Norma, when it comes to pizza (as well as food in general), my taste buds have a photographic memory. My most vivid memories revolve around food- around taste.
My local neighborhood pizzeria, Suvios, opened in 1979. Because they had video games in the back, and because there was a video game arcade a couple doors up, from the moment it opened, I was there almost every non school non sleeping moment. Right now, I can close my eyes and go right back to that taste. The little bit of char on the undercrust, the almost white incredibly puffy rim, the gummy pink nodules of the crust when you pull the cheese away. It's seared into my mind. I can't really remember my first kiss as well as I can remember my first slice
My closest description would be Best, but puffier and far more flavorful. Most of my adult life was spent trying to recreate that slice, and, for the most part, I'm confident that I have.
When Suvios opened, for about the first 5 years, they traded county newspaper accolades with a place across town, Pete's. Pete's was a little more golden brown and had a lot more oregano. This was all happening when I was in junior high school, so I didn't have access to a car, but I had a bike, and I biked to Pete's quite a lot. I recall being dropped off at the library once, and rather than studying, walking to Pete's for a slice and Baskin Robbins for a chocolate shake
Pete's was different, but just as phenomenal as Suvios and well worthy of the awards.
The moment I got my driver's license, I was in the family car driving everywhere. My friends and I covered unbelievable ground. We didn't cross over the Hudson River, but we ate pizza all over Northern NJ. And we weren't obsessives. We were just teenagers, getting into trouble, and grabbing a slice. Back then, that was pretty much what teenagers ate. Suvios and Pete's were a bit of a pinnacle of the pizza at the time. The huge slices in Hoboken where in this realm as well, but everything seemed to be a notch below. But that notch was minimal. It was like Suvios/Pete/Hoboken were a 10 and everywhere else was 9.75. You'd be really hard pressed to find anything mediocre. It wasn't until about 15 years later, when I moved into Manhattan where I first started discovering mediocre, uninspired pizza (midtown!
). At the same time, though, I also discovered Joes. If Suvios was a 10, Joes circa 1993 was an 11- at the time, Joe's was another universe.
But 1993 takes us outside of the era presently being discussed. From 1979 through 1990, in Northern NJ (and most likely all the outer boroughs, since the same Italian American population was distributed throughout these areas fairly equally) it was as difficult getting a less than great slice as it is to find a decent slice now- an entire region of 9.75 to 10 quality pizza transformed into almost ubiquitous 2-4 grade pies. Suvios is still around, as is Pete's, but, like everywhere else, it's all taken a turn towards mediocrity.