For as long as I can remember, Friday nights have been for pizza. I’m sure the tradition started as a way for my dad to get out of cooking on Friday nights, but it soon evolved to my favorite family tradition. Pizza nights with my family molded my love for pizza and, most of all, them. 

My earliest memory of pizza nights on Fridays start in elementary school. My dance studio was behind the Italian place in our town. I had dance class every Friday. When my dad would come pick me up from my dance studio, sometimes we would also go pick up a pizza from the local Italian place. This is where my journey with pizza began.

My dad eventually grew tired of the pizza from our local joint and started to make his own pizza from scratch. As a stubborn Italian man, he knew that he could do better. And he did! At the time, that was the best pizza I had ever had. Although he didn’t make pizza from scratch for very long, I remember begging him to make homemade pizza for years after he stopped.

Around this time, Mimi and Poppy (my paternal grandparents) introduced me to their favorite pizza place: Two Girls Pizzeria. It introduced me to one of my favorite pizza toppings: meatballs! Seriously, if you have never ordered meatballs on pizza: you need to. 

At this point, pizza was extremely important to me. I loved having pizza nights and being able to enjoy one of the best foods with my family. I had also developed my own opinions on pizza. Like I love bubbles in the crust and the sauce is my favorite part. I grew into knowing what I wanted from pizza and how I liked it. 

When I started driving in high school, I was able to pick up the pizza and bring it home to my family and friends. I felt like such an adult every time I was responsible for ordering and picking up the pizza. Maybe it was because ordering pizza as a child was how my parents taught me how to talk on the phone. Now I was able to order pizza and pick it up. 

Finishing high school, I had grown into my own pizza snob. The sauce needed to be at a certain ratio with the cheese. The crust needed to be stable but not too hard. I was very particular with my toppings. I liked my pizza how I liked my pizza. 

As soon as I moved to Grand Canyon University, my parents and I went to Canyon Pizza for lunch and I knew I was in for a long year. Canyon Pizza is probably one of the worst restaurants on campus, an opinion almost every GCU student holds. Freshman year of college I was deprived of pizza. My only options being horrible on campus pizza or no pizza at all; I chose no pizza. That was until my dad started making homemade pizza again.

One Friday, I came home for the weekend from college and my dad was making pizza from scratch again, this time a new recipe. He called it a “Grandma Pizza” because of the crust and how you put the cheese on first and then the sauce. It was delicious. According to my inner pizza critic, it is the best pizza in the whole world.

Lilly Jiroudek
Pictured: my dad's "Grandma Pizza" that he made from scratch. 

As I pondered how much I missed pizza on Friday’s, I realized it was less about the pizza itself. It was more about the shared love for something. And how that shared love brought my family together and helped us stay together. Whenever we got pizza, we enjoyed it together.

When I visited my family's roots in Connecticut this summer, my mother and I went to all the places that were important to our family. Including the Italian place Baba and Poppop (my maternal grandparents) went to every Sunday while they lived in Connecticut. I made sure to order a pizza. Pizza brought me back to the life they lives many decades ago. In every corner of my family, pizza united us. 

Lilly Jiroudek
Pictured: The pizza we ordered this summer from Italia Mia 

Even now, when I come home for college on a Friday, I stay in with my parents and enjoy it before I go anywhere else. It brings me back home and it centers me. The pizza itself may not have shaped me, but the people who made it and brought it home did.