This was supposed to be a post in honor of the genius of Ian’s Pizza, who have outdone their usual high standards with this month’s Thursday special, the Reuben Pizza. Make it your business to be somewhere near State Street on October 18 or 25 so you can sample it.
This won’t be exactly that post, because a bit of Googling revealed that the Reuben Pizza has a long history. The version at the Gaslight Restaurant in Huntingsburg, IN is especially well thought of. (That last link is from Reuben Realm, the kind of food-obsessive project the Internet was invented for.)
None of which really diminishes the greatness of Ian’s. I lived for seven years in New Jersey, which features some excellent pizza but suffers from a crushing pizza orthodoxy. Even something you can get in every mall, like pineapple, or barbecue chicken, is considered dangerously exotic. Here in Madison, pizza is much less of a high-church experience; they play around a bit. As most famously exemplified by our fair city’s signature pizza, Ian’s mac and cheese pie:
(image by Eating in Madison A to Z.)
Anyway, the reuben pizza. Crust, Russian dressing, corned beef, sauerkraut. Perfect, even for someone like me who doesn’t like mayonnaise on pizza. Who can say where the line is? Macaroni and cheese, corned beef, guacamole, a fried egg, Russian dressing, or chicken tikka masala on pizza are all terrific as far as I’m concerned. But I think ranch dressing on pizza is disgusting, and french fries on pizza are just too much (though the guys at Ian’s tell me their “steak, barbecue sauce, and fries” slice is second in popularity only to the mac and cheese.) What’s remarkable about Ian’s isn’t that they’ll dump any old thing on a pizza — anyone could do that. It’s the thought involved. As in their Friday special, the cheeseburger pizza. Now everybody makes cheeseburger pizza. But Ian’s chops up the pickle and puts that on too! That’s thoughtful. (This pizza, too, has fries, but here the fries are chopped into little cubes — I’m OK with this.)
I think what makes the pizza good is that it’s in complete consonance with the virtues of the original sandwich, which is to say, hot bread and melted cheese. Which makes me think: you know what would be a great pizza? The patty melt pizza. Hamburger, melted swiss, fried onions — and little fragments of grilled rye bread on top. With all due humility, I feel that this pizza, if realized, could be my greatest contribution to human civilization.