Parks and Recreation's Ben Wyatt (played by the eternally awkward Adam Scott) is a man of niche tastes. He loves civil service. He's in love with show protagonist Leslie Knope. And, perhaps most notably, he has an undying adoration for calzones that steadily became one of the show's longest running jokes. The fact that Wyatt vehemently prefers calzones over pizza became one of his character's trademarks, and was wholly emblematic of his character: He's an eternal champion of the underdog, always willing to go against the grain… even when it comes to America's favorite junk food.
And calzones, in many ways, are the culinary dark horse of Western pizza shops. They're halfway between pizza's red(sauce)-headed stepchild and the pie's beguiled little brother. Nearly every pizza joint in the U.S. stocks them alongside Italo-American staples like garlic bread and mozzarella sticks. But, it seems like the majority of calzones are more likely destined for a life of cooling under a heating lamp than ending up in someone's to-go box.
At Roma Pizza -- a standard Neapolitan flag-decked neighborhood pizza shop in New York's Upper East Side -- they sell six types of calzones (sausage, pepperoni, broccoli, spinach, ham, and cheese). But, they don't sell that many calzones, overall. "I'd say we probably sell about one calzone for every 30 to 40 slices of pizza," the dude behind the counter told me, while sliding my own calzone lovingly into the oven. "I don't know if they are really that popular. And I'm not sure why." Popular culture states that calzones are a joke. An add-on. A pizza-adjacent compromise to the good stuff. On the periphery of what you really want. Personally, as a born-again calzone-head, I know the truth: Calzones are not only under-sung and underrated -- they might just be better than pizza.
Trust me, a few months ago I would have considered that statement mozzarella-based blasphemy. But now, I'm not ashamed to come out publicly: I'm a believer.
And here's why you should be, too. (Or at least, give them a freaking chance).