SIDNEY — Did somebody order a pizza?
Friday, Feb. 9, is National Pizza Day. But Americans, local residents among them, don’t need a special day to gobble down this favorite Italian treat.
According to thepizzajoint.com, people in the United States eat 350 slices per second, which adds up to more than 251 million pounds per year!
NationalToday.com surveyed 1,000 people recently about their pizza-eating habits. Just 2 percent of them said they didn’t like the pies. One in three Americans, the survey found, eats pizza at least once a week.
Bob Curliss, owner of Sidney Hometown Pharmacy, is one of them. In fact, he said that he and his staff order pizzas several times a week.
“Usually from Cassano’s (which is across the street from the pharmacy) or sometimes Al’s (Pizza),” Curliss said. “I’ll almost always order a personal all-meat pizza.” Nationally, the most popular size is 16 inches.
Curliss is known by the Cassano’s staff for also ordering food that Cassano’s doesn’t sell. Last Friday, in addition to the pizza, he asked for a Big Mac meal, something sold by McDonald’s.
“I’ll call up over there and say I want a double baconator and French fries. One time, I tried to do every restaurant in Sidney,” he laughed, recalling how he asked for pizza and also a quarter pounder, extra crispy chicken, tacos and more.
“It’s just something funny. I don’t know what prompted it. I’m just teasing,” he said.
That’s not the only fun that goes on at Cassano’s.
Becky Couch, the daytime manager, has been at the restaurant for 30 years.
“I scare easy,” she said when asked about funny things that have happened at the restaurant. “I’ll come around a corner and employees will jump out and scare me, and I drop everything in my hands. I’m short. They try to see how high they can make me jump.”
Couch said the eatery sells as many as 300 pizzas on any given Friday. The most popular ingredient is pepperoni.
Cheryl Jacobs, general manager of Pizza Hut on Vandemark Road, and Brett McConnell, who with his wife, Vicky, owns Farmstand Pizza on Fourth Avenue, also listed pepperoni as the favorite of their customers. Farmstand makes 200 to 300 pies per week. That number is 300 to 400 for Keyhole Pizza in Newport.
Bob Mescher, president and CEO of Keyhold Pizza, named pepperoni, but also cheese, which was the ingredient named by Scott Moeller, general manager of Marco’s Pizza in Sidney.
The nationaltoday.com survey found that just 10 percent of Americans like pineapple on their pizza. Thirteen percent named sausage as their favorite topping; 11 percent said bacon; 10 percent said mushrooms.
Toppings vary around the world and so does their presentation. The writer was surprised to be served a pizza in London on which the four ingredients were separated according to slices: all the mushrooms were on one slice; all the sausage on another; all the peppers on another and all the pepperoni on the last of the four wedges.
Pizzajoint.com reports tha, “According to Domino’s, some of the more popular international toppings are pickled ginger, minced mutton and tofu in India; squid and Mayo Jaga (mayonnaise, potato and bacon) in Japan; and green peas in Brazil. In Russia, they serve pizza covered with mockba, which is a combination of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon and onions. In France, a popular combo is called the Flambee, with bacon, onion and fresh cream.
“Around the world, toppings … reflect regional preferences. In Japan, for instance, eel and squid are favorites. In Pakistan, curry is a big seller. In Russia, red herring is a topping of choice and Australians enjoy shrimp and pineapple on their pies as well as barbecue toppings. Costa Ricans favor coconut.”
Yet local pizza makers think some of the requests they’ve had count as unusual.
“We had a guy that would come in regularly with a can of corn and pay extra for us to put it on his pizza,” Moeller said.
“The strangest combination on a pizza has to be salami, feta cheese and anchovies. Only did that once, but that was enough,” McConnell said.
Mescher admitted that when he makes pizza for himself, he uses all kinds of things as toppings.
“Anything’s good on a pizza. Personally, I’ll make a pizza with broccoli and cauliflower. One couple will bring in spinach,” he said. “I’ve made pizza without cheese, pizza without sauce, pizza without crust, because of allergy problems.”
Mescher uses a premade crust, but the sausage is fresh from his own recipe.
“We grate cheese and cut onions and green peppers every day,” he said.
Keyhole advertises that it has the “worst pizza and the warmest beer.”
“You have to have a lot of confidence to say that,” Mescher laughed. He got the promotional idea after seeing the “worst chicken” touted on a billboard in Florida.
Nobody, he added, has ever complained that it was false advertising.
Jacobs has been with the Vandemark Road Pizza Hut for 30 years.
“I started as a server and worked my way up,” she said. Her most memorable pizza was one on which the staff was asked to spell “Prom” with pepperoni.
“(The customer) was using the pizza to invite someone to the prom,” she laughed.
Pizza Hut and Farmstand will make heart-shaped pizzas for Valentine’s Day.
Marco’s, where Moeller started as a driver and moved through the ranks into management, tried a large square-shaped pie for awhile.
“That was inefficient and never really up to the quality standards we expect here at Marco’s Pizza,” Moeller said. Couch noted that inexperienced pizza-makers can waste a lot of dough trying to make hearts and other odd shapes.
Most managers say that their take-out pizza sales split fairly evenly between delivery and pick-up.
“Ever do a multiple pizza order and send out an empty box? Oops!” McConnell said.
All of the pizzarias except Marco’s and the Vandemark Pizza Hut have dine-in facilities. Farmstand has seating for about 100 people.
“We are a family restaurant. It is neat to have the families come and watch the kids grow, which means we are keeping our customers and providing them with value and quality. We have a saying here: If we won’t serve it to our grandchildren, we won’t serve it to you,’ McConnell said.
Moeller echoes the sentiment about his Marco’s store.
“Great service and quality on a consistent basis. Day in and day out, we love making pizza for the great people here in Sidney,” he said.
Other pizzarias in Sidney are Pizza Hut on Russell Road, Little Caesar’s, Al’s, and Papa John’s. There are more in the villages. Area grocery stores offer pizza in their deli departments, and convenience stores sell it by the slice as well as in whole-pie form. There is a plethora of brands of frozen pizza in every area supermarket and Sidney’s own Mama Rosa’s packages thousands of pies for the frozen market every week.
Diners just can’t seem to get enough of it. And that’s all right with the pizzarias.
“We love this business,” McConnell said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.
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