The first rule of Pizza Club is that the dough must come from local supplier Pizza Tonight. Up until now, that had meant Pizza Tonight at home.
Ipanema changed all that tonight by inaugurating a monthly Pizza Club event featuring a host of vegan and vegetarian pizzas on PT's superior crust.
As someone who had been invited to the original Pizza Club several times and never been able to go, I was finally getting the chance to taste what all the hoopla was about.
Friends were already at the bar when I got there, so it was up to me to dive right in with them. Deciding which pizza to order was the hardest part, so I took care of the easy part by starting with a glass of Cono Sur Viognier.
I was sorely tempted by the pizza with mussels, caramelized onion and garlic but the lack of cheese sent me to the classic instead (tomato, basil, Mozzarella). A friend was in the middle of one and it looked scrumptious.
Ipanema had scratched entrees for the night, so the menu was limited to pizzas, salads and appetizers.
All around me were pizza eaters; a roving photographer snapped these beauties as they were delivered to their eager recipients. My guess would be that they're Facebook-bound, like every other picture taken these days seems to be.
One bite told me why my friends had long tried to get me to Pizza Club the Original; this dough makes a perfect crust, chewy and flavorful and supportive of its toppings. My friend had only been able to finish half of hers but I'm not ashamed to say I devoured all of mine.
Although a person who eats an entire pizza shouldn't need dessert, I was unwilling to pass on tonight's special offering of caramel gelato.
Served at the perfect temperature (not too cold or hard), each bite felt like a chewy caramel melting in my mouth. It was an unexpected and indescribably wonderful finish to my meal.
By about 9:30, the crowd began to dwindle as people left to go home and watch the Academy Awards, telling me that it was time to head over to the Camel for music.
As I walked up the sidewalk, I could hear music from within and a friend approached me, as if to warn me. "It's original, but it's classic rock," he informed me.
The Velvet Marias were mid-set when I walked in and it was true, the music was about as innovative as 1975, but the musicianship was strong and they had a room full of devoted fans enjoying every note, so I was clearly in the minority.
After a long breakdown and set-up, Marionette played, although they had microphone issues throughout their set. It was frustrating to the audience because they usually have such an outstanding sound, so I'm sure it must have frustrated the hell out of the musicians. Still, it's always good to hear them play.
Tonight's headliners were Athens, Georgia's Futurebirds, young but steeped in Southern music of the past. Or put another way, they'd be the perfect band to open for My Morning Jacket and get in front of a lot of likely converts.
My friend and I figured a lot of the audience for Drive-By Truckers fans, which is not a slur on that band but a euphemism for saying it was comprised of hat boys, frat boys and really bad white dancers who appreciate well done Southern rock. You know, the kind who yell out obscenities about guitars.
There was a lot to like about their sound, I have to admit. Three guitars, bass, pedal steel (always a pleasure to hear live), drums and multiple vocalists made for a rich sound that was not just southern but sometimes spiritual and even psychedelic. They had certainly done their homework listening to the music of their region's musical forefathers.
After all that pizza and gelato, I was just grateful that my only assignment was to show up, stand up and soak up the southern psychedelic sound.
Because the second rule of Pizza Club would most certainly be to avoid the couch after eating or you will surely find yourself asleep before you know it.
Dozing off isn't an option when you're surrounded by so much to see and hear. For instance, when you're listening to a glorious song like "Battle for Rome" amidst a room full of people trying desperately to find the beat.
Sleep through that, I dare you.