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Keller @ Large: Can Pizza Be A Lifestyle Choice?

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) -- A dispute over a new pizza place in Harvard Square sparks a debate over the question: is there really such a thing as too much pizza?

Setting aside the eternal debate over deep dish vs. Sicilian, pepperoni vs. Canadian bacon and so on, the effort by a self-consciously hip out-of-town chain to move into the pizza-rich square is raising another topic for brick-oven-heated discussion--can pizza be a lifestyle choice?

It's lunchtime here at Pinocchios Pizza in Harvard Square, where they've been dishing out the slices for 52 years.

jon keller pizza lifestyle
Pizza at Pinocchio's in Harvard Square. (WBZ-TV)

"It is a necessity, you need pizza in your life, that's what it's all about," said Ralph Zavarelli, the owner of Pinocchio's.

Pinocchios has survived plenty of competition. They are one of eleven places in the square where you can order pizza, a crowd D.C.-based chain &pizza has been trying unsuccessfully to join by taking over a shuttered newsstand in the heart of the square.

The Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeal rebuffed &pizza's effort to move in here after architectural and traffic concerns were raised. But the chairman of that board really stirred up a deep dish of controversy when he said, "A pizza is a pizza is a pizza."

jon keller pizza lifestyle
A still from an &pizza branding video. (WBZ-TV)

That's not the way &pizza sees it, peddling pizza in one branding video as a way to "actualize the theoretical," whatever that means.

So we wondered: can &pizza carve out a slice of the market by turning bread, cheese and toppings into a profound lifestyle choice?

"Of course it is!" says Zavarelli. "Look at me. It's a lifestyle baby!"

jon keller pizza lifestyle
Ralph Zavarelli, owner of Pinocchio's Pizza. (WBZ-TV)

City officials seemed underwhelmed by the branding, as did residents who objected to &pizza coming in.

"I think they're trying to create something thru branding that may be lost on the average pizza consumer," said Cambridge City Councilor Jan Devereux. "Even here in Harvard Square."

Those &pizza pies do look good, but Cambridge residents who've been opposing the new location say that doesn't outweigh other issues they're raising.

Then again, there's talk of the building's owner putting something really unappetizing in there if &pizza doesn't pass muster--yet another bank branch.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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