Some of the only things thinner than N.Y.-style thin crusts may be the thin skins of New York-style pizza superfans unhappy that Chicago will celebrate pizza on Friday with the opening of the U.S. Pizza Museum, a love letter to the pizza-loving world with memorabilia from pizzerias all over the country. The museum, which grew out of a website established in 2012, will unveil its hopefully permanent home tomorrow in the South Loop.
Earlier in the week, an AP story began circulating with the headline “Chicago is the site of US Pizza Museum: report,” an abridged pick-up of a Tribune story. When the story hit New York, some people in the Big Apple unleashed their outrage. Chicago wasn’t worthy, they claimed. The Internet once more gyrated with the typical takes about Chicago deep-dish pizza: “It’s lasagna,” and “it’s not even real pizza.” Today and Conde Nast Traveler picked up on the hijinks to fuel more reaction.
The truth is that U.S. Pizza Museum founder Kendall Bruns didn’t even grow up in Chicago. He was an Air Force brat who spent much of his childhood in Ohio. He doesn’t participate in the pizza politics. There are seven days in a week and that means pizza lovers can order N.Y.-style Monday, enjoy a Detroiter on Tuesday, and a New Haven crust on Wednesday. That leaves more than enough days for either a Chicago deep-dish or the lesser known Chicago tavern-style thin crust. The latter is something those Internet commenters know nothing about.
“I don’t see it as stepping on anyone’s toes,” Bruns said. “There’s plenty of history to capture, there’s plenty of history to go around.”
The Chicago museum isn’t the first. Pizza Brain debuted in 2011 in Philadelphia. Bruns knew that when he started his museum, and noted that Philadelphia’s was an extension of an existing pizzeria. A New York museum is opening in the fall and will be more experiential. Bruns wishes them luck, as he feels there’s more than one way to tell a story.
“I don’t know much about them, I’ll find out when I visit in October,” he said.
Bruns talked about “pizza cognitive theory.” This isn’t academia, but this is the belief that the first pizza someone eats is what they associate as real pizza. That may be to blame for these pizza politics. Bruns’ love for pizza grew as a child. With his father away on military duty, his mother would only take him and his two siblings out occasionally. But pizza was a treat. He’s gathered menus, spoken with families who own pizzerias, and tracked down merchandise on eBay. He’s particularly nostalgic for anything related to the Showbiz Pizza Place chain. He joked that his first visit watching the animatronic band may count as the first time he watched live music.
About 70 percent of reservations are gone for August. They’ll release September reservations later this week. Bruns hopes the South Loop location at the Roosevelt Collection can be a permanent home. It’ll be at this location at least through October.