Pizzas I have known

As a general rule, fine dining is not a concept that is familiar in small towns and my experience has certainly proven this rule. Not that fine dining is the only acceptable form of food you pay someone to make for you, but when chips with gravy are the pinnacle of the available taste experience, I maintain that something is lacking in the range of food options. Fortunately there is usually a place that makes passable pizza.

The restauranteurs of the far flung corners of the country are invariably Chinese or Greek. Ours were Greek – two brothers named George and Spiros. I have no idea why they thought it would be a good idea to open a restaurant on the Trans Canada highway in the middle of nowhere and I also can’t explain why they didn’t open a Greek restaurant which would seem the most logical genre. The Deep River Restaurant (indicating that their imagination also did not extend to other aspects of their business) had the typical ‘notch above a greasy spoon’ menu. It had booths with paper placemats with pictures of exotic drinks you could order on one side, and ads for local businesses on the other, like Fred’s Live Bait and Taxidermy, or Tammy’s Cut Above Beauty Parlour.

You could get fish and chips, Salisbury steak, meatloaf, and fried chicken, but the best thing on the menu was the pizza (dine in or take out – delivery not an option). I have since learned that there is such a thing as Greek pizza, but we didn’t know that then. Of course, our exposure to pizza in the culinary wasteland had previously been limited to do-it-yourself boxes of Chef Boyardee so anything was bound to be an improvement. George and Spiros’ pizza aligned with the typical toppings of pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers, but the toppings were diced very small and mixed in with the cheese. The result was an undifferentiated mass of a very brown cheesy stuff on top of minimal tomato sauce on a crust that was pleasantly greasy. And that became our pizza benchmark.

When we went off to the big city for university we were amazed at the concept of a store that sold only pizza, or indeed entire sit-down restaurants that specialized in them. We also learned that there were other toppings aside from the basic trinity. However, none of the pizzas on offer came even close to the perfection of the DRR. I guess all of the Greek pizza makers preferred smaller venues or had moved on to more ethnic cuisine.

I searched in vain for the Greek pizza taste experience for many years. Little did I know it was waiting for me in Saskatoon. Although many orders of magnitude larger than DR, Saskatoon was also a stranger to fine dining when I lived there. None of the 1980s food trends had yet arrived in Saskatchewan, although now I am sure you could throw a rock in any direction and hit a goat cheese salad. However, the silver lining was the figurative long lost brother of George and Spiros, alive and well at the Raven Diner, churning out the exact replica of the DRR pizza.

Alas, the DRR is long gone and I am nowhere near Saskatoon. And although I now live in the midst of Greek restaurant row, not a single establishment has pizza on the menu.