I recently spent an entire Saturday eating pizza with a bunch of friends (including the lovely Laura of Roam and Golightly, and she’s talking about this today too!). We visited ten of the best pizza shops in my hometown, eating a slice at each one. So over the course of 12 hours we each ate 10 slices of pizza. Some of you may have been following along on Instagram that day, wondering “WTF?! What is she doing?” Well I’m about to explain myself. Back in September I listened to the second episode of the Pizza Party podcast, which was an interview with the man who invented this thing called “The Feast of St. Pizza.” Rich Greco did it first in NYC, visiting ten of the greatest pizza shops of New York in one day with a few friends. He even created a whole web site for it. I was really inspired by the idea (we all know I love pizza …), and I realized that not only could I do this in my hometown (which actually has a large amount of pizza places), but I knew a lot of my friends would be up to the challenge.
And oh boy, was I correct. There were a lot of my friends who wanted to make it but had other obligations, and some of those who did participate came home from college or asked off of work that weekend to be there. A few could only make the first or second half, but we had a solid 10-12 people in our group at each pizza location. I mapped it out so that we could walk as our main method of transportation. We drove to the first two locations, which included an Italian restaurant Greensboro, which were two of the farthest from everything else, and then we parked downtown and walked to the last 8. I have to give a major shoutout to my brother Colin and our friend Luke, who RAN to the first six locations, running about 16.5 miles overall. And they didn’t even throw up! Champions. They earned their slices way more than the rest of us. You can see a map of all of the stops here.
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Mancino’s – This used to be one of my favorites when I was younger and would visit their location at what was previously the Lebanon Plaza Mall (RIP). Colin and Luke had to down a plain slice before the whole group arrived so they could get on the road and run the 7 miles (!!!) to location number 2. The other ten of us split a large bacon pizza in honor of breakfast. I was STARVING (because I usually wake up that way and hadn’t eaten before this for obvious reasons), so this one tasted especially good.
CC’s – While not technically in Lebanon, this one was down the road and I felt it needed to be included. My high school used to order from CC’s for pizza days in the cafeteria, so this place also had a nostalgia factor for me. Our timing worked out well and the runners arrived just before the rest of us. We went with their “special” pizza, which had ham, red onion, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage and sweet peppers on it. We ordered an extra large cut into 16 slices for the 12 of us. While a bit topping-heavy (my brother described this one as having an “aggressive amount of toppings”), we did enjoy this one. We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that we were still hungry after this stop. Pacing is crucial, people.
Pete’s – My family used to eat Pete’s every Sunday night until my parents decided to jump ship (and I never forgave them for it, since I love Pete’s). They have a crust that is chewy and pillowy, and a very sweet sauce. (Hmm… I wonder why I like this one …) I found out later in the day that Pete’s is one of the oldest pizzerias in Lebanon. Our timing worked out perfectly again with the runners – they arrived right before us after their second 7-mile run. At this point we had parked downtown and started the walking portion, so that helped a lot with coordinating our travel times. We just went with a plain pizza here and it was lovely.
A&M – This pizza franchise is like the McDonald’s of pizza places in Lebanon. They have several locations around town and have a bit of a monopoly on the corporate lunch scene. A lot of us agreed that we should get a white pizza here, which was fine with me since I know I like their white pizza better than their plain pizza. However, I now know matter-of-factly that I prefer their pizza when it is a single slice, reheated. The full white pizza we had there was soggy and greasy. (Just being honest.) Colin and Luke (the runners) also threw back some beers at this stop (because they are champions).
Marco’s – We lost two from our crew at this point but we remained strong. We ordered a large pepperoni pizza, which I’m not sure was the greatest choice after the greasy white pizza, but it was still good. Eating pizza was starting to get very difficult as we reached our halfway mark.
Sharky’s – This is where things got a little dicey and we realized that many of us were experiencing some kind of “pizza drunkenness.” Most of us had not had any alcohol yet, but we were having trouble forming coherent sentences. That stop is kind of a daze in my memory … I just have some vague recollections of staring at a slice of pizza. Stops 3-6 were all crammed into a short amount of time because they are all a few blocks from one another in the center of town, so we didn’t have a lot of breathing room between them. After the previous two stops we needed something “lighter,” so we got their veggie pizza. It was definitely a welcome change from all of the cheese and pepperoni we had just consumed, but the overload of fiber-rich veggie toppings didn’t make the pizza go down any easier. The running stopped here because my brother had to leave after this one to attend a birthday party in Philly that evening, but don’t worry – he made sure to get ten slices of pizza into his body by the end of the day.
Trattoria Fratelli (“Trat Frat”) – This is, hands down, my favorite restaurant in Lebanon and the surrounding area. It’s a nice little Italian restaurant, and even though they have great pasta dishes and entrees on the menu, I almost always get a pizza. If Robert and I are getting “real” entrees while we are there, we will at least get one pizza as an appetizer and save most of it for leftovers. This is the stop that everyone was looking forward to the most. Part of the reason why we rushed through stops 3-6 was so we could get to Trat Frat as close to 4 (when they opened) as possible in order to not overwhelm them with our party of 12 during the Saturday night dinner rush. We had a 2-mile walk to get there from the previous stop, so that helped to revamp our appetites. I’m glad it did because it would have been a shame to not eat much at Trat Frat. (Not that I was actually hungry when we were there … but I felt like I could eat, ya know?)
