Checking my mail reminds me of my days as a student. Other than a pile of bills there were always stacks of burger coupons businesses advertising that they’d deliver buckets of fried chicken to my door and a number of places saying they’d give me a second pizza for only a handful of pennies.

A decade ago that would have seemed like a great proposition. Any pizza place’s fare that filled me up with only two slices cost less than a pitcher of beer and delivered direct to campus would have had their number taped to the back of the phone. My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed eating thick meaty cheesy pizza although we rarely order it these days. It seems we are not entirely alone.

The past four years have seen airier more adventurous pizza vanguards Without Papers Una Double Zero Famoso and Pulcinella rampage though the Calgary scene and become some of the most popular restaurants in the city. Many of this year’s local magazines and publications have included at least one of these places in their Top 10 restaurants and Best Pizza lists seem only to vary in the order of those five names.

Jesse Johnson owner of Without Papers Pizza in Inglewood believes that Calgarians have embraced these new-style pizzas primarily due to availability.

“Nobody was used to the style of pizza we make now” he says. “People had just gotten used to generic ingredients and there was no other option.”

Creating diversity in food has the effect of creating excitement and innovation which in turn allows a rediscovery of classic dishes. Calgarians are increasingly demanding more from their dining experiences which is creating a market for boutique versions of beloved favourites — we see restaurant’s and chef’s creations which are sometimes amazing sometimes wonderful and on rare occasions sometimes berserk. Wasabi on your hot dog? You bet. Fried egg and cheese curds on your burger? Why not?

Without Papers like many of its competitors aims for innovation. They import finely ground double-zero grade flour from Italy to produce their airy crisp and slightly chewy crust. They roast and shred chickens by hand and layer on the wild boar sausage. This use of vibrant ingredients combined with careful preparation causes each flavour to stand out on its own creating a thin-crust alternative that focuses on pleasing rather than overwhelming the senses.

Many would think that the influx of affluence in the city would have an impact as well. While no one can deny that it has helped the culinary scene the increased wealth of many Calgary residents seems to have had less of an effect on these mid-range restaurants.

“If it was the case there would be more high-end restaurants opening” says Johnson. “The reason we did this pizza place was that we wanted to do something which was accessible to a great many people.” Indeed the recent openings of Clive Burger Smashburger and the upcoming National Beer Hall would hardly be considered a high-end boom.

Calgarians are a notoriously down-to-earth people. Some people run out and buy a Lamborghini when they come into money but most Calgarians would be just as happy with a nice truck. Similarly Calgarians have an affinity for comfort and food that is accessible and familiar. Hence it would be natural for steak houses burger joints and pizza places to thrive in a community that values the simple but delicious pleasures in life.

The truth is that everyone you talk to will have a different opinion on why pizza has made a resurgence on Calgary’s radar. We can all sit around and rationalize why one style of pizza is more popular than the other but in the end food isn’t something to be dissected and rationalized it’s something to be eaten enjoyed and loved.

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