By Scotty Coppage
The best pizza you’ve ever had. The one that can never be recreated no matter how hard you try. When I was 13, the only pizza I’d ever had was Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Cici’s. I knew nothing about pizza but I knew I only like pepperoni.
My parents flew me to Vegas when I was in junior high in the early 90s for summer vacation. My mom would be exhausted from the dehydration, cabin pressure and Dramamine associated with jumping time zones on a flight all day.
“Let’s let your mom rest,” my dad said.
We took the elevator down to the first floor of The Mirage.
“Let’s grab a bite to eat,” Dad said.
This is when he introduced me to the California Pizza Kitchen in the center of all the action in The Mirage.
“They put the pizza in that brick oven and use a wood fire to cook it,” Dad said.
Before that, I’d only seen the sorcery of microwave pizza and the delivery guy. While we waited for our meal, we were served IBC Root Beers in frozen mugs. Our pepperoni pizzas were served and what they lacked in the volume of a Little Caesars large or a Cici’s buffet, they made up in quality.
We were kings as we feasted elevated in the California Pizza Kitchen towering over the sports betting big screens, slot machines and the action of Las Vegas. This is one of my favorite moments with my dad and it wasn’t like he was a deadbeat who I met twice. He was always there for me. It was just a moment with the two of us after a long day of travel where we were able to kick back with a good pizza.
Every time we went to Vegas after that, we’d let mom rest and we’d hit California Pizza Kitchen. Those moments kept me a loyal customer for the rest of my life. They stopped serving the IBC Root Beers. The pepperoni pizza is still good but doesn’t have the pop that it did with my virgin taste buds.
Over 20 years since he introduced me to California Pizza Kitchen, we returned to The Mirage after a day of travel filled with two flights and security lines. I got my staple pepperoni. Dad got a pizza with five types of cheese. California Pizza Kitchen had lost a bit of its luster. It just isn’t as magical as it was when I was 13. Nothing is but I keep coming back looking for it and the threads are still there, like seeing your favorite band 20 years later. They’re not going to be what they were but that doesn’t mean it still won’t be good. 20 years later, after a long day of traveling, I had my dad and California Pizza Kitchen.