Their menu is seasonal and always includes one special pizza for the season along with a few staples, and then there is always a daily pizza feature. Since their pizzas are kind of small (they can feed two people pretty well), we ordered four to feed the twelve of us. We got 2 of the daily feature, which had roasted red pepper pesto, beef short rib meat, brussels sprouts leaves, fresh mozzarella and garlic aioli on it. Then we ordered one of the spring pizzas, the “Pollo Parmgiano,” with chicken, marinara sauce, spinach ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella on it, and one of the house standard pizzas, called “The Fratelli,” with chicken, sausage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella and thyme on it. Don’t they sound delicious? (They were.) One of the things I love most about Trat Frat is their cocktails. They had a guava margarita on their spring menu so that was my obvious choice. I had two. And honestly … that was probably my favorite thing I had all day. My eyes rolled back into my head after the first sip. (UPDATE: I have a guava margarita recipe for you on the blog.)
I joke that I have a superpower where I can convince people to give me free food. For example, on more than one occasion in college I convinced a Starbucks employee to give me free stuff before they closed for the night, like ALL OF THE COOKIES LEFT IN THE CASE. But now I think this superpower is officially real. I was able to convince the chef at Trat Frat (with the help of our waitress) to make us a dessert pizza. A DESSERT PIZZA. He came through and made us one with fresh mozzarella, pineapple, strawberries, white chocolate shavings and fresh mint on it. Holy cow. This thing was gooooood and it disappeared in 3 seconds flat. We told him he needs to put it on the menu for real. But then not only did we get a dessert pizza, but the chef had them take ALL of our pizzas off our bill, so we only paid for our [amazing] drinks. How awesome is that? The whole staff there was really excited about our pizza feast, and it felt good to sit down and be waited on for a bit after trekking all over town, and then the free pizzas were just the icing on the cake. Or the cheese on the pizza? Pepperoni? I don’t know.
Gabby’s Italian Bistro – As you can imagine, it was kind of hard to eat more pizza after Trat Frat. Our waitress at Gabby’s was really confused when we ordered one large pizza for twelve people. We really took our time there because it was only like 6pm at this point and we had the whole rest of the night to hit up our last two pizza stops. We took some wine with us since it is BYOB there and just straight-up CHILLED. We were in the home stretch and feeling pretty good. Trying to mix things up again, we ordered their chicken caesar salad pizza. It was decent but not my favorite by any means – I wish it would have had more lettuce and tomatoes, etc. and way less dressing. I also ordered a scoop of their sweet and salty caramel pretzel ice cream, because if I see something like that on a menu it’s like my siren song and I can’t NOT order it. Their small scoop was huge so it was passed around the table a few times.
Italian Village – Once again people were really confused when we ordered one pizza for twelve people. (Helllooooo don’t these people know all about my life and realize that we’re on a mission here? Geez.) So of course we explained “blah blah blah you’re stop number 9 we only need ONE PIZZA.” We ordered a sicilian and we were all pleasantly surprised. Even though it was stop number 9, when that thing came out we were all over it.
Greektown – THE LAST STOP. This place is basically a hole in the wall so we got our pizza to go and took it back to our friend’s apartment. We ended with a bang by ordering a Hawaiian pizza (which I feel screams “PARTY!”), and we all very slowly forced a slice of this down our throats while lounging on the couch and floor. By this point it was 10:30pm and we had been eating pizza for 12 hours. But we survived! Extremely bloated and in a pizza coma, we all waddled our way home and slept very soundly, only to wake up to a pizza hangover. Can you fix a pizza hangover with more pizza? I didn’t attempt to find out.
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THE OVERALL WINNER:
Trat Frat obviously wins. I mean, come on … They made us a DESSERT PIZZA. But also, their pizzas are just delicious. They always get inventive with their toppings and they never disappoint. Garlic aioli and beef short ribs? White chocolate shavings and fresh mint? Their spring pizza with spinach ricotta and marinara might have actually been the crowd favorite (after the dessert pizza). For MY overall favorite pizza of the day, it’s the dessert special – OBVIOUSLY. And the guava margarita, although that’s not a pizza …. but still.
THE FAST FOOD WINNER:
Since it’s not entirely fair to judge Trat Frat, a high-end Italian restaurant with gourmet pizzas, against these other fast-food-type of pizzerias, I’ll pick another winner. For me, it’s Pete’s. I just loooooove that sweet sauce and their crust is one of my favorites. I know it’s not for everyone, but for me it’s my true comfort pizza.
