How far would you travel for a great slice of pizza? Is Chicago too far? Is the pizza really that special? Is it worth going out of your way for? What about New York, just as famous for its unique style of pizza? I suppose the answer depends on where you start, both geographically and in terms of your own individual pizza “history”.
Consider the aftermath of the 1988 “coming of age” movie Mystic Pizza, with a young Julia Roberts leading the cast (all the reviews of the time described it that way, and it seems about right). The Connecticut pizzeria was launched into the public eye, as the setting for a movie about three recent high school graduates trying to find their way in the world of romance. You see, they were waitresses at the pizza joint. Each had a very different romantic story, equally complicated and equally entertaining. T-shirts they wore while dishing out pizza read “A Slice of Heaven.”
Popular with locals and tourists alike, the town of Mystic, CT had a hard time keeping up with the demand for pizza, and Mystic Pizza’s special (secret) sauce. After the success of the movie, the owners of Mystic Pizza had to open a second location, and eventually marketed a frozen pizza, so that their famous brand could be more widely distributed.
The pizza itself has a following. Mystic Pizza was chosen as the inspiration for this movie because of it’s character and its local popularity since 1973. When Julia Robert’s character complains: “I’ll be slingin’ pizza for the rest of my life.” She’s told: “The best pizza!”
Wall-mounted TVs play the movie on a loop, in the waiting area at the entrance and in the main dining room. The banter on the big screen isn’t so flattering for this coastal town. You’ll hear: “The only reason to get married is to get the hell out of Mystic.” This is a romantic comedy, right?!
But there are reasons to linger at Mystic Pizza– the pizza is actually rather good. Being in a coastal town, I inquired about the seafood pizza. The waitress shrugged her shoulders and was honest, telling me it wasn’t her favorite. “Seafood on a pizza just doesn’t seem right,” she said. I thanked her, and opted for a more traditional tomato, mushroom and black olive pizza, with their famous sauce.
The waitress offered to bring me ½ and ½, so I took a chance. When the pizza arrived I made a token gesture at eating the seafood ½. She was right – it was just odd. The more traditional half was pretty amazing. With this type of pizza, I feel it’s all about the cheese, bubbly and browned to perfection, and they really nailed it!
This pizzeria has embraced the fame that came with the film. Posters and publicity shots hang on every wall, and there are plenty of souvenirs for sale in the bar area – postcards, bumper stickers, magnets, glasses, and your very own “A Slice of Heaven” T-shirt.
The town of Mystic is actually rather quaint, perched on the Connecticut coast, and scenes were shot on location at several spots around town. A nautical theme can be found in just about every shop window, private boats line the coast of Mystic Harbor, and tall ships draw visitors to Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea. As a classic costal town it’s really striking at sunset, and you’d be missing out on something if you didn’t take a stroll along the water.
The town has been able to establish an identity that is a mix of the historical and the contemporary, reaching beyond the famous pizza. If you visit the town’s website, and search for restaurants, Mystic Pizza is not a headliner on the front page. (Perhaps it doesn’t need the extra advertisement.) Instead you will find trendy cafés, bakeries, and specialty shops, appealing to tourists, while striving to offer local residents some variety. The state of Connecticut’s slogan: “Still Revolutionary”.
I grew up in the Chicagoland area, so I’m supposed to have very high standards for my pizza. These days I’ve lived in Ohio just about as long as I lived back in Chicago. I enjoy Chicago-style pizza the way a visitor does, on those special occasions when I’m in town, usually there to visit family. There is talk of a Giordano’s coming to Columbus, bringing Chicago’s famous stuffed deep dish pizza. They pride themselves on being “Italian Born, Chicago Raised.” I wish the expanding chain great success, but almost hope it doesn’t expand in my direction. The pizza is rather indulgent, so I’d do better to reserve it for special trips to the city, unless I want to see parts of myself expand.
Locally, at least a couple of times a month I find myself at Planks Bier Garten on S. High St., in German Village. I like to sit inside at the bar, feeling a connection with folks who are there to eat a slice or two, raise a glass or two, and watch the ballgame, the election, or some odd sitcom on the TV. I’m a fan of a simple cheese pizza, and a pint of whatever’s on tap. I love the pizza, but in reality I’m there for some intangible thing that is so much more than a hot slice of pie!
Join me on my next adventure,
Mystic Pizza & Frozen Food: http://www.mysticpizza.com/
Mystic Pizza, the Movie Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61XTZkSzMfw
Mystic, CT: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0ahUKEwiP-au9_KjQAhUCxpAKHefWC6UQFggaMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fthisismystic.com%2F&usg=AFQjCNGX-oPqVoJ-U6Clq5hpuMYu3MhAwA&sig2=bxEv2_R3Xqmafhl1bIOrUQ&bvm=bv.138493631,d.amc
Mystic Seaport (Trip Advisor’s #1 thing to do in Mystic, CT): https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g33845-d104984-Reviews-Mystic_Seaport-Mystic_Connecticut.html
Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea: http://www.mysticseaport.org/
Giordano’s Pizza: Chicago’s Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza: https://giordanos.com/
Planks Bier Garten: http://planksbeergarden.com/