"Da Pizza Guy" may sound like the nickname of a mafia boss, but in fact, Rocco DiGrazia is the don of Chicago deep-dish pizza here in Tucson. Not to mention the Capo di tutti capi of streetside signs (no disrespect, The Shelter). He has been bringing a real taste of Chicago and his unique outlook on current events to Tucson since 1998. I asked this "friend of ours" my nine questions about the food game.
What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
In college I tried and hit all the interesting ethnic places in Champaign. I was broke, but I could afford falafels and Vietnamese spring rolls. Score!
What are you eating these days?
The critters left me a couple of varieties of heirloom tomatoes in the garden. I'm eating them as soon as they come off the vine!
What was the first dish you remember cooking?
My Grandpa showed me how to make a frittata out of potatoes, onions, and Parmesan cheese. I still make it for my kids. It's fantastic by any standard.
What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can't stomach?
I like kale, but sheesh. Come ON!
What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Jeff Smith (the "Frugal Gourmet") is persona-non-grata but if he were alive, I'd still like to thank him for getting Chicago cooking!
What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Would it shock you if I said Chicago? (Side note: No one is shocked.)
Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Fries from Pat's Drive-in. A whole giant greasy bag of them.
Top three Tucson restaurants?
Kingfisher is always great. It's just right in so many ways and just enough retro. Tavolina is the Italian bomb. I don't even eat Italian out and it is great. Chef Alisah's reminds me of back home. I love hearing the language and eating the flavors I grew up with.
With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Slovenian hard-smoked sausage, hardboiled eggs, and a chunk of raw horseradish. Just like at Grandma's house.