A real slice of life -- world's first pizza museum to open in Fishtown
May 29, 2012By Elizabeth Fiedler
Mustard has one. So do french fries, kiwis and Ramen noodles.
Museums devoted to the celebration of foodstuffs abound.
But guess what staple of the American diet, what best friend of hungry college students everywhere, does not have a museum of its own.
Yep, pizza pie.
Until now. This summer, the world's first pizza museum is opening its doors.
And not in New York. Not in Chicago, nor in Italy.
In Philadelphia, in Fishtown, along Frankford Avenue. Pizza Brain's creators hope it will be more than just a slice shop.
Brian Dwyer didn't plan to amass the world's largest collection of pizza memorabilia. It just sort of happened.
The story begins in 2009, he says, when he was in San Francisco, getting married.
"I was in this pizza shop called Escape from New York Pizza and it was a pretty simple grab-and-go slice shop," Dwyer recalls.
That's when something sitting in a little glass case caught his eye. And changed his life.
"It was an LP record of this hip-hop group, Fat Boys, from 1983," he says. "That was the first record - or pizza memorabilia - I ever saw and said, 'Yo that's so cool!'"
Dwyer shows a visitor the album cover, showing the Fat Boys dressed up in in prison outfits eating a giant slice of pizza.
"I don't know why they decided to do this, but it made me so happy," he said.
Dwyer plunged in, to the point that he now holds the Guinness Book of World Record's title for the world's largest pizza memorabilia collection.
And visitors to the pizza museum will get to see pieces of his massive stockpile. It includes pieces he's been given as his reputation spread among friends and strangers.
Like the Pizza Hut Walkman.
"This right here was sent to me unmarked from Montreal," he said, as he shows the device to a visitor. "It's from ... I think it's 1983. It has pizzas for headphones and it hooks up to a little FM radio signal and you can listen to the radio with your pizza headphones."
Dwyer's love of pizza goes beyond the memorabilia. He said he wants Pizza Brain to serve pies, and to celebrate the whole culture of the food.
"I defy you to find me a more universally celebrated food on the planet," he says. "It is inherently the most communal food I've ever come across."
Pizza Brain supporter Daniel DiBerardinis said he hopes the restaurant and museum will offer neighborhood kids something he didn't have when he was younger:
"A family place - like growing up, I really wish I had a place to sit in. Like when we were little, every place around here - Tommy's or The Pizza Shop or whatever it may be - you'd get a slice and you'd leave and on cold days in the winter time you'd wish you just had a place to sit in and eat and maybe just hang out for a little bit."
DiBerardinis said it might take a while for some long-time residents to warm up to the new establishment. He mentioned the neighborhood's influx of bars and restaurants and said he thinks Pizza Brain will be good for the community, as a place where old and new residents can mingle.
As for the pies, Pizza Brain's head chef, Joe Hunter, said he wants to serve up familiar tastes.
"Also things that are reminiscent of other kinds of culinary experiences," he says. "Like deconstructing a salad and making it work on a pizza, or something from India, or something from Mexico. I've pretty much tried everything that I've wanted to. Yeah, I'm not afraid to go for it, even if it's bad."
This isn't just a fad for Hunter and Dwyer. Want proof? They each sport a pizza tattoo.
Hunter's says, "Most excellent," with a slice. Dwyer's reads, 'Totally Saucesome.'
Pizza Brain's creators said they hope the museum items will draw people to the place.
Surrounded by his friends and co-conspirators in pizza obsession, Brian Dwyer surveyed the pizza clocks, pizza toys, pizza puzzles:
"I have Barbie Dolls, I have pillows, I have over 200 vinyl records and 45s about pizza dating back to the mid-50s and they're all about pizza in song and lyric! Look at this: it's a stainless steel USS Enterprise Star Trek Pizza Cutter!"
And so Brian Dwyer boldly goes where no man has gone before, creating a permanent tribute to pizza.