Monday, April 15, 2013

Ciao Baby! - Collierville's Newest Pizza Place

I've been spending a lot of time working in Collierville lately. My company has a training facility right off Market Street, and we've been meeting with consultants out there regularly. I know a lot of my friends have negative views of the 'burbs, but I always find it quite relaxing when I'm out there for the day.

The one challenge (exciting opportunity?) that I find when I'm out there is being away from my go-to lunch spots. Sure, there's plenty of places out there to eat, but many of them are decidedly unexciting when compared to the options inside the loop. 

One day last week, we ventured right around the corner from our training facility and wandered upon Ciao Baby! It's a new pizza place just off Poplar, near Byhalia. I really didn't know what to expect, but I figured it would be just another take on your basic American-style pizza. I was wrong. When we first entered the front door, we were greeted by the owner. He explained the concept to us. First, he asked me if I'd ever had "real Neapolitan pizza." I let him know that I had, in fact, had authentic Neapolitan pizza. In fact, I had the opportunity to try it while I was in Naples visiting my wife's family a few years ago. 

This immediately got his attention, and he wanted to make sure I was pleased with the experience. He explained the ingredients that were imported from the region, and the pizza oven that he had specially built. The process of ordering is a little strange at first, but it's not too difficult once you've been there. Imagine you built your own pizza instead of burritos at Swanky's. Except, here, you don't order until you've passed all the ingredients. It's not as strange as it sounds, and if you'd like, you can just order one of their specialties and skip the "topping picking."

I'd have to go back to remember all the options, but I just went with the simple prosciutto pizza. It was out in around 5 minutes and was fantastic. Sure, it wasn't as good as the pizza that I had in Naples, but it was still better than most I've had in the States. The crust had a really good flavor and texture and the ingredients were all incredibility fresh and high-quality.  

I hope this place can make it long enough to get a following. I think it can be successful as long as their quality and service remains high. If you're out in the 'burbs and in the mood for, as Sheldon would say, a "real Italian treat," stop by and give it a chance. They also had pretty tasty looking desserts and coffee drinks, though I didn't have any, and I think they serve beer and wine. 

890 Poplar Avenue
Collierville, Tennessee 38017

Friday, April 12, 2013

What's Your Journey?

Sometimes I like to sit back and take a look at where I am and how I got here. Think about it, you are where you are because of a blend of decisions you have made and blind luck (or fate, depending on your view). So, take a look back at where you began your journey. Now, take a look at where you are now. Imagine your journey between those two places as a set of MapQuest directions. Overwhelming huh?

My journey started (after a short ride home from the hospital in Tupelo, MS) in a tiny community just outside of the tiny town of Booneville, MS. I'm not always sure what you would call this community, since I went to Thrasher High School, had a Rienzi address (Alcorn County), Booneville phone number (Prentiss County), had Prentiss County license plates and generally considered myself from Pisgah (pronounced Pees-Gee). For simplicity, let's just say I grew up in Pisgah, MS. 

So anyway, I look back on my life so far and think about how small the world seemed to me growing up. Maybe it was that way for everyone prior to the "information age." Until I was around 20 years old, I rarely used the internet, most of my news came from local newspapers, radio and TV, my music knowledge came from magazines and the bulk of my TV viewing revolved around the local network stations. When I wanted to talk to my friends, we used the phone (usually a land-line). When I ventured outside of my bubble of roughly 30 miles it was usually for vacations with my grandparents, adventures to remote destinations in the middle of nowhere to find a car or car parts with my dad or trips to the drag races with my family. For all purposes, I lived in a bubble. 

I'm not saying it was a bad thing. I learned a lot of things that I might have missed out on if I were surrounded by the constant buzz of the city. I wasn't constantly distracted by an endless stream of information, like even small town kids are exposed to today. I got to be a kid and grow up slowly. 

I could probably write a book about the differences I've seen in the way I grew up and the environment many people I encounter were raised in, but that's not the point of this post. I guess what I'm thinking about is the difference in the 20 acre plot of land in the country that I grew up on, and the city where I now live. It's not just about geography. The lifestyle couldn't be more different. 

I like to remember how things were on cold winter nights back in my childhood. We would huddle in the living room as a family and watch the local news or sitcoms on WTVA out of Tupelo. We always had a wood heater, and nothing felt better than coming in from a cold day of working outside and laying in the floor with my feet on the screen that shielded the front of the heater. On those nights, after the lights went out, the only sounds you'd hear were random dogs barking, the occasional car passing and the crackle of the wood heat. I never really considered the quiet of that environment until I'd lived in the city for a while. When I go home to Pisgah now, it's almost too quiet to sleep. 

Now, my life consists of getting up, rushing out the door, fighting traffic and spending the day constantly surrounded by people. Growing up, I would spend tons of time alone with my thoughts. I might be walking through the woods, driving down a backroad or feeding our pigs, but I always had times when I was alone. I took that for granted at the time, but sometimes I miss it now. As Thoreau wrote in Walden, "I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when nobody calls." Occasional solitude is good for you, and helps to clear your mind. 

A funny thing about all of this is that I rarely appreciated the world I grew up in while I was young. I lamented the fact that there was nothing to do. Now, I always have too much to do. I find it hard to take time to sit down and do something productive at home. If the world used to feel like a little box to me, it now feels like a whole series of warehouses stuffed with boxes. I've gone from that little house on 20 acres, that many people would consider a cabin in the woods, to where I am now. 

I got here through a series of events, none of which I would change if I had the choice. Good or bad, my experiences have made me who I am. Without my mistakes, I would have missed many (many!) opportunities to learn about life. Without my life now, I would never have an appreciation for the life I was fortunate to have grown up in. On the flip side, I wouldn't appreciate the life I have now without my experiences growing up. A lot of people take these conveniences for granted, but not me. 

I got here through a series of seemingly random choices. I took a long time to leave community college, finally got to Ole Miss, got focused on graduating, found the love of my life, took an internship with a company I'd never heard of, got a full-time post-graduation job offer 7 months before I graduated, moved to Memphis, started working, got married, bought a house, traveled a lot and here I am. It all sounds simple now, but I can't fathom a world where my 18 year old self could imagine this course for my life. 

What about you? Do you find yourself in a drastically different environment than where you grew up? Does your life now make you appreciate your past or run from it? What's your journey?