By Gab Bonneso
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
Matt Stanton is sort of an enigma in the Pittsburgh Comedy scene.
He has one of the coolest resumes, including working with Lewis Black, but you rarely see his name on any local lineups. Stanton has built a career living in different parts of the country and building connections with comedy clubs. He jokes, “I’m not a major city headliner, but if your city has an AA baseball team I’m your guy!”
Stanton is currently based out of Squirell Hill, so when we discussed meeting up for a bite, I had an idea. Squirrel Hill houses two of the best pizza spots in Pittsburgh: Mineo’s and Ailello’s. They are certainly the two iconic spots that most Pittsburghers would argue are the best.
They are both located on the same block and each pizzeria’s fans are fiercely loyal. I asked Stanton if he had any interest in getting a slice at each spot and doing a fair comparison taste test. He agreed but also texted, “Mineo’s for life”.
I have always identified as an Aiello’s girl. Years ago, I was introduced to Mineo’s and thought it was amazing. One day, I stepped into Aiello’s and tried their Ricotta and Meatball slice and my life was changed.
I was hoping by the end of the interview Stanton would be an Aiello’s fan.
We met at Mineo’s because I wanted Stanton to be in his element. He ordered two pepperoni slices and I went for one slice of pepperoni & mushroom. We picked a booth and started chatting.
Stanton and his girlfriend recently moved back to Pittsburgh because she got a new job in the city. They were living in San Diego, and Stanton was running an outdoor room that consistently brought 200-300 audience members a month.
I asked Stanton if his parents are supportive of his comedy and he told me that his mom is very supportive. His father, who suddenly passed away of a heart attack the day Stanton flew to San Diego, was proud, but not necessarily supportive. He told me a story. He was going to work with Lewis Black and his father was a huge fan of the Daily Show. Stanton was sure his Dad would be excited by this news, but he wasn’t. However, Stanton said that his stepmom recently told him that his father said that he was proud that Stanton still did what he wanted and that he wasn’t able to dash his hopes.
“He told other people he was proud of me, just not me,” Stanton said. “I think he was concerned that I wouldn’t have a savings.”
Our pizza shows up–three, piping-hot slices sat in front of us with molten-like cheese bubbling. We both grabbed a slice without thinking and started shoving the pizza into our faces. The cheese was burning the roof of my mouth, but it tasted so damn good I didn’t care.
“See this is what people either love or hate about Mineos, but I love. It’s so greasy and it has extra cheese,” said Stanton. “I love that I can have grease on every part of the crust. It’s so good.”
I had to agree. I haven’t eaten Mineo’s in over a decade and it was the best slice of pizza I’ve had in years. There was something so comforting about the hot grease that was pouring down my hand and the thick cheese that would eventually trigger my lactose intolerance. I completely regretted only ordering one slice, but I was counting on Aiello’s to knock it out of the park for me.
I should note that because we ate our Mineo’s like honey-badgers, I didn’t get a photo of it. However when I explained my dilemma to the staff of Mineos they made another piece of pizza for us to photograph, and then they gave it to us for free. Needless to say, the staff at Mineo’s goes above and beyond for their customers.
We headed over to Aiello’s and Stanton was telling me more about his career and how he’s his own manager. We both shared horror stories about our experiences with agents/managers who demanded money from shows that they didn’t even book for us.
Unlike a lot of comedians, Stanton doesn’t have a jealous or mean streak about him. I was telling him that I’ve only once ever sent a submission tape to a club and it worked out, I got to headline. I said, “I’m just not sure if that’s how you get gigs.” He replied, “Yes, That’s exactly how you do it.” He then proceeded to write down every club/club manager that he personally knows and told me to reach out to those venues because he’d put a good word in for me.
I’ve been doing this for 15 years and he’s the first person to ever share a club connection with me. Let alone, multiple clubs in multiple cities.
He’s truly a nice guy, so when I asked where the people of Pittsburgh could see him LIVE, he explained that all of his upcoming shows are on the road. He doesn’t have a home club or home base in Pittsburgh at the moment.
But he does run his own TRIVIA NIGHT company that he brings to a plethora of bars all over the city, and that cuts into him hitting up the open mic/showcase scene. In order to see Stanton perform in Pittsburgh, you’ll probably have to attend a fundraiser or private event that he’s headlining.
I’d tell you to follow him on Twitter, but Stanton isn’t on there. He steers clear, but he is on Facebook and Instagram and online at www.Stantonstantoncomedy.com.
At Aiello’s, the staff delivers our pizza to the table, a perk that Mineo’s did not offer to us. However it did have double the customers that Aiello’s had. Stanton once again ordered a slice of pepperoni (this time just one slice) and I ordered another pepperoni/mushroom combo.
Right away Stanton said, “See this what I don’t like. This extra part of the crust it’s just not necessary and hard.”
This time I remember to photograph the pizza before eating it. It wasn’t piping hot the way the slices at Mineo’s were so I was slightly disappointed at the start of the experience. I went to fold my slice of pizza (as one is want to do) and it cracked. The crust was so thin, almost flatbread-like, that it snapped.
Stanton jumped at the opportunity to take a shot at my beloved Aiello’s, “The crust at Mineo’s is definitely softer and more delicious to me.”
But I had to agree. Then Stanton said, “Do you notice that the sauce is sweeter at Aiello’s?” I had to once again agree with him, it was definitely sweeter.
At this point, with disappointment in my tone, I had to concede defeat, “Yeah and it feels like there’s not nearly the amount of cheese and grease on this pizza. Like the sauce isn’t even all the way up the crust.”
“That’s what I mean about the wasted crust at the top,” Stanton said.
I confessed to Stanton that all morning prior to our meetup, I was imagining him turning to me and saying, “Thank you, Gab for introducing me to Aiello’s. It’s my new favorite pizza.”
Unfortunately my daydream turned into an unforeseen nightmare when I said, “Thank you, Matt. Mineos is the best pizza I’ve ever had. I’m a fan.”
I guess after visiting two different pizza shops with Matt Stanton and conceding that he has a superior palate for pizza, I find him less of an enigma. I finally get it: he’s lived in more than six different metropolitan regions since he started doing stand up in the early 2000s, so it’s hard to identify him as a “Pittsburgh Comic”.
Stanton is a successful, working comedian who currently happens to be based in Pittsburgh. He also knows a thing or two about pizza.