Members of the Iowa basketball team had two goals when they arrived in Brooklyn earlier this week: first, to beat Temple in their first round NCAA tournament game, and second, to sample a local dish they had heard great things about.
"My Lonely Planet guide said it's called 'pizza'," said senior and Cedar Rapids native Jarrod Uthoff. "And believe it or not, it's pronounced 'pee-za', in spite of the way it's spelled. Apparently it's basically bread with tomato sauce and cheese on it, and the best 'pizza' in the world is made in Brooklyn, so we definitely wanted to give it a shot."
The team made an outing Wednesday to a local pizza restaurant, or "pizzeria", called Sbarro on Flatbush Avenue. "We don't know much about this cuisine," said senior Mike Gesell, "but my guidebook said it's an Italian dish and Sbarro sounded like a pretty authentic Italian name." The team "pigged out" on a variety of pizza varieties. "My favorite was the pizza with sausage on top," said junior Peter Jok, "but a lot of the guys liked what we were calling 'pizza basic', which is just bread with tomato sauce and a lot of cheese."
The team even struck up a conversation with the restaurant's waitstaff and learned some of the finer points of pizza-ology. "The guy who served us told us that the insider name for pizza is 'pie', even though it's not like any pie I've had!", said senior Adam Woodbury. "And he told us that you can spice up your 'pie' by sprinkling these little red flakes on it. I didn't think Sameer sounded like a very Italian name, but the guy definitely knew his stuff when it came to pizza."
One of the more worldly and daring members of the team, sophomore Dom Uhl, even sampled a bizarre variety of pizza that appeared at first glance to be entirely composed of bread dough. "It turns out all the sauce and cheese was on the inside," said Uhl. "It was wild. Us guys were calling it a reverse pizza, but that dude Sameer told us it's called a calzone."
Overall, the reviews of pizza were highly positive. "I never thought I'd say it, but I think I found something better than corn on the cob," said freshman Brady Ellingson. "In fact, I don't think there was any corn in this 'pizza' at all." This comment led to a heated discussion among the team, with some asserting that the pizza dough had a corn meal base and others that the dough was 'definitely' wheat flour-based. "We're a team that prides itself on a knowledge of grain, so you can imagine that the conversation got pretty animated," said senior Anthony Clemmons.
With one positive New York experience under their belt, will the team try to take in any more of the big city? "We'll be pretty busy with our practices and games and whatnot," said Uthoff, "but we were walking down the street the other day and saw the craziest thing: corndogs, but with the fried corn coating completely removed. Then they take the cornless corndog and instead of serving it on a stick, they put it on this bread-type thing. Only in New York!"