Thursday, September 1, 2011

A lost midwestern pizza opportunity

Ian's Pizza by the Slice is an institution in Madison, Wisconsin -- or so it seems from half a continent away. In February, Ian's sent a stack of free pizzas to the State Capitol where citizens of Wisconsin were starting a long and dramatic siege. The issue? Governor Scott Walker's move to break labor unions through a budget proposal that eviscerated collective bargaining rights. The pizza joint's feed-the-masses gesture was live-blogged at 3:26 am on Wednesday, 16 February on The Huffington Post, and the news was heard 'round the world. An avalanche of orders came pouring into Ian's over the following weeks, called in from around the U.S. and beyond. Ian's was suddenly the conduit for 43 states and 10 countries to show support to the protestors (these numbers reported by The Huffington Post on 21 February).

I'm not going to recap Wisconsin's fight between organized labor and the G.O.P., we all got plenty of that in February and since. Full disclosure, though: I will show my own colors, in case readers are in any doubt. I'll do so by quoting Paul Krugman's column, Wisconsin Power Play, of 20 Feb 2011:

For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin -- and eventually, America -- less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy.

Follow the link if you'd like to know why Krugman thinks that. But the fact that he's right isn't the subject of this blog post. Neither is the fact that a couple of American oligarchs were major contributors to Gov. Walker's election campaign.

Why not? Because the thing that really caught my eye when I learned about Ian's Pizza is this: their best-selling slice is Mac n'Cheese. You read that right. Mac n'Cheese pizza.

Holy cholesterol, Batman!

I'd never dreamed of such a thing, let alone heard of it, never mind had it recommended by a decade of college-town customers voting with their pizza orders.

When I learned in July that work would take me to Madison in August I knew right where I was going for pizza while visiting. Regular readers will recall my Chicago deep-dish pizza post of several weeks ago. I suppose it's been a summer for Pizzas of the Midwest, and I was ready to step up for more.

I especially wanted to go to Ian's on State, the employee-owned branch of the enterprise that supplied the protestors this past winter. Like many, I'd been following the news closely, and I'd really really really meant to order a pizza or three as an act of solidarity. I'm chagrined to admit I didn't get around to it. With apologies to my U. Wisconsin colleagues, and in my feeble defense, I did send a donation to support Democratic Party efforts to turn the oligarchic tide. But I cannot tell a lie. I didn't order even a single solidarity pizza, Mac n'Cheese or otherwise.

Still. I wanted to make that pilgrimage.

So it turned out that the hotel I stayed at last week was right around the corner from the original Ian's, on Frances St. Not the one on State, but there it was, right on the way to Grainger Hall where I met in front of a whiteboard with fellow propeller-heads for three days of Identity and Access Management software-designing fun. It was a busy few days. We defined our terms and proposed our use cases, articulated conceptual models and drew diagrams and arrows and tables and sequence diagrams on our whiteboard. We photographed our whiteboard and posted the images to our wiki. We drank a lot of coffee. Before I knew it, it was time to run for the airport.

Yup. You see what's coming, right?

I blew it.

By the time I trotted back to the hotel for the last time on Friday afternoon, it was twenty minutes until the west coast contingent of our meeting was due to catch a shuttle to the Dane County Regional Airport. I looked longingly across the street as I passed Ian's on Frances. We'd just scarfed down ordered-in sandwiches so we could draw a last few diagrams on the whiteboard, discuss them, dissect them, annotate them, draw arrows between boxes and circles, photograph them, and post the images to our wiki.

I had a choice.

Either I could stop at Ian's and inhale a slice of Mac n'Cheese pizza, or I could triage a half-dozen critical e-mails from my Berkeley colleagues over the hotel's internet connection before unplugging for the journey home.





I'd brainwashed myself those last three days. Oh yes I had. I'd been staring at that whiteboard for so long I was convinced that nothing, not even a slice of Mac n'Cheese pizza, was more important than Identity and Access Management.

Is that why I did the so-called responsible thing? Perhaps. Whatever the misguided reason, I walked by Ian's and answered e-mail for a quarter of an hour, then boarded the hotel shuttle. I boarded that shuttle even though I was wholly unsatisfied with respect to Mac n'Cheese pizza, which remains an unrealized dream, a chimeral fantasy, for this one-time visitor to Madison.

But you can guess what that means.

As California's own oligarch-friendly ex-Governator has been known to say: I'll be back.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Chicago deep-dish pizza
Eating insects

Thanks to John Kannenberg for the Mac n'Cheese pizza slice image from his Flickr photostream.


  1. Hopefully this doesn't mean you'll be driving a rental car through the window of Ian's and killing everyone inside (which would be a pretty poor way to support the joint). Mac n'Cheese pizza sounds pretty intriguing in a "you only live once" kind of way.

  2. @Steven: Definitely not. I'll leave wreckage and ruin to the Governator and his G.O.P. allies. They're so good at it!

  3. Well if it's any consolation, the Longevity Project study concludes that "responsible" people live longer and happier lives than "carefree" ones. And no doubt, people who don't eat Mac 'n Cheese pizza live longer than those who do. Hilarious post. Laughed out loud in a cafe.

  4. @Kate -- That's a good way to console myself ... but I am still curious. Glad you enjoyed the post...