by Michael Karl Witzel ©2008
Growing up in New Jersey provided me with a LOT of opportunities to eat pizza. Trying different pies—or I should say a slice or two—was an unofficial hobby for me and my dad, as we regularly made the rounds of different joints.
For a young kid, there was something fascinating about watching the pie man flip and twirl that hunk of dough until it was molded into the perfect size and thickness. The show continued when the sauce was swirled on with a big ladle and then the cheese and pepperoni sprinkled on, all measured by eye.
Like a magician, the pie man slipped his immense wooden spatula under his creation without so much as wrinkling the dough and popped it into the oven. Big, heavy baking ovens cooked nothing but pizza, filled with other bubbling pies already on their way to pleasing customer’s palates.
Back then, pizza wasn’t all about the fancy schmancy ingredients like the kind they push today at Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, or Dominoes. There was NO Fettuccine Alfredo flavor or stuffed crust. No dipping sauce, no twisty bread. You ATE the pizza crust without adornment and you liked it. Cornicione!
It was JUST pizza, plain and simple, limited to a simple combination of meat and cheese—and God forbid, NO vegetables. There was no shame in eating a basic pie, reveling in a wheel of baked delight that was true to the pizza maker’s art.
And that’s what Marco’s transports me back to: those simple times of eating pizza when pizza was pizza and not a smörgåsbord of incongruous ingredients tossed on top of pre-baked dough.
Marco is a real person, too—not just a name thrown up on a marquee. Like the pizzaioli of New York and Northern New Jersey, he carries on the legacy with his own style of tossing and spinning, capturing the imaginations of a new generation of patrons with his particular passion for pizza preparation.
And yes, Marco will adorn your pie with pretty much anything that you request, as long as it falls in line with the Tuscan traditions of good taste. Anchovies, olives, Italian sausage, it’s all yours. But ultimately—regardless of the toppings you choose—it’s the home made flavor, quality of ingredients, and personal care and attention that shines through. That’s something you just can’t get or duplicate at the pizza chains.
My dad’s gone now, but when I sit down to enjoy a pie at Marco’s, I think back on the summer of my youth and raise a slice (or two) in remembrance. My pizza meal becomes a sacred celebration of a time when there was nothing more fun than going for a ride in the car … and stopping along the roadside for a slice of pie with my Papa.