express purpose of trying a pizza place.
Sounds like you're meant for this job. Got any other confessions before you take over?
My first job was at a Little Caesar's Pizza located in Super Walmart.
Did you ever get tired of Crazy Bread?
You know, I never traced the end of my love affair with bread sticks to its root before now. I think it actually had to do with that first job. I never tired of topping pizzas, either. I really excelled at pepperoni placement.
Now: Who would *you* like to see interviewed next?
My local pizza hero, Andrew Janjigian, obviously. And I'm not just saying that so he'll be inclined to invite me over for pizza.