If you had shown up to my house on a Saturday night when I was a teenager, chances are you were there for a slice of my dad’s homemade pizza. He typically had the makings of four or five pies, yet somehow he quietly served wave after wave of family, friends, and the uninvited. He was like Jesus feeding the multitudes, but with pepperoni and sausage.
With a name like Rubino, you might think pizza-making was coded into his DNA. But Dad is as German as he is Italian, neither of his parents ever lifted a single anchovy, and he made his real dough as the president of a company that manufactured office furniture. Still, he is a great self-taught home chef, and his reputation as a genuine eye-talian pizza man loomed large in my small southwestern Indiana hometown.
“When are you going to open a restaurant?” people would often ask. “Never,” was usually the answer, an attempt to deflect both the question and the compliment. The response would make my heart sink, but a part of me understood. Making pizza is exhausting work—just ask the purveyors in this month’s cover story, on newsstands now—and it took up a good portion of his Saturdays.
In the morning, he made the dough. In the afternoon, he turned his attention to the sauce and toppings. He heated the oven at 5 p.m. and usually didn’t turn it off again until 9—and sometimes even later. But in 40 years of cranking out pies, I have never seen him turn away a hungry mouth, deny a request, or complain.
Now that I’m an adult with children of my own, I find myself making homemade pizza. When I get compliments, I’m proud to tell people that I learned from my father. But when they ask if there’s a trick or secret he taught me, I say no.
But that’s not entirely true. There is: love.