Sometimes old Dine can be accused of trying to live in the past, recalling already eaten meals and already taken trips, while slighting what is happening right in front of him.
This occurred within the past six weeks as I let planning go for an upcoming vacation while hosting a friend who comes every year to eat barbecue and talk about our past lives working as news photographers in Israel. This year, we spent far too much time talking about Israeli food, including the breakfasts in Haifa's Arab restaurants. I was able to regale him with descriptions of wonderful Lebanese breakfasts here in Pittsburgh -- at Pitaland -- of chickpeas, garlic and yogurt over toasted pita chips and delicious omelets served with veggies and sausage.
My vacation this year was a do-over of last year's Sanibel debacle, where the van broke down and we had to hunker down as a hurricane nudged the island.
But my photographer friend gave me something new to look for in Florida. In fact, after driving for two and a half days to get there (more on the barbecue trail in future columns), we headed out to eat and found ourselves in Pittsburgh. We'd wound up at the Great White Grill, a Steelers bar tucked back from the road and chock full of Steelers and Pirates and Penguins stuff, as well as a cranky Baltimore fan who was seated at the bar.
Not being football season, the bar was nearly empty. So we got prompt service from John, the proprietor, who moved down from New Kensington about eight years ago, bringing his collection of sports trinkets. He has been making pizza dough daily since. There is a limited menu, with only one Steelers-named item on it -- the Steel Curtain pizza. So we ordered one, a bacon cheeseburger extravaganza, along with a fried calamari salad served with a smooth white dipping sauce.
Let's dispense with the calamari first. The rings were soft, tender, crisp and sweet, sitting on a pile of lettuce and tomato. Enough for two and enough that we were glad we ordered the 14-inch pizza instead of the 16.
The pizza itself was a marvel, starting with the crisp crust studded with air pockets. That enables the diner to bring the weighty ingredients mouthwards without it breaking or drooping and the toppings becoming droppings on the lap. And what are the proper toppings for a bacon cheeseburger pizza? Smartly eschewing tomato sauce, John lathers mustard and ketchup on the dough and tops that with cheddar cheese, onion, bacon, tomato, pickle and lettuce, so it tastes much more like a cheeseburger than it does a pizza.
I have to say that this was one sneaky way of getting Sherri Panza into a Steelers bar, which is something I wanted to do. But it did make me feel that I shorted my vacation by one day since it seemed like we'd never left home.
When he's not looking for road food, Larry Roberts works as a staff photographer: email@example.com.