By Ethan Ruh
While juicy cheeseburgers, barbeque, or apple pie might be considered national foods of the US, no food holds a more special spot in Americans’ hearts than pizza. Our national love for this gooey and saucy delicacy stems back to the early 20th century, when this Italian specialty quickly became a mainstream dish and a staple of American cuisine. More recently, pizza has become a go-to meal for anyone who is feeling lazy, because you can get a hot and steamy pie in less than 30 minutes by just tapping buttons on your phone.
For Collegiate’s Upper and Middle school students, pizza has become more accessible than ever before. With the new renovations of McFall Hall now complete, Aladdin Food Services has made updates and adjustments to the meal service, most notably with the addition of two new pizza ovens. The cardboard-ish rectangular pizza of previous years has been replaced with pizza that actually looks like something you would want to put in your mouth.
During the first week of school, I spoke with Aladdin employee and pizza chef Ian Hogan to discuss the new ovens and the pizza making process. Hogan is tasked with making anywhere from 60 to 80 pizzas every day for the Collegiate community to enjoy. When asked about the ingredients used to create the pizzas, Hogan said, “We get the pizza dough already formed and all the toppings are fresh. It is all cooked and prepared in the morning.” After the sauce, cheese, and toppings are assembled on the crust, the pizza is placed into one of the conveyor belt ovens. The ovens cook the pizzas at 465 degrees fahrenheit, and the pies finish baking after about two and a half minutes.
Every day, there will be two different types of pizza offered in the cafeteria. Hogan is planning on making unusual pizzas, like caramelized onion and apple, shrimp scampi, steak and potatoes, and many more. Aladdin Food Services will also provide a more basic style of pizza every day. “I don’t think we will have cheese every day, but we should have something with just one topping, like pepperoni or sausage,” said Hogan. The addition of new pizza ovens and a dedicated pizza chef is a wonderful extension to the food service at Collegiate.
When I first walked into the newly renovated McFall Hall during the first week of school, I was stunned by all the new additions and aesthetic changes. While the sight of the brand new cafeteria was startling, what overtook me the most was the smell of freshly baked pizza. I immediately hustled to the back of the pizza line and grabbed as many slices as I could. My first bite was from a thin crust pizza, and I certainly was not disappointed. The thin crust pizza was very different from the typical pizza because the crust almost resembled a cracker. The crust was a little dry, but the robust sauce perfectly balanced out the dryness.
After quickly devouring the first slice, I then sampled the thicker crust pizza. When I first bit into this slice, I experienced a crunchy base, but once I broke through the initial layer of crust, I was greeted with a chewy combination of bread, sauce, and cheese. The sauce-to-cheese ratio in that pizza was a bit off; it needed some more sauce to balance out the strong flavors of the cheese and bread, because the sauce disappeared into the other stronger flavors. While I did not find much pleasure from the thick crust pizza, many of my classmates thought this pizza was delicious. Zach Cohen (‘18) really enjoyed the thick crust slice and said, “I like a bready pizza.”
During the first few days of school, thick and thin crust pizza were both offered, but Hogan stated, “that’s how it was at first, but I think we are going to stick with one pizza crust, and it is in between thick and thin.” Starting later that week, all of the pizza was created on a crust that was similar to that of a typical pizza you would order at a restaurant. Ashray Namala (‘18) describes this style of pizza as “very similar to Domino’s.” This level of crust thickness created a pizza slice that I think is much better than both of the thin and thick crust pizzas. The pizza’s crust has a nice crunch on the bottom but it also manages to be soft and chewy. This pizza is piping hot, and the crust, sauce, and cheese all melt together in unison. The sauce sits nicely on the top layer of crust, and the cheese blankets the sauce to keep it all in place. The only downside to this pizza is that it is a little greasy, and the cheese and sauce easily slides off of the crust.
In my opinion, the pizza is a great addition to the cafeteria, and it is definitely better than the pizza from previous years. After trying the pizza for the first time, Robertson Reed (‘18) said that the pizza is, “better than it used to be but not amazing.” It is undeniably not the best pizza I have ever had, but it is still something I can look forward to eating throughout the year. Having pizza available every day of the year gives the Collegiate community a safe option when the rest of the lunch menu is not as appealing.
All photos by Ethan Ruh.