During the first couple of years after moving to Anchorage from the east coast (NYC, mostly), I cobbled together a list of restaurants that could quell at least some of the missing-there and homesick-for-certain-restaurants feelings and hunger pangs that welled up. After finding good Vietnamese and Korean restaurants, a Greek restaurant owned by a former New Yorker, falafel that came with a side of advice if the place was empty enough, and some of the best hummus I’ve ever come across, I started to feel more at home. When the weather was crappy or my mood tumbled, I knew where to go. There was just enough choice to keep me from spending a ton having foodstuffs shipped here. I accepted that the Venn diagram of where I live and access to foods I love wouldn’t be a perfect circle. I reasoned that a lack of local knishes was a good thing. (And I found out that the only thing that can kill you faster than eating too many square knishes is the price of shipping them to Alaska.)
One thing that seemed like it should be fairly easy to find eluded me: why couldn’t I find a pizza place that felt a little more like those back home? A slice joint. Not a sit-down restaurant. I wanted the kind of place that hits you in the face with a blast of warm air from the oven and the scent of pure pizza goodness, nothing fancy. Before you smack me in the face with complaints, yes, I enjoy Moose’s Tooth, and Capri Pizza’s grilled chicken mango pie is my go-to pie for to-go nights. But neither place smells exactly right when you walk in. Capri even had the right counter and stainless steel pizza ovens—but it didn’t deliver the “ah, home” feeling when I walked in.
I resigned myself to only finding pizza fulfillment back in NYC.
But last September I went to Unalakleet with StoryWorks Alaska for a workshop with high school students. In between listening to their stories of first hunts and going out on the Bering Sea, I did some beachcombing, some wandering. There were three of us there and we usually cooked and ate in the school’s home ec room. All was very well. But toward the end of the week, we decided to go out for dinner. We walked to Unalakleet’s pizza parlor, Peace on Earth.
Just inside the door, the warming scent of a NYC slice joint took over my brain. Though the price of a pie was two to three times that of a full NYC large (getting the raw ingredients to places off the road system is neither easy nor cheap), the finished pie even looked pretty darn close to what I’d grown up eating. The three of us sat down at an oilcloth-covered table and dug in.
Soon enough we were chatting with one of the owners and her son, Nick Hanson (aka the Eskimo Ninja Warrior). The place was easy-going, a perfect place to just hang out. Just like that, I felt like I was home.