It was the summer of 1997. We still went to malls then. For 7-year-old Jamie, the Lakewood mall meant Sanrio. I wanted to buy the whole store but my thrifty accountant mom only allowed for pencils or erasers. Across from Sanrio was a pizza stand staffed by a handsome and ambitious white guy touting his novelty pizza product. For a few bucks I got to burn the roof of my mouth on an all-in-one pizza stick stuffed with pepperoni bites, cheese, tomato sauce and crusty/gummy bread. We would buy some to-go because my family loved it so much. It was a fleeting bid for some illusory American-ness and so much cheaper than anything at Sanrio.
Fast forward to 2000. My mom got a new job in El Segundo, CA and with it came this portal into the cosmopolitan, LA scene. A definite upgrade from our pizza stand summer. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK for short) was all the rage and there was one close to where she worked. Whenever she was at the office on an odd Saturday, she took me there as a treat afterwards. As a family, we hardly went out to eat. I felt so special sitting in the curved leather booth with real napkins, table service, pizza stands, and white waiters (probably starving actors). Our regular order was a plain cheese pizza and a Thai chicken pizza topped with choke-inducing carrot shreds and cubes of chicken. It was finished with a mysterious brown sauce — not really sure what was Thai about that!
Mom’s hard work and fastidious budgeting means I can eat at and appreciate any pizza joint now (shout out to Lucali’s). Looking back at it now, I realize CPK was not fine dining a la Osteria Mozza! But I had a feeling I would still enjoy this pizza of the past.
For full-on mall food authenticity, we bought ready-made ingredients: Pillsbury pizza crust straight from the can, with Tillamook cheese (we couldn’t stifle the bougie-ness completely), pre-sliced pepperoni, and Don Pepino’s pizza sauce. The recipe is for the all-in-one pizza stick. We had three taste testers and we got thumbs up from all of them! We also took this opportunity to buy our favorite frozen pizzas of yore, Tombstone & CPK, for comparison. EEeeee…fatties.
These pizza sticks were mad tight. I mean, they were straight up money. I couldn’t stop eating them and we were definitely saved by the (door)bell. Thank you to our neighbor, Jinji, who helped prevent our pepperoni flavored demise. Of all the recipes so far on this blog, this is the one you should make. It’s very low effort with maximum reward.
Taste-testing the pizza sticks alongside the frozen pizza was surprisingly telling. The CPK crust was the crunchiest but definitely tasted like some Californian’s idea of pizza (too healthy). The pizza stick was by far the tastiest and had a contrast of textures that was genuinely enjoyable. And, my childhood frozen pizza of choice — Tombstone — held its own with the cloying, yet so satisfying grease pooling sauce. When we were deciding on the subject for this post, we polled a few friends about their childhood memories of pizza. Often, they’d fondly recall a cardboard-y, saucy, greasy slice and associate it with birthdays, after-school, family outings. We hold these pizzas in our heart. Enjoy this nostalgic 90s dream…
Pizza Stick Dreamz ‘97
Makes 2 breadsticks
1 can of Pillsbury pizza crust
6 Tbsp of Don Pepino pizza sauce, 3 Tbsp for each (Do not substitute for any other brand. The consistency is superior!)
Pre-sliced pepperoni, reserve 12 for filling and 4 for topping for each breadstick
2/3 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 Tbsp of melted butter
1 tsp of garlic powder
Pinch of salt
Dried oregano, large pinch
Kraft Parmesan cheese, large pinch
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Open Pillsbury pizza crust can as per package instructions.
Carefully roll out dough onto oiled cookie sheet and evenly divide dough in two. Pat each side with oiled fingers into rectangles,
Pre-bake dough for 4 minutes at 400 degrees. The dough will puff up slightly but will still be white.
Spread 3 tbsp of pizza sauce on each half. Chop pepperoni slices and sprinkle them on top of dough. Scatter 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese evenly on each.
Roll dough lengthwise carefully with seam side facing down. You should get one spiral.
Mix melted butter with garlic and pinch of salt. Brush garlic butter around each breadstick.
Top each breadstick with cheese (put cheese down first so pepperoni can stick), pepperoni halves, Kraft cheese, and oregano.
Bake breadsticks at 400 degrees on top rack for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown on greased cookie sheet. Turn sheet around at 5 or 6 minutes.
Let cool, or burn your tongue and enjoy!
This Memory Kitchen Series is a creative collaboration between Marisa & Jamie. Each month, one of us will cook a recipe entirely from memory (no long phone calls to Mom, no recipe cards, no cookbooks, no Googling!) and the other will review the dish. The recipe that follows is exactly what’s pictured (all photos by Jamie Sumague, of course!). We have no idea how it will turn out when we start, so expect a few disasters along with the occasional triumph.