My second-place winner is Mancino’s, our first stop. They just have a solid pizza: great crust, sauce, cheese proportions, etc. I loved their Sicilian slice when I was younger and their regular pizza is just as good in my book.
We were all extremely surprised by how good Italian Village’s sicilian was. I think we had zero expectations going in because at that point (they were stop #9) we were really just chugging through this thing to finish it, and we were no longer excited about pizza. But their pizza was seriously good; some of us ate a second slice there and I even considered it myself. I can’t really speak for their regular slice since I haven’t had one there in years, but I can highly recommend that sicilian.
BOTTOM OF THE PILE:
Sorry, Lebanon – I know you love A&M pizza, but …. it was the obvious loser in this game. We were all pretty disappointed with this one. But who knows – maybe they were having an off day? Clearly a lot of people around town love their pizza, so don’t take my word as gospel. And no hard feelings, A&M – your BLT sub will always have a special place in my heart.
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TIPS FOR HOSTING YOUR OWN FEAST OF ST. PIZZA
MAP IT OUT
I spent some serious time mapping out our route, looking at opening and closing times and thinking about how we would get from one place to another. Our walking portion took us around the city but also brought us back to our cars by the end. I planned it so we could start at one that opened earlier (which was still only 10am, but that’s better than 11am), and our later ones stayed open until 11pm or even 2am (our last stop), just in case we needed to take a longer break in the evening before completing all ten stops. Planning it out strategically ahead of time allows you to be fully prepared for what’s to come during the day of the event, and you can really just enjoy yourself while keeping a relaxed eye on the clock to make sure you’re on schedule.
I honestly don’t know if we could have done this without walking in between the stops. It kept our blood pumping and provided that much-needed recovery time in between slices. It was pretty cold that day, so every time we stepped out into the world to head to our next slice of pizza, it was like a slap in the face from Mother Nature telling us to buck up and keep on pushin’. If we had been driving to all of the places we probably would have needed a long nap in the middle of the day. So if you can walk or even bike (I don’t recommend running like the two crazies from our group), this should go a lot more smoothly for you.
Pizza is really salty. I got water at each location and tried to drink as much as I could, and then I didn’t have any alcohol until stop #7. The water probably helps your body process all of that pizza (I’m not a scientist), and should also help with the inevitable bloating that follows an event like this. Keep a water bottle on you at all times and make sure it gets refilled a lot. You’ll thank yourself later.
Let people know what you’re up to. They might get really excited about it! I know not everyone can have my superpower, but don’t be afraid to try to swindle some free pizza out of someone, or talking them into making a dessert pizza. Maybe ask your favorite pizza place to come up with a special mix of toppings, just for your group. Tell them to go crazy and consider that part of this whole “experiment.” A friendly face and a big smile (and a wink) can take you far in this world.
MIX IT UP
The purpose of this project is not to eat a slice of plain pizza at ten different pizza places. If your pizza place has a signature pizza, get that one! You want to experience that place to the fullest. Mixing up your pizza toppings also helps to dampen the monotony of eating pizza all day. (Although who gets sick of pizza? Not me, so I’ve learned …)
CHEAT A LITTLE BIT
Yes, you are supposed to eat one full slice at each place. There were a few I just couldn’t finish, and I take full responsibility for my actions. However, at most locations we had 10 or 12 people, which technically would have required one whole pizza (8 slices) plus another few slices. That’s a bit awkward, so we often got an extra-large or large pizza and asked them to cut it into smaller slices for us. This obviously made it a little easier for us throughout the day because we were not always eating your standard pizza slice. It might be cheating (a little bit), but I’d recommend it if you have a larger group like we did.
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Doing this pizza crawl was SO MUCH FUN. We even made the front page of the Sunday paper with our story! I plan to make this a yearly event – In fact, many people have already demanded it. I also heard from a lot of people around town who either heard about it through the news, or just through my Facebook and Instagram accounts, that they thought it was a really special thing to do for the town. And I think they’re right: Doing something like this in your hometown, whether it’s with pizza shops or burger joints or coffee shops (that might be a rough day), is a wonderful way to highlight what your town has going for it. Lebanon may not be New York City, but we’ve got AT LEAST ten pizza shops worth eating at, as we’ve confirmed.
Not only that, but it’s a great way to spend time with friends, and it’s not that expensive either. (Since there were about ten of us, we each technically paid for one pizza aside from drinks at Trat Frat.) You can’t help but bond with people when you’re working through the challenge of eating ten slices of pizza in one day together. Many of us tried pizza places we had never been to before, and we were able to show our city some love in the process. All around, it was a really great day.
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So what do you think – would you do this in your hometown? Have I convinced you?
If your town is lacking pizza places and you want to make pizza at home, I’ve got you covered.
PS – Don’t forget to check out Laura’s post on the subject! I can’t wait to see how our rankings stack up against each other’s and what her overall perspective on this experience was.
Oh and PS again – If you live in Lebanon and you want to recommend a pizza shop I should add to the roundup for next year, let me know in the comments. I plan to mix it up a little bit for round two.