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Pizza blogger can’t be topped!

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Felicia Braude Steffen was in between jobs when she called her father to chat.

His thought: she talked about pizza so much, she might as well write about it.

Her blog, Pizza Lover Chicago, is now six years old.

“Everywhere I went, I would just write about the restaurant and say, it’s great to go if you’ve had a lot to drink or you want a date night — something like that. I’m not really a food critic, I’m just a food appreciator,” Mrs Steffen said.

“I always order a plain, classic pie and then we’ll order one fun pie.

“The basics of a pizza is the crust, the sauce and the cheese, so if you have it at its most minimal make-up, then you can really say, ‘Oh, I love the sauce, you can really taste it or the cheese — it looks like they’ve got a mix of provolone and mozzarella in it.’”

She has written about more than 300 pizza experiences — 17 of those in Bermuda.

The 28-year-old moved to the island last year to be with her fiancé, Jon Steffen, after landing a job at PwC Bermuda.

When they got married in September, they had a welcoming dinner for 60 at La Trattoria. They considered it a “logical” choice.

“I talk abut pizza all the time to my friends and family, so it was great to have everybody there.

“They have phenomenal service. Even on a busy night, the staff are great and I really like their pizzas,” she said

Pizza New Delhi with chicken tikka, cilantro and yoghurt is one of her favourites.

Both she and her husband hail from Chicago — home of the deep dish.

“But, there’s more to life than the deep dish,” she said. “I really like thin crust. I could go for a tavern-style pizza crust, like a pub pizza where it’s nice and crispy. But I also really appreciate the Neapolitan where it’s very fou fou and a nice airy crust with a little bit of char.”

Every March she visits an international pizza expo in Las Vegas, an industry-only event. Mr Steffen joined her two years ago and proposed to her there.

“They have seminars, competitions and demonstrations. I go there to meet everybody and talk to them about what their pain points are — what the difficulties are in starting a new business or maintaining a business or increasing sales or cutting costs. It’s always a great experience.”

When she started blogging, her family warned that she might gain weight with all her taste tests. A personal trainer helps her maintain her figure.

The Steffens regularly host pizza parties and have near-perfected their method.

“We make the dough two days in advance. We make the sauce out of crushed tomatoes and we just have a bash. We don’t have a big kitchen, but we can still make good pizza. Anybody can do it.”

Her “regular old oven” goes up to 550 degrees; when making pizza – it’s essential that it get “as hot as possible”.

“I have a pizza stone that I got at the Chef Shop and then I brought in a piece of baking steel, so I put the pizza on the stone and then I move it down to the steel to brown the edges.”

She fell in love with pizza as a child.

“There was a pizzeria that we always got delivery from — Il Forno. I remember it vividly. That was our delivery pizza and then for many, many family birthdays we would go to this place called Barnaby’s, a total family place,” she recalled.

“You place your order at the counter and they call your number out when the pizza’s ready and you go to a separate place to get your drinks. That was very much formative for my love of pizza.”

Today, she eats pizza two to three times a week on average. She has found it to be a great ice breaker.

“If I’m not eating it, I’m probably talking about the next time that I’m gonna eat it,” she said. “Everybody loves pizza and it’s a great conversation topic. That’s the whole reason I do it. Everyone’s got a story about pizza, even the ones who hate pizza.”

So far, she’s come across three people who fall into that category.

“Some people are picky,” she laughed.


Felicia Braude Steffen (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
The big cheese: a chef stretches mozzarella with a wooden spoon at the Handmade Mozzarella Expo
Food lover: Jon Steffen on the Pizza Chi Tour
Tasty treat: a visit to Pizza Suprema in New York 2014
Dinner party: at Dante’s during the Pizza Walk Chicago April 2015
Doughing her work: at the Pizza Expo, Las Vegas
Bread head: dough balls with 500g of bread flour
Top that: margarita pizza with fresh basil from Felicia Braude Steffen’s home oven