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make pizza night special

Bringing Back the Magic of Pizza Parlors

Growing up in the Philippines, I didn’t have a wealth of pizza places to choose from. But there was one spot that always held a special place in my heart – The Italian Village. As my brothers and I would take our seats, the anticipation would build as we’d rush to the giant kitchen window, mesmerized by the pizza guys flinging the dough high into the air. Forget about coloring books, that was the only entertainment we needed until the tantalizing aroma of our order wafted over.

While Shakey’s Pizza was the popular chain back then, it really did have that classic parlor feel – with player piano music and servers in their red and yellow striped uniforms. My younger brother and I loved the Hawaiian pizza, but my older brother? He was all about the Friday Special, which featured shrimp, mushrooms, and anchovies. I never understood his weird taste preferences, but I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to the family’s resident brainiac.

As I learned later, the Friday Special was likely a nod to the predominantly Catholic Filipino tradition of avoiding meat on Lenten Fridays. So this pizza was the perfect meatless option, loaded with flavorful seafood and veggies. Last year, I decided to recreate that nostalgic dish for my brother, and you know what? I finally got it. Those mushrooms, that garlicky shrimp, the salty anchovies – it all came together in pizza perfection.

Upgrading the Friday Special

Now, I know what you’re thinking – mushrooms and anchovies? Really? But trust me, this isn’t your average pie. I’ve taken that classic Friday Special and given it a modern, gourmet twist that will have your taste buds singing.

First up, the dough. You can’t have a killer pizza without an amazing crust, so I recommend using your favorite homemade recipe or grabbing some high-quality store-bought dough. My personal go-to is from Corrado’s in New Jersey.

Once you’ve got your dough ready, it’s time to start building that flavor profile. I like to get a head start by pre-cooking the mushrooms and shrimp. The mushrooms soak up all that garlic and pepper goodness, while the shrimp gets a nice seasoning of paprika and salt. Then it’s just a matter of layering everything on that crust – the tangy tomato sauce, the melty mozzarella, those umami-packed anchovies, and of course, the star toppings.

Elevating Pizza Night

Now, I know what you’re thinking – this all sounds delicious, but how do I make it a truly special pizza night? Well, let me tell you, it’s all about the little touches that turn a regular meal into an experience.

First off, set the mood with some fun, retro-inspired decor. Dig out that old player piano, or at the very least, curate a playlist of classic tunes that’ll have you feeling like you’re back at The Italian Village. And don’t forget the root beer – that carbonated delight is the perfect pairing for your gourmet pie.

Get the whole family involved in the pizza-making process. Let the kids get their hands dirty kneading the dough, or have them help with the toppings. Heck, you could even make a competition out of who can toss the dough the highest without it ending up on the ceiling (been there, done that!).

And speaking of the toppings, don’t be afraid to get creative. Home Cooking Rocks has tons of inspiring recipes and ideas to take your pizza night to the next level. From unexpected flavor combinations to gorgeous presentation, the possibilities are endless.

So, gather your loved ones, crank up the music, and get ready to elevate pizza night into a truly special occasion. With a little bit of nostalgia and a whole lot of flavor, you’re sure to create memories that will last long after the last slice is devoured.

Putting It All Together


  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound shrimp, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed in a garlic press
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole pizza crust dough, thawed and at room temperature
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling on baking sheet or pizza peel
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce (or any pizza sauce)
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, grated
  • 3 to 4 whole anchovy fillets (canned)


  1. Preheat oven to 500°F. If using a pizza stone, leave it in the oven while preheating.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half and scoop out the inner core with the seeds. Gently squeeze to remove excess juice. Dice the outer flesh and set aside on paper towels to continue drawing out the moisture.
  3. Season the shrimp with paprika and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove mushrooms to a plate.
  5. Add another tablespoon of oil and cook the shrimp until barely pink but still fairly raw inside, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove shrimp from the skillet and set aside.
  6. Spread out your dough on a baking sheet greased with some oil and dusted with cornmeal. (If using a pizza stone, roll out the dough and place it on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.)
  7. Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, avoiding the edges. Sprinkle the chopped tomatoes on top.
  8. Evenly distribute the cheese over the dough, followed by the cooked mushrooms. Take the anchovy fillets and cut or tear into small pieces and distribute over the pizza.
  9. Bake the pizza for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese just starts to bubble. Remove from the oven and add the shrimp on top.
  10. Return the pizza to the oven and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is brown and melted.

Serve hot and enjoy your elevated pizza night!


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