A few months ago, I would’ve told you that no one loved or obsessed over the finer points and ingredients of pizza more than me. Then, one February evening, I truly met my match. I was a guest in The I Need Pizza Club Clubhouse, and I’m not too proud to admit I was humbled. Each of the 20 members in the room was a true pizzaiolo, from a pizza historian to several professional chefs and a cookbook author — I was a small pepperoni on an extra-large pie. And yet, as we entered our third hour of discussing the inner workings of the cheese crust on a proper Detroit-style pizza, I knew I was home.
There is, perhaps, no more universally beloved object on this planet than pizza. Our collective love affair with this heavenly food reached new heights during the pandemic; between home chefs having the time to experiment and pizzerias delivering record numbers of pies, pizza popularity was at an all-time high. Also peaking during the pandemic were new ways to digitally communicate, which included the rise of apps like Zoom, Teams and Clubhouse. The Clubhouse app, for those not familiar, is a digital platform of audio chat rooms filled with like-minded individuals who can talk about their favorite topics like music, fashion and politics. And the platform naturally became the birthplace of one of the largest and most influential pizza communities ever — The I Need Pizza Club.
“My intention was to start a fun and light room to talk about things like your favorite pizza place”, says Michael Fox, NYC area video producer and founder of The I Need Pizza Club. Fox, a native New Yorker, grew up as many do — loving pizza. So in April 2021, he created a room to simply discuss the world’s most perfect food. Unsurprisingly, the room became wildly popular, with members ranging from top restaurateurs to home pizza enthusiasts to celebrities, and everyone in-between. “A community formed during Covid,” he adds. “When there was no one to talk to, we all enjoyed our pizza conversations and embraced the sense of community.”
Fast forward a couple years, and The I Need Pizza Club is on Clubhouse five days a week, each day having its own theme with moderators hailing from both the United States and Europe. Each session hosts 20 to 100 members in an hour, with a 30- to 90-minute “after show” immediately following. Some nights are geared towards pizza professionals — pizzaioli commiserate over rising food prices, swap stories of difficult customers and brainstorm innovative ways to promote their shops. Other nights at-home baking is the focus so home cooks can learn from the industry’s best with tips and tricks to up their pizza game.
This community’s reach has started to expand outside of Clubhouse. Many members were panelists and competitors at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, figuratively and literally shaping the future of pizza making. One member, Rob Cervoni, became a Chopped champion on a pizza-themed episode. Another member, Ryan Mondragon of California’s famous Sanctuary Pizza, shared his journey through mobile pizza making with the group as his business rapidly expanded. Finally, the founder of Women’s Pizza Month, Christy Alia, is a member and weekly moderator.
So, the next time you order from your neighborhood pizza place or make a pie in your oven, keep in mind that there is a group behind the scenes obsessing over every little detail of your next slice. And, if you get really curious, come say hi and check out The I NeedPizza Club one evening to meet some of the world’s pizza experts. You just might start to become one yourself.
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