The pizza museum deserves to be in Chicago. "But deep dish isn't pizza," you might say. (You are wrong.) A pizza museum in Chicago is a pizza museum of inclusivity, and America could use a whole lot more of that right now. It's also in the Midwest, making it accessible and proximate to other great, underrated styles of pizza: St. Louis, Detroit, Quad Cities. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, after all.
The pizza museum deserves to be in New York. Pizza is New York. Inexpensive slices, folded over: If you know how to eat it, you're in. If you don't - knife-and-forking it has felled many a politician - you never belonged in the first place. There is a long history of pizza in New York, beginning in 1905 with Lombardi's, acknowledged as the first pizzeria in America. It's the culinary capital of America, and it takes its slices seriously.
The pizza museum in fact exists in both places because there are two pizza museums. Each was founded by a dude who really, really likes pizza. They came up at the same time: The Chicago museum opened in August, and the New York one opens Oct. 13. They each have a display of pizza-box designs, and they each end in a gift shop selling cheesy pizza tchotchkes and shirts.
Content-wise, however, they're about as different as the deep dish is to a dollar slice and equally reflective of their locations. The United States Pizza Museum in Chicago is Midwestern sensibility: a straightforward presentation of pizza artefacts and memorabilia through a wry, pop-cultural lens, with free admission. The Museum of Pizza in New York is style: immersive installations by artists, Instagrammable backdrops and a slice shop at the end, with $35 tickets that are selling swiftly.
"There are lots of styles of pizza. Everyone has different opinions. That's part of what's great about it. But I opened this here because I live here," said Kendall Bruns, founder and director of the United States Pizza Museum.
The 40-year-old began collecting pizza memorabilia after reading a 2009 Alan Richman article in GQ about the best pizzerias in America. He set out to visit them and began saving menus as mementoes. The menu collection expanded to include pizza boxes. Then came pizza toys (such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures) and marketing gimmicks such as the Noid - a onetime Domino Pizza mascot.
Back in New York, Kareem Rahma, 32, is gearing up to open the Museum of Pizza in Brooklyn on Oct. 13. It too will have a display of pizza boxes, as well as an educational, historical component. But the similarities end there: Rahma's museum is a temple not to pizza history, he says, but to contemporary pizza art. The United States Pizza Museum is to the Museum of Science and Industry as the Museum of Pizza is to the Museum of Modern Art.