When I Die I’m Going To Pizza Heaven
State College is not known for its pizza. We don’t have fancy water like NYC, and there is a plague of Sbarro’s at every mall in Central Pennsylvania. Keeping all of this in mind, when I walked into Pizza Heaven on 1101 N. Atherton St. for the first time, I wasn’t expecting much. No pearly white gates awaited my arrival, and unfortunately they were lacking a doorman.
So, imagine my surprise at finding perhaps the best pizza in State College. The crust! The cheese! THE SMELL. Maybe putting the word “heaven” in the name of the restaurant wasn’t as ballsy as I had originally thought. I couldn’t wait to recommend it to all my friends, until I started second guessing myself. What if it was a fluke? What if it was just my particular pizza choice? To find answers, I gathered an elite team of Onward State staffers (Katie Blitz, Steve Osborn, and Mitch Wilston) to see if Pizza Heaven would be just as good the second time around.
The first thing you’ll notice about pizza heaven is that it’s pretty small. Usually there’s just one guy in the back making pizzas — on occasion there’s two. For such a small place, they sure are busy, churning out pick-up and in-house orders simultaneously. The first time I ate here I was the only person sitting down to eat, but over the course of my meal around ten people came to pick pizzas up. So if you walk in on an empty room, don’t worry about it, they’ll be staying in business for a while.
The next thing you’ll find is lots of menu choices. Although you can order pizza specials (pizzas with already perfectly crafted topping combinations) the coolest part about Pizza Heaven is that you can build your own pizza from the ground up. They have the “usual” toppings you might expect, but some might surprise you. Here’s some of the most unique options:
Crust: parmesan, Cajun, stuffed, garlic, and ranch spice
Sauce: garlic oil, garlic butter, pesto, ranch, and blue cheese
Cheese: feta, gouda, and gorgonzola
Meats: steak, anchovy, and turkey
Wanting to try as many flavors as possible, we each got our own 12″ pizza. Amazingly enough each loaded pizza (meaning 4+ toppings) is only $10.
Katie ordered first and decided to make her own pizza creation. Her final pizza came on a thin crust loaded with mozzarella, original marinara, pepperoni sausage, and bacon. I dubbed it “The Triple Bypass.” Although her pizza was a little greasier than ours (due to animals leaking a lot of fat and love when they are cooked) it was my second favorite of the night. Usually sausage on pizza is a bit dicey and can go in two directions: cardboard or delicious. Thankfully Pizza Heaven uses the delicious kind. Just the smell when the pizza guy set it down was enough to make my mouth water. Katie actually seemed to enjoy her pizza too, even though she’s generally an asshole about it since she is one of those “real New-Yorkers.” Unfortunately for Katie, her pizza arrived first, which meant that I stole one of her slices.
Steve ordered my original love “The Geez-Steak,” topped with onions, peppers, buffalo sauce, and shaved steak. I particularly appreciate this combo because whenever I order a cheesesteak I always get a side of buffalo sauce to dip it in — sorry Philadelphia. It’s a pizza after my own heart (and thighs). The best part about the meats on Pizza Heaven’s pizzas is that they are sliced so fine it’s very easy to eat each slice. Some pieces even get a bit crunchy around the edges with is OK in my book.
Mitch played it safe and picked “The Buffalo,” a delicious take on the buffalo chicken pizza. After trying several buffalo themed pizzas, I noticed that Pizza Heaven perfectly nails the thin line between “not enough spice” and “too hot it’s stupid” with their sauce. To quote Mitch, “This buffalo sauce is doing all sorts of good things for my palate right now…and other food critique-y things to say.” Again, the meat (in this case chicken) was sliced crazy thin and melded perfectly together with the sauce and blue cheese.
And finally, after much deliberation, I chose to order “The Hot Three Way,” which is just a regular three way (chicken, oven roasted garlic, and fresh basil) with Sriracha. That’s right folks. SRIRACHA ON A PIZZA. The sriracha was what sealed the deal for me, although I was initially worried my pizza would cross over into the “so hot it’s stupid” category. However, Pizza Heaven didn’t disappoint. My pizza came with the perfect blend of spicy marinara and Sriracha. It definitely had a kick, but was still flavorful and Italian-esque. The roasted garlic cloves were also pretty amazing, although I’m not sure they helped my breath much later on.
Overall, our team decided that my first experience at Pizza Heaven was not, in fact, a fluke, but merely the result of an excellent pizzeria. As we sat there chewing quietly while listening to banjo music blasting from the speakers, I like to think we all died a little bit and went to heaven.