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Andrew W.K. Shares His Take on Chicago Pizza

Musician opens up on why pizza is important in prep for his Sunday appearance at Chicago Pizza Summit

Andrew W.K.
Andrew W.K.
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Musician, children's TV host and pizza aficionado Andrew W.K. rocked social media on Thursday with an announcement of something called the Party Party. The flippant news sounded like Americans were finally getting that viable third-party political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. Some have said Chicago will be the epicenter of the American political revolution, and coincidentally W.K. will be in town on Sunday, delivering a keynote speech for the first-ever Chicago Pizza Summit over at 1st Ward Events at Chop Shop (tickets are sold out). W.K. didn't mention the formation of the new organization when he spoke with Eater Chicago on Thursday afternoon. Instead he talked about Chicago food and properly tipping pizza delivery people: "I would never tip under $5, even if the order is $3." Read a portion of the interview below.

Note: During the interview, W.K. chewed on some pepperoni pizza from Sbarro.

You've visited Chicago several times on tour, including performing at Riot Fest. Where do you like to eat?

That's one of the best things about [audible pizza chewing/enjoyment], I guess, all the great cities of the world have a lot when it comes to restaurants. But, Chicago is very reliable. I think I have primarily eaten pizza while in Chicago, in general, and that's certainly been intentional on my part. I have had some good food here. I have had some sushi and other Asian food, but the food that I most crave when arriving in this realm is pizza. And the memories of the best meals have revolved around pizza in this great land.

What makes pizza such a satisfying, happy vessel?

It's a bit mysterious, to be honest with you. Considering how many different foods there are out there, how many dishes there are. You would think there would be many other types of cuisine that could appeal to so many people like pizza does. It's a bit hard to pin down exactly what makes pizza pizza. If they could apply it to something else, I'm sure they would. If you ended up applying the essential qualities of pizza to some other dish then you'd just end up with another version of pizza, and you'd get right back where you stated from. I don't want to be applauded, or even recognized, for my love of pizza because it's one of the most-commonly-loved foods. In my personal life, I've never met anyone who doesn't like pizza. Even the people that don't necessarily enjoy eating it all the time, they still like the idea of what it represents, which is a type of unifying happiness.

Speaking of alternative forms of pizza, Chicago's known for its deep-dish pies, and many in the pizza community don't recognize this as genuine pizza. Where do you fall in this debate?

Yeah, I never really understood the debates over foods, personally, because I like all kinds. I've never had pizza I didn't like. As many people have said before me, even bad pizza is still pizza, so it's still good. And I don't really want to have one kind of pizza. What makes me appreciate coming to Chicago —having stuffed, deep dish— is that you can't get that in other places so easily. And maybe what makes me appreciate what New York prides itself on —the purest of form, thin-crust pizza— is that you can only get that in New York. This is what makes it fun, to go to different places and try different pizzas. You don't have to have a favorite song in the whole world. You can't have hundreds of favorite songs. You can have hundreds of favorite pizza places, the more the better as far as I'm concerned. If you like something, more is more, more is good.

What about Neapolitan pizzerias that adhere to a strict set of rules, including prohibiting carry-outs to ensure pizzas don't degrade on the way home?

It just helps create more dynamics, more edges, more tension, more intrigue. Not everyone has to play by the same rules. Sometimes what makes something very exciting is having more rules to work within. Having more restrictions results in strange, liberating aspects that you wouldn't otherwise expect. People who are very strict about their approach to pizza, that's fantastic. It adds a special twist to someone who take an English muffin, puts some pasta sauce and American cheese and calls that a pizza. What we don't necessarily need is the scoffing and the division between these different pizza places, different pizza disciplines. We need to embrace all of it as a beautiful pizza spectrum. Respect that something so special like pizza can be enjoyed and prepared in so many different ways.

Your stance on pizza is pretty clear, but there might be cynical folks who say that you should be spending time on other more important topics for this world. What is your response?

I would absolutely agree in theory. I think everyone should, of course, approach life and approach the world, approach what they like or don't like in their own way. But I'll also point out if we are trying to survive in this world —that we do think it's worth fighting to save— we have to have things worth fighting for, and things we want to stay alive in order to experience and to enjoy and to protect. It's very hard to save the world if you're in a bad mood. If you have a little pizza in your belly, it might give you the strength, that good cheer, the good determination to go out and face these challenges with a sense of power, and certainly a sense of a satisfied appetite.

What are you doing to prepare for Sunday?

I've been working very hard on a combination of over-eating and under-eating, trying to expand my stomach size to accommodate a larger intake of pizza. Sort of training, building up to this event on Sunday. I really want to go in and to be able to eat more pizza than I ever have in my life.

Chop Shop

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