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Pizza delivery treks 2,000 miles to Phoenix

NILES — Amid the restaurant shutdowns, many are getting their favorite foods delivered to their homes these days, but one family went the extra couple thousand miles to make sure their mom had her favorite on her birthday.

A Niles native transplanted first to Washington, D.C., and then to Phoenix has tried pizza from all over the place. But what Lee Stevens still craves after 30 years away, the pizza that she said cannot be topped, comes from a Niles pizzeria.

“I left Ohio many years ago. My kids have been listening to me complain for 30 years that I haven’t had decent pizza since we left. Not when we lived in Washington, D.C., not in Phoenix, nowhere is there food like northeast Ohio,” Stevens stated in a social media post.

So when her daughters, Melissa Stevens and Katie Rutecki, held their annual phone call to discuss what to get their mom for her birthday, an idea blossomed.

“At the beginning of March every year, my sister and I discuss a gift for our mom. Something big or small, like a plane ticket to visit my sister in New Jersey. But with everything going on in the world, we can’t travel or spend time with people. So we were feeling nostalgic and remembering how grandma always had Ianazone’s waiting for us as soon as we would walk through the door when we came back to Niles to visit. So, I wondered if it would be possible to ship it across the country,” Melissa Stevens said.

So they reached out to Doug Kaiser, owner of Niles Ianazone’s Homemade Pizza.

“I was surprised because I’ve never had a request like this. But I had heard of other shops doing stuff like this,” Kaiser said.

Rather than trying to send a pre-made pizza through the mail, Kaiser tallied up the cost to ship the dough, sauce and toppings for two pepperoni and one white pizza to Phoenix.

“It wasn’t cheap to overnight pizza, but they wanted to do it,” Kaiser said.

Timed perfectly for Lee Stevens’ March 22 birthday, soon she was transported back to a time when her family got Ianazone’s before Friday football games or for Saturday night dinner.

Lee Stevens said she was so surprised and genuinely impressed with her daughters’ choice of a gift.

“We had dough, sauce and all the toppings for the best pizza in the world delivered to our doorstep, shipped same-day air, including the ingredients and spices for the pizza I have been dreaming of,” Stevens stated in her social media post. “It was the best birthday dinner I have had in years and a reminder … never take for granted the wonderful things that are everyday life. I ate that pizza almost every weekend growing up but when I couldn’t get it, nothing compared.”

They “ate and ate and ate” and her entire condo smelled like “childhood.”

Stevens said the pizza tasted “exactly” like she remembered it, and is so much better than the options in Phoenix — which is mostly chain restaurants when it comes to pizza, she said.

“Nothing beats the absolute best. If Iananzone’s had a franchise out here they would be millionaires, zillionaires,” Lee Stevens said.

Melissa Stevens said the moment has been a bright spot as people in Arizona, Ohio and other parts of the country are living in isolation because of the virus. She and her mother encouraged people still living in the area to appreciate the food we have and to support the businesses during these trying times.

“Now if I could only get Sunrise to send us some chicken, D’Urso’s to send bread and Mount Carmel to send some cheese puffs, I’d be set,” Lee Stevens joked.

rfox@tribtoday.com

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