In a world full of $5 pizzas and three-topping options, it is fair to ask: Have we forgotten how pizza is supposed to taste? Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria, nestled on 30th Street in the ever-trendy community of North Park, might refresh your memory. The economic downturn forced many mom-and- pop shops to bid farewell to San Diego. Fortunately, Lefty’s stands strong, just blocks away from Morley Field and popular local bars such as Bar Pink, True North Tavern and Ritual Tavern. Retro baseball caps and vintage photos adorn the walls, providing a glimpse into Chicago culture. Stool seating and counter ordering is reminiscent of typical big city pizza shops common to the windy city. It is evident the owners of Lefty’s are devoted to taste and tradition. This shop is warm, inviting and indicative of the hard work that went into its establishment. As a San Diegan who rarely frequents the East Coast, it is a great experience to taste Chicagoan cuisine without hopping on a plane. Lefty’s menu is extensive enough to please the starved college student as well as the light lunch eater. Options include standard Italian items such as pizza and pasta, in addition to salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and tempting appetizers. According to Lefty’s staff, the most popular items on the menu are the deep-dish pizzas and the classicItalian beef. Although Lefty’s is famous for its deep dish, its thin crust is not far behind. Can’t wait the five minutes it takes to get that slice? Check out the aptly named loaded fries that include blue cheese, sour cream and scallions. Think authentic ball game cui- sine. Any Chicago Cubs fans? WARNING: While the 15 or so toppings listed on the chalkboard inside will instantly impress, they are only available for whole pies. It was disappointing to find single slice selections were limited to the few combinations displayed. The casual nature of Lefty’s is reflected in its prices. A pizza slice will run you about $2 or $3, hot dogs and Polish dogs average $5, burgers cost about $9 and the remaining items fall within this range. As usu- al, beverages always seem to launch total meal cost. However, thorough selection of convenience beverages include canned sodas, bottled teas and the more luxurious pinot grigio, which allows customers to decide what kind of visit they want to make it. Where to sit?Unfortunately, seating is limited inside, but there are a few tables right outside the door, which are ideal if you have the time and in- terest to sit down, enjoy a meal and the neighborhood. The deep dish pizza toppings available on this particular Tuesday evening were spinach and onions. Yet, the secret (delicious) weapon is the melted mozzarella cheese. The layering of toppings was very cre- ative with mozzarella being the first and marina sauce and tomatoes on the very top, enclosing the spinach and onion. The thin crust toppings included bell peppers, onion, chicken and ja- lapeño. Finally! Vegetable alterna- tives to the traditional olive and bell pepper! Load a few on a pie to get your recommended daily serving. One patron remarked, “This pizza’s got everything. You’ve got the spice, you’ve got the crunch, you’ve got the veggies.” Agreed, sir. Mom-and-pop shops are the heart of any city. They contribute depth, tradition and make us feel at home. If the walls of Lefty’s could speak, they would describe the regulars who keep coming back, the families who’re able to have an inexpensive night out, the couples who share a laugh and the delicious aromas they can’t get enough of. Lefty’s is a diamond in the rough of commercialized, San Diego pizza joints. Of course, it’s hard to beat $5, but maybe it’s time to keep quality in mind and frequent local, family-operated businesses instead. See you at Lefty’s!