Driving half a day in pounding rain for a pizza is a grand, dramaticand ridiculousgesture. It's more ridiculous if you live in New York City, where you can have every permutation of pizzacoal-oven, wood-grilled, stove-griddledbrought to your door. More ridiculous still if the restaurant you're visiting sells its pies in supermarkets.
But American Flatbread seemed to deserve a pilgrimage. It wasn't just the poetic name, its Whitmanesque overtones matched only by the name of the location, the Mad River Valley in central Vermont. I'd heard about the eccentric owner and the three-hour waits outside for a table. Most of all I'd heard about the pizzathe impeccable crust, the sublime toppings. This part I'd partially verified by buying a frozen pie at the Whole Foods Market in Manhattan. It was the best frozen pizza I'd ever hadand, at almost $9, the most expensive one sold there. If American Flatbread could work such wonders with frozen dough, I thought, the real thing must be unbelievable.
I drove up to Vermont with my friend Alex during one of the most ferocious downpours the state had seen all year. After three hours of heavy traffic, we were getting testy, and our mission was beginning to feel completely inane. When we finally checked into the Pitcher Inn, a Relais & Château hotel in the Mad River Valley town of Warren, we decided to leave American Flatbread for the next night. A stormy seven-hour drive is too much pressure to inflict on any restaurant.