Pizza marathon: a diary

A Weekly writer undertakes the ultimate challenge: Eating nothing but pizza for an entire week

Grimaldi’s pizza: a sure-fire winner.
Photo: Iris Dumuk
Brock Radke

Day 1: It begins

We can do this. It’ll be a breeze. Technically, we’ve done it before. I worked at a Godfather’s in Reno during the college days. For an entire summer, I made the wrong pizza just before my kitchen shift was over. Oops, guess I have to take that one home.

And Maria’s father is crazy. He once put the entire family on an all-pizza diet and used it as an excuse to perfect his homemade recipes. After two months of pizza she was relieved to eat other things, but her dad still craved it as much on Day 60 as he did on Day 1.

So here we are, enjoying some great pizza at Streets of New York in northwest Vegas, deciding this is the beginning of a week-long pizzathon. For seven days our only meals will be pizza, and we will enjoy every melty, spicy bite. This is a good place to start, because not only is the crust crispy and delicious and the tomato sauce slightly sweet, but we’re also washing these two pizzas down with huge, frosty Shock Top Belgian White brews. This is gonna be a great week.

Day 2: Tacos + nachos = pizza?

This Sunday morning finds me working in my brother’s backyard, shoveling rocks to augment his landscaping. It sucks, but luckily there’s fuel: leftover pizza in his fridge. I inhale a couple of pieces, still cold. The cheese and sauce has congealed into spongy mush.

Diversification is going to keep this thing rolling. It can’t be all pepperoni. Enter the taco pizza, one of Maria’s favorites. She’s a longtime fan of this oddball delight, thanks to her Midwestern roots and a place called Happy Joe’s. Theirs has a sauce of marinara mixed with refried beans and is topped with white and yellow cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and crumbled Doritos.

Our Vegas version is from Red Rock Pizza: the Taco Nacho pizza has seasoned ground beef, crunchy corn chips, jalapenos and two cheeses, so she says it’s close to home: “Interestingly, the tomatoes and lettuce are cooked on the pizza, under the cheese. I imagined this would be a huge mistake, but somehow it’s not.” It’s seriously heavy, too, leaving plenty of leftovers for dinner. “It rewarms magnificently,” Maria says, and I agree. “After a few minutes in the oven it was fully restored to its tasty glory.”

Pizza Issue!

Pop-culture references to pizza
1. Pizza the Hutt (character in the move Spaceballs)
2. Playing for Pizza, John Grisham (novel)
3. “No Anchovies, Please,” J. Geils Band (song)
4. The Pizza Tapes, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice (album )
5. Thanks for the Pepperoni: A Tribute to George Harrison, various artists (album)

Day 3: Downtown and deep dish

I work Downtown. I have a few minutes for lunch and a five-dollar bill. That’s the exact cost of two slices of cheese and a can of Coke at Uncle Joe’s on Fremont. The paper plate isn’t big enough to accommodate these thin, cheesy New York-style beauties. A dash of crushed red pepper and they’ve disappeared.

Later, an impromptu celebration with friends is the perfect excuse to order way too much pizza. Rosati’s takes a while but eventually delivers a Chicago-style veggie and two thin-crust pies cut into square pieces (one pepperoni, green pepper and black olive; one Bianco with olive oil, tomato, garlic and spinach). The deep-dish is a beast and draws comparisons to lasagna from the uninitiated. The thick crust is filled with mushrooms, onions, green peppers and tomatoes, then covered in mozzarella and topped with pomodoro tomatoes. It’s got to weigh at least 5 pounds, and I can barely take down a whole slice.

Day 4: Leftovers

Pizza is the best kind of leftovers. I know this for a few reasons, including: It’s great cold, and it’s great reheated. (But only in the oven. The microwave is powerless here.) And more importantly, it’s the only leftover Maria willingly consumes. This is ridiculous. Even if I bring home half a $50 steak, I have to cook it into something new to trick her into eating it. But not pizza. Straight out of the fridge is just fine. So today is spent picking and munching at various pieces from the previous night’s feast. The deep dish holds up better the next day. “I’ll tell you why,” she says. “Because the little pizzas have to go in the oven to make them crispy and good again, but the big pizza is delicious even from the microwave.” Blasphemous.

But when dinnertime rolls around I’m craving something fresh, so I stop at a tiny takeout joint on the way home and order the first thing that catches my eye. It’s got plenty of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, pepperoni and sausage, but it’s too ordinary, and the white garlic sauce is … off. “It tastes tangy and weird,” Maria says. Still, I eat the whole thing. Maybe this is my second wind.

Pizza Issue!

Pizza-flavored items that are not, in fact, pizza (or in some cases, food)
1. Pizza-flavored goldfish crackers
2. Pizza-flavored Lunchables
3. Canine Carry Outs Pizza Flavored Dog Treats
4. Pepperoni pizza-flavored Corn Nuts
5. Mach pizza-scented air-freshener

Day 5: Frozen in time

We still have enough leftovers for breakfast and lunch, but by the afternoon we’re in need of something new. An attempt at frugality leads to the frozen section at Whole Foods. We leave with two Frontera brand pizzas, one roasted vegetable, Monterey jack cheese and poblano, the other a four-cheese blend with tomato and cilantro. They crisp up nicely, but there’s no trace of poblano, cilantro or any other fresh taste. It’s still frozen pizza. We’re not sure if we should be mad at super chef Rick Bayless or not for these bland creations.

Day 6: Lost

I think I’m hitting the pizza wall. Everything is starting to blur together. Another couple of cold slices for breakfast, another couple of greasy, cheesy slices at noon. Maria switches it up with a pizza Hot Pocket for lunch. “The little cardboard thing didn’t really crunch it up, but I was really hungry,” she says.

I stop at Albertson’s on the way home from work, and the supermarket has never been more confusing. In the frozen aisle, some weirdo talks to me: “Wow, Freschetta for $4.99, that’s off the chain, huh?” I want to punch him. I end up at home baking a California Pizza Kitchen “Sicilian” thing and piling some microwaved barbecue brisket on top. This is going bad, real fast.

Day 7: Finishing strong

I’m having problems, but Maria seems relatively unfazed. I’m hungry, but I can only eat pizza. No matter how creative we get, it’s still pizza. And I’ve learned that great pizza can be as satisfying as any gourmet meal, while bad pizza is truly terrible.

So to wrap it up, we’re going to a sure-fire winner, Grimaldi’s in Henderson. I keep it simple with extra mozzarella and meatball, and like she always does, Maria out-orders me with pesto, tomato and roasted red pepper perfection. The sweet peppers with Grimaldi’s signature homemade mozzarella are pure bliss. We are rejuvenated. We could keep this thing going if we wanted to … as long as we stay out of the frozen-food section.


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