As of this writing National Pizza Day will be yesterday, February 8th. I would be lying if I said I knew this ahead of time. And I would also be lying if I knew what about what pizza or pizzeria I would be writing about. The biggest lie would be that I had something big planned all along.
I didn’t have to plan anything. I’m sure I would have written about a great place, or what I would hope to be great, and celebrate National Pizza Day, and move on to the next week. But no, the universe always has a way of rearranging itself and working itself out for me. Anything is possible and usually is. We tend to say these things but they don’t always have any meaning.
I want to believe that this has meaning. Either there was a reason for this, or the reason was presented to me and I still need to figure it out, or there’s nothing more. And there’s closure.
The way I write about pizza makes it seem like it’s some cosmic and metaphysical experience. To some it is just pizza. But I tend to think when it comes to things your passionate about, there’s something bigger than us. It’s a spiritual celebration of food, of feeling, and fascination. And maybe some alliteration too, ha.
This encounter had such significance that I don’t know if words will be enough to convey how special this was. I will do my best.
A very unusual set of circumstances brought me the town of Prince Frederick, MD. Never heard of it? Well I imagine many folks in Maryland haven’t either nor have the faintest idea where to find it on the map. A few years ago I would have been one of those folks. This was only my second ever visit, and the first unplanned.
When I find myself in unique towns, like anyone, I like to drive or walk around, and do a little sightseeing. The grass tends to be greener and everything looks larger-than-life. Perhaps many times it is. What I do look for, without trying too hard, is a nice place to grab a bite, some coffee, maybe a museum, maybe a charming shoppe, and of course the joyous slice of pizza.
You know every town has a pizza parlor. And hopefully it’s a locally owned one. That’s one of the major points of all this, to support local and all the happiness it brings to peoples lives, to go somewhere comforting, where yes someone knows your name and you know the friendly folks behind the counter.
And it becomes a a tradition.
At first your just a customer, then an acquaintance, then a friend, then maybe even a good friend, and then essentially family.
That’s the true heart, soul, and backbone of this thing called life. So with that I’m grateful to say I may have hopefully started a new, semi-regular tradition with a place I forgot, from my childhood, Pizza Oven Inn.
And I mean it’s a truly forgotten place to me. As it hasn’t been on my record for at least a decade. Funny the things we forget and with all the information we have, there’s so many pieces of information that become buried in our subconscious, never to return again.
Thankfully this one was revived and now retained.
It was a nice change of pace to be in Southern Maryland. As I’m starting to heard home I do have a yearning to get some foods, you know, because eating is one of the joys of life and is fun. I did some scoping around and located some pizzerias close to me, and I know one of them was going to become a part of this everlasting story I’m telling. Luckily I bypassed one to get to this old-time looking strip mall. I can’t explain how it looks, but it just has a feeling of a small-town shopping center that’s been around for a long time. And the sentimentalist in me likes that.
So I see this Pizza Oven Inn, and from the window noticed they didn’t do slices. So I felt like I was in a rush. But a rush from what? I was 90 minutes from my house, and anyways, I needed to enjoy my time in a place I’m rarely in. But as I’m parking I almost drove away. You know how sometimes you’re indecisive when it comes to food, or just about anything? This was the dilemma. And I’ve done this a bunch of times with a bunch of places I never ended up eating at. I didn’t want this to be another what could have been moment.
Before I walk in to a place, I may take a picture of the outside of a building to incorporate into my stories. However, when I walked in, a gentleman who turned out to be a regular called me out on that. And I wouldn’t say in a bad way. But I did feel like I was made. That happens from time-to-time. It was a pleasant exchange nonetheless. But what this did lead to was…
I got to meet the owner, Stacy, on her day off of all days. This led me to explaining what I do and what I write about. If it wasn’t for being figured out by one of their own, I’m not sure this conversation even takes place. Lots of weird energy (in a good way) going around during this entire exchange.
My first inclination is to get a small pie to go, as I still feel that I’m in a rush. Stacy suggested a large to go. And maybe even a square shaped pie. At this point I feel like I’m at everyone’s mercy (haha not even close but for for dramatic purposes, sure why not) that she pegged me for a vegetable pizza man. I took that as a compliment.
So I went with the vegetable pie and resumed this fascinating conversation.
After a few minutes it came up how Pizza Oven Inn was a massive local chain going back decades. And there were several near where I grew up, one being in Rockville, MD. I started reflecting back on the past and realized there was one within walking distance from where my dad works (still does after all this time), and where my family still lives.
At this point I started getting goose bumps, and remembering how the outside of the building looked and the image of an even older looking shopping center (which still exists today in almost its original form), and another location where the community gathers and meets regularly.
While my pizza was heating, she made a call looking for verification the old Rockville, MD location and all was confirmed. It was a pleasant and surreal feeling all at once. I got those warm and fuzzies.
I believe she spoke to her business partner, but I want to believe that phone call was made and received from a much higher place.
Their business has gone through many changes. What was once a local chain with pizza shops all over the Maryland and DC area, is now down to two. It has been taken over by a couple incarnations of larger chains, but for me, I’ll stick with the support of local.
So, after all that, how was the pizza?
It made me happy. It made me feel like a kid, The square pieces are always a welcome change from the standard pizza shape. And many of us love that pizza . They serve that kind of pie as well.
The crispier pieces were from the end slices, and sometimes you found perfect charring on random slices throughout the pizza. The vegetables tasted fresh. And those tomato slices made that pie.
I love olives, onions, peppers, and I adore mushrooms. This was all around happiness.
For the first time in a while, I threw on oregano and parmesan cheese to enhance the flavors. It didn’t need much enhancement but for so many reasons this felt like a special occasion.
The pizza lasted me a few days, and I feel it tasted just as good, if not better, than when originally heated. At some point I did finally take those pizza savers, (or as Stacy called them, Barbie Tables) off of the pie. With all the excitement of energy of this day, I never thought to remove them. I never thought to do a lot of things. I just went with the flow.
And the flow is what makes experiences like this so amazing.
I mentioned that two locations still exist. I’m not sure when I’ll be back and if their own shoppe will be a part of that. I certainly hope so. This is an experience I’m going to be thinking about for a long time. While it may seem too dramatic for some reading this, there’s a spiritual component of many of these visits, that I don’t always write about. This one will resonate for some time.
I’m so fortunate to have been a part of something so special and something big. I can only hope the next time I’m back in Prince Frederick, and I’m back at Pizza Oven, that the next story can be just as or even bigger than the next one. I welcome it with open arms.
On the other hand, if this was to be a one-time only deal, I will cherish this memory forever.
Happy National Pizza Day!