Pizza House in Ambridge, PA is not your typical pizza parlor. No call-aheads, no delivery, no tables and chairs: Everything is to go. And if you ask directions to Pizza House, you will most likely elicit blank stares, since it is known far and wide as Police Station Pizza. So that means it must be next to the local police station, right? Nope, the police station moved away years ago, but the nickname stuck.
This is Ohio Valley-style, a.k.a. Steubenville-style pizza. Large trays of bready pizza emerge from the well worn ovens covered with only tomato sauce and cheese, a blend of three different provolones. Four or five men immediately descend on the tray, with one responsible for slicing it into squares, also known as cuts, while the others start applying the cold (actually room temperature) toppings.
What separates this from other Ohio Valley-style pizzas is the crust, which is tall, yet so light and airy, with pleasing crunch. Once inside the hefty cardboard box, toppings further bake and melt right into the crust. This hot/cold combination is magical. Sure, the mushrooms are canned, but fancier ingredients on this of-the-people pizza would be out of place. Here is a case of the end product being greater than the sum of its parts.
As quirky as Police Station Pizza is, of course the ordering process is quirky, too. As soon as you walk in the door, one of the men behind the counter points at you and asks, “How many?” My typical order is six cuts — three for immediate gratification and three more to reheat the next day. Don’t make the mistake of telling them your toppings yet. A short time later, the same man will inquire what you want on it. There are eight different toppings to choose from, at 25 cents each per square. He will then calculate what you owe — in his head, as nothing is ever written down. You will quickly have your boxed-up squares in hand. Out the door you go. Total time inside is not more than 10 minutes, unless it is a particularly busy weekend night.
Since we live almost an hour away, we eat in the car. Or if it is a nice day, on the steps of the post office across the street. There is nothing gourmet or sophisticated about this pizza. It is blue-collar, dashboard dining at its finest.