Center Avenue Slice has wonderful pizza and we found this gem on accident. In fact the story that led up to finding the restaurant and the experience itself is what sparked the desire to start writing about our Pittsburgh food adventures. It’s always a wonderful surprise when you stumble upon a food experience unexpectedly, especially after being stuck in your car unwillingly for an hour and a half. Our first born, Gray (see the About Us page), is now at the age where we have decided he needs play time with others and we need a momentary break in our day from the full-throtle, all-out, no-holds-bar, bundle of energy that is our son. As Jim Gaffigan says, “It’s like living with a drunk person…[he] is either screaming, eating, or peeing his pants”. But he is the cutest little drunk person ever. (Disclaimer: I have never nor will I ever give my child alcohol until he is of legal age. I know you were concerned. I do however make him fruit/vegetable smoothies most mornings, its the only way he will eat his carrots and spinach. Plus they are delicious.) I love having him around but there are times when the energy is draining. I believe I read a research study during my undergraduate studies that challenged Olympic caliber athletes to try to keep up with toddlers during a 2 hours period–the toddlers won. Another aside, I am super pumped about the Olympics. I may have a traditional British meal in honor of the London games, the Queen…oh, and of course, Will and Kate. Anyways, since we are new to the ‘Burgh we are still learning to gauge when a place is 15 miles away but takes 20 minutes and when a place is 15 miles away but takes 45 minutes. For those who do not live here, there are many bridges and many tunnels that create unnecessary congestion at most every moment of the day. So we found a lovely preschool that orients itself towards a philosophy of development and learning with which Morgan and I agree. Long story short, the 15 mile commute we thought would take 20 minutes ended up taking us 45 minutes. Now I did get lost once, which is the average amount of times I get lost in any one commute. Pittsburgh has some of the most confusing roadways in any city I have ever been AND because there are so many bridges I find myself on many a bridge not knowing how I ended up there and with no way to turn around. Well once we found the address that comes up with any Google search and that is plastered all over the website we learned that this particular preschool recently change locations. We walked around the old building for ten minutes trying to figure out where everyone was at. They failed to mention this to us on the phone or on the website, except for one small blurb nestled inside a paragraph on the front page. So with a fussy baby and annoyed parents we decided to go find the new location. I mean we might as well since we just spent the last 45 minutes making our way over there, whats another 6 miles? As you learned in geometry the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, well there are very few straight lines in Pittsburgh. There are plenty of winding roads with traffic and stop signs; as such, another 45 minutes went by and we found the new location. By this point we had already decided there is no way we are going to deal with that commute multiple times per week and our frustration only grew regarding the failure to know that the preschool recently moved. We even tried calling the school many times to figure out where we are going, no answer, no return call. So frustrating! Well if your child is like Gray, once you hit the one and a half hour mark with no break from the car it is getting close to time to get out of the car seat. Also, we missed the afternoon nap and snack. Have I mentioned how pleasant it is to having a screaming baby in the back of the car when you are stressed and hungry? There are moments in your life when you need food immediately! I am not sure how we found it or even if I could get back there but we pulled up our Urbanspoon app (a lifesaver) and found a highly rated, cheap pizza place within 2 miles. Luckily, this was not a deceiving 2 miles.
Now that I have set the scene, we are pulling around this bend with a screaming baby and two annoyed parents. I am not expecting anything special about the pizzeria for which we are looking. A small store front with a neon pizza or delivery sign. However, it was like a mirage emerging in the desert. We are driving up over the hill and there before us is the building with the title “Center Avenue Slice” in enormous letters, I knew we had arrived. From the moment we walked in everyone was very friendly. Brent Dreier the owner was in and out, I think he lives next door, and was very welcoming. It felt like we were hanging out at a friend’s house. When we dine out with Gray, restaurants receive favor from me when they acknowledge and work to cater to his needs (milk and some sort of carb stat!) So the young man behind the counter recommended garlic bread because its quick and immediately brought milk for Gray. Whew! The crying finally ceased. Milk is our magic elixir. I know the debates about not drinking other animals’ milks and hormones (we drink organic at home) but screaming babies will make the strongest fold. So we, as with most everything, approach it with moderation. The garlic bread was very good. It was not a stick but a Texas toast style of bread. Covered in butter, garlic, and parmesan cheese. It didn’t last long. We ordered the 10 cut pan pizza with sausage, green peppers, olives, and onions. We took a seat in the simply decorated dining room. There is one giant screen television-old school rear projector model not LCD-on ESPN. We sat in the back under the A/C looking out the front wall of windows watching people come pick up their pies. The pizza came quickly. It was hot and delicious. The crust was crusty and chewy (I love a good pizza crust) well cooked. The sausage was by far some of the best I have had on a pizza. The cheese pulled for miles as you lifted a slice off the pan. There were so many toppings that they fall off as you pull a slice. I love eating the little extra goodness with my fingers. The sauce was good, not the best, but complemented the toppings nicely. I don’t know if the situation made the pizza taste better than it really was but it was wonderful enough for me to want to start writing about my food experiences. I also learned that this pizzeria has been voted one of the best pizza places for the last four years. I believe it! They also have a little ice creamery located in the restaurant so you can have a cool, sweet treat after you are done with the yummy pizzas. So next time you are lost in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, do yourself a favor and grab a pie at Center Avenue Slice.