Hillsdale is home to one Little Caesars fran­chise, a company that began in Detroit in 1959. Nic Rowan | Col­legian.

Michael Luc­chese ’18 often declared that “there is no good pizza east of Chicago.” He was, of course, speaking in praise of the deep-dish ball of dough and tomato chunks invented by Uno Pizza in 1943 — a mid­western icon which has clogged the Second City’s wind­pipes (and sewage pipes) ever since.

Luc­chese and his ilk don’t account for the phe­nomenon that is 99 Cent Pizza, the cheesy disk of grease many a hurried New Yorker has shoved down his throat since God knows when. New York style pizza is sweet, messy, and will undoubtedly leave you with stomach cramps or, in my case last week, some­thing much worse.

But for those caught between the Windy City and the Big Apple, there’s a third option — a literal middle way — between New York and Chicago’s pizza fare: Detroit’s very own Little Caesars. Little C’s is bland, reliable, and the only truly fast-food pizza widely available. At five bucks a pie, it’s the best deal in Michigan, perhaps the world.

The secret to its greatness is that Little Caesars didn’t create any­thing new. Like the car com­panies out of Detroit, it only per­fected the means of pro­duction, extending the mediocre to the masses. Since 2004, it has offered the “Hot-N-Ready” deal, which I shouldn’t even explain: You walk up to the window, pull a sweaty bill out of your back pocket, and blammo — habemus pizza.

Hot-N-Ready works so well because with it, Little Caesars intro­duced the Rotary Air Impingement Oven (patented only several years before in 1997) to the pizza making game. It’s essen­tially a hot air gun pointed right at your pizza, evenly cooking a pie in seconds. This is the tech­nology that allows a place as small the Hillsdale, Michigan, Little Caesars to pump out 300 pizzas a day — but also made it pos­sible for the sim­i­larly sized Little Caesars in Greensboro, North Car­olina, to make 13,386 pizzas in one sitting, the largest order on record for the company.

Then there’s the lore sur­rounding the company’s Detroit history. Founded in 1959 by the son of Mace­donian immi­grants Mike Illitch, Little Caesars has always been a family company that stuck with Detroit even when things went bad. Before his death in 2017, Illitch poured his soul into his company and the city, using its brand-name and his own­ership of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings to prop up the city. This year Little Caesars Arena opened in downtown Detroit, hosting both Red Wings and the Pistons. It joins Little Caesars head­quarters, which takes a great part of Detroit’s his­toric Fox Theatre.

But that’s not to say the company doesn’t have its short­comings. It unveiled a new logo in 2017, removing the Caesar’s iconic chest hair and rear­ranging his laurel crown to dispel any notion that he had just left a bac­cha­nalian feast. It was as if an occult hand erased every­thing that Little C’s stood for. Cheap hot pizza shouldn’t be sold by a guy who looks like he’s about to trot off to Sunday brunch; it should be sold by the guy who hosts monthly Gran Torino watch parties. So it goes.

The next time you pull into a Little Caesars, as you bask in that warm neon glow, remember the prodigal son come home. And when the server hands you that Hot-N-Ready pizza, those words — perhaps the most beau­tiful ever written — will come to mind: “Pizza! Pizza!”