This past month we were flattered to learn The Food Network Magazine named our Mac n’ Cheese slice the best pizza in Wisconsin and one of the 50 best pizzas in the United States. While Ian’s features many great slices, the Mac n’ Cheese has (literally) put us on the culinary map. No other slice is more adored, more requested, or more copied by other pizzerias across Madison and Wisconsin.
So the question everyone always asks (naturally) is, “Who invented this gift to little kids and hungry bar hoppers everywhere?”
The answer is, “I don’t know.” A version of the Mac n’ Cheese, made with hamburger, was occasionally featured at one of the two pizzerias where I worked in Massachusetts. In 2005, a student from California told me he had grown up eating Mac n’ Cheese pizza from a place in his hometown. There are so many recipes for Mac n’ Cheese pizza on the internet, pinpointing the inventor is by now probably impossible.
The history of Mac n’ Cheese pizza at Ian’s, on the other hand, is very clear. Before we opened Ian’s Pizza, I had a gut feeling the Mac n’ Cheese pizza would be a hit. We opened our doors on October 31st, 2001 and one week or so later we served the slice as a special. Initially, the reaction was mixed. Mostly people couldn’t quite get their heads around the idea of macaroni and cheese on a pizza. The people who did try the slice, however, were hooked. The next day, I made the decision to add Mac n’ Cheese to our regular menu and within a month our reputation as “the place that serves Mac n’ Cheese pizza” was cemented. In 2005, then Wisconsin Governor Jim, Doyle suggested Ian’s to a group of grade school kids visiting the capitol, “Go to Ian’s, they have Mac n’ Cheese pizza.” The following year, while taping College Jeopardy at the Kohl Center, Alex Trebek came in to try the slice for himself. And, it seems like almost every year someone decides to make a Mac n’ Cheese pizza costume for Halloween.
Over the years, we’ve experimented using different cheeses and herbs to see if we could improve the recipe. Every time we’ve made the Mac n’ Cheese slice with an aged cheddar or different noodle, your feedback was the same: I like the original recipe better. The “original recipe” calls for creme fraiche, macaroni noodles, mozzarella cheese, and Wisconsin cheddar. I think our crust pairs particularly well with the slice, but you be the judge.
This year we celebrate our 10th anniversary, and certainly the Mac n’ Cheese slice is part of our success. Of course, our success simply would not be without your support. Thank you!