Pizza Brain: Food, memorabilia and culture in Philadelphia

“Once in a generation comes a food that defines a generation…”

–          The opening quote from a video screened at Pizza Brain in Philadelphia.

Pizza is one of the most beloved foods on the planet.  It displays remarkable versatility, pleasing kids and adults alike, ranging from simple and plain to fancy with any topping you can imagine.  The rise in pizza’s prominence has been greatly helped by its surge in popularity in the United States, particularly over the last 50 years.  Aided not only by its convenience and flexibility but also its wonderful melding of foods we love, pizza has become a part of the greater culture.  In fact, you’ve probably had a slice this month.  More than nine out of 10 Americans have.  As it has grown in popularity it has continued to evolve and become more available — everywhere.  Whatever your favorite type of pizza, be it Chicago deep dish, brick oven pizza, apizza, a more classic Italian style or an adventurous Korean bulgogi and sweet potato pizza, you surely have experienced or at least witnessed the craze.  But although pizza has been around for more than a century in the U.S. and has many many fans, there hasn’t been a place to celebrate it. . .until now.

Pizza Brain is not just another one of the 70,000 or so pizzerias in the States, it also is the home to a museum of pizza culture.  In fact, Guinness World Records recently certified that Pizza Brain has the largest collection of pizza-related memorabilia in the world.  In anticipation of Pizza Brain’s opening in September, the previously unasked question became, ‘How has there not been something like this until now?’

In the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, four friends made the dream of a pizza museum a reality.  As the opening ribbon cutting ceremony approached, crowds waited in the streets, hoping to get the museum’s first pizza slices fresh from the oven.  Someone in a large pizza costume greeted those in line.  Inside, all sorts of exhibits lined the wall, featuring items such as pizza-themed products, records with pizza on the cover and movie posters including pizza.  Sharing the space, Little Baby’s Ice Cream even had pizza ice cream for the occasion (not bad, if you like the combination of sweet and salty flavors).

And things were just getting started.  Soon a pizza-crazed flash mob blocked the street as angry city bus drivers watched on, unamused by the cardboard pizza slices held high.  Although I know not everyone is this crazy about pizza…and that to some people it has become perhaps too common, overly available thus diluting the quality, one thing is clear– pizza does hold a special place in the hearts of many and pizza mania now has a place to call home.