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30 Minutes or Less

Larry Finke

I went to college in Nebraska, a flat state known for being the place where Johnny Carson grew up and not much else.

Nebraska, where the only sport worth watching, because it's the only sport in the state, is University of Nebraska, National Championship Cornhusker football.

The University of Nebraska's school color is red. Lincoln on game day is as red as Joe McCarthy's imagination. As red as a surgeon's hands. As red as a rose on a lobster's nose. As red as Strawberry jelly on Rudolph's nose. As red as... you get the picture.

This brings us to the topic for today - pizza.

The town my college was in was so small (how small was it, Johnny?) that in order to get an edible pizza we had to drive to Lincoln. Or Denver, but Lincoln was closer.

We did actually have a pizza joint in town where many a poor college student worked part-time as a delivery person. Pizza Chick, it was called. I don't think they really served poultry on their pizzas, although by the taste you couldn't tell.

We did get a Pizza Hut in town my junior year, but the only reason we went there was for the one-trip, all-you-can-eat salad bar. I still hold the record for constructing the tallest salad, measured at 13 inches above the rim of the bowl.

Once we got to Lincoln, on our pizza trek we had two choices. We could go to the new joint at that time, Godfather's Pizza. If anyone knows pizza, we figured it would be an Italian Mafioso. We just hoped one of the choices for a topping wasn't horse's head-in-a-bed.

It wasn't, but in honor of the beloved Cornhuskers they did advertise a Godfathers Big Red Pizza, which was a normal pizza crust topped with tomato sauce and tomato slices garnished with tomato chunks. Cheese was extra.

We decided on the sausage.

Godfather's wasn't bad, but if we wanted the best, the most delicious, the Mercedes Benz of pizza, we went to another Italian dining establishment, Valentino's.

Valentino's pizza was - and I don't use this work lightly - special. The crust was perfect, not too thin and not too thick. Before the pizza was baked, the pan was sprinkled with just the right amount of cornmeal, giving each bite the perfect amount of fragile crispiness.

The abundant toppings filled your eyes before they filled your tummy and the cheese had the most glorious glow, comparable to the coat of a Golden Labrador Retriever with a pheasant in its mouth on a perfect autumn afternoon.

Not only did Valentino's have great pizza, they had the best blue cheese salad dressing I have ever had the pleasure to lick off my chin. I bribed waitresses on many occasions to please tell me the recipe. One told me it was a secret. Another told me, it came out of a big bottle. She was dodging the question. Since those college days at Valentino's, I have eaten lots of pizza, some of it OK, most of it bad, so bad you wouldn't feed it to your boss.

In my neck of the woods, people say if you want really good pizza, pizza that lives up to the name you have to go to Chicago to get yourself some Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

Not being insane, I decided to forego driving to Chicago for a pizza, no matter how good it was reported to be.

I did the next best thing. I ordered out.

You can really do that, order a pizza from Chicago to be delivered anywhere in the United States. Simply dial 1-800-LOU TO GO, and the folks at Lou Malnati's, a famous Chicago deep-dish style pizza joint, will send you an oven ready pizza.

My nine-inch sausage pizza would not arrive by suppertime, even though I called before noon. FedEx is fast, but not that fast. I would have to wait until the next day.

In my next column I will tell you all the details, including how much it costs to order out a pizza from Chicago.

Regarding the cost, my wife is still in shock.

Larry Finke's column appears weekly on The Humor Archive.

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