EVERYBODY LOVES A PIZZA. It’s because pizza is good. Pizza is the best! It’s got to be my favorite food.
Before I became a Food Monster, I was a Pizza Guy. My friend and I had a list of the top hundred pizza places in the Tampa Bay area, and we slowly worked our way down the list, giving an A through F rating to each place, determined to find the best pizza in Tampa. Well, one hundred places is a lot to get through, and we never got too far, but we still delighted in sampling local pizza places whenever we had the time.
A while back, my friends and I were looking for some food, and we stumbled across a place called “Hawkeye Pizza”. Figuring pizza is pizza, and feeling a bit adventurous, we placed an order for delivery – two extra large pizzas and an order of wings. The results were… not pleasing.
In fact, I spoke about them in an old podcast I used to do reviews for called The Suck, back in 2005 when I went by the name “The Tampa Food Dude”. Here’s the episode (my review is around 5 minutes in):
As you can tell, I did not care for it. But after being so vocal about my distaste for their product, I was actually contacted by the owners. They were looking for more specific information, and after a short correspondence with them, they invited me back for a pizza on the house, to give them a second chance.
Now I had sworn them off, never to return, but if they wanted an opportunity to redeem themselves, I was willing to let them take it.
So as this was my first visit to the actual place, this was the first time I realized that they were attached to a gas station. Gas station pizza? Perhaps an explanation for the taste? Perhaps not… surprisingly, one of the best pizzas I ever had was from a gas station.
We got in an explained who we were. The staff was quite friendly, and seemed insistent that there was no way their pizza could have been as bad as my review had conveyed. The owner quickly cooked up a pizza, and my friend and I sat down, ready for anything.
And this is what we got. Clearly, it’s pizza. I vaguely recall the original Hawkeye Pizza I’d had not even looking right; this… this was just a normal pizza. This was not the old Hawkeye. There was no resemblance between the two! This pizza was a fine pizza (not great by any means, but not bad either). Its best feature was a nicely toast crust that still had a bit of that New York floppiness, with some decent cheese and about your average pizza sauce. Just a regular pizza. About what you’d expect.
The owner kept telling me that they’d never changed their recipe, and even invited me to the back to look at the original recipe they’d posted on the wall. I decided not to go to the back with him, and just take him at his word. But it is in this that you can see the real strength of Hawkeye Pizza: their willingness to go to great lengths to make sure you’re satisfied. I mean they bought me a pizza, just to make sure I thought well of them! The owner told us of a few other instances of when they did their best to satisfy their customers in extreme situations, and I think that that’s quite admirable.
They run a tight ship at Hawkeye Pizza, and even though they may be a bit paranoid, they do it for you. All for you.