Before you eat another slice of PIZZA on a student tour, you need to know...
“Pizza” Mike Ruggieri spills the beans on pizza!
I do love pizza! Coming from an Italian American family from the Bronx, we take our pizza seriously.
When I get together with my cousins we literally talk about pizza for about 30 minutes and then show each other pictures of pizzas we’ve had since we’ve seen each other last. It’s only then that we move on to other important subjects, like: how are the kids?, how’s work?, how’s life?
So, yeah, we take our pizza seriously.
It’s not a secret, it’s a hard reality. Feeding 120 8th graders in 45 minutes is a feat in and of itself. Quality food is another matter entirely. I will not reveal names to protect the innocent. But, if you’re a guest on one of my tours and ask me about the quality of the food, I will never talk bad about it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
If I were to open Google Maps on my phone right now, and say “Hey Google, how many times have I been to Wiseguy Pizza in Rosslyn?”, I’m not sure I would want to know the answer, and it’s probably more than even *I* would want to admit!
We literally stay 4 blocks away, so it’s not a hard decision to make, even after a 15+ hour day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Joe’s for a late night slice (I prefer the white slice – try it, you’ll love it!) with the teachers or parents who have been asking me all day about my favorite NYC pizza.
After 6 years of *not* taking tour groups to great pizza in NYC (because most places can’t handle the large groups), last June I saw “John’s Pizza” on 46th Street on my itinerary for Valley Center Middle School. My heart skipped a beat because John’s on Bleecker Street happens to be my favorite pie in Manhattan (to clarify, Joe’s is my favorite place for a slice, John’s is my favorite place for a full pie. John’s doesn’t sell slices).
Life is good when you get paid to eat NYC’s best pizza with 40 of your new best friends.
“Pizza” Mike Ruggieri
ITMI Class #285 | ITMI Instructor
In 2013, I decided that 28 years of sitting in a dark room and talking about software was getting old. I wanted to pursue a career that would get me out of the cubicle and allow me to meet fun and interesting people. This led me directly to ITMI and tour directing. Soon after graduating, I found myself leading a tour from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore, and I’ve never looked back! I’ve been working as a Tour Director in the National Parks as well as leading student tours on the East Coast for several years now and not a day goes by when you won’t hear me say: Best. Job. Ever.
Leading student tours also provides me with a joy I didn’t expect. It’s something that teachers experience and is extremely rewarding – when the student ‘gets it’ and the light bulb goes off on their head – there’s nothing quite like it. I love sharing these wonderful places with students, and seeing them anew through their eyes. I instilled a love of travel in my own children, because I believe that experiencing new places and cultures is the world’s best classroom.
Teaching at ITMI has allowed me to continue this wonderful journey and share my experiences with others who have made the same choice as me – to get out of the cubicle and start doing something you love. There’s really nothing quite like it.
I also love working with ITMI grads, helping them navigate their new careers. It’s a real joy to see their successes.
When I’m not traveling, I’m usually pursuing my other passions: spending time with family, finding the best pizza or going to see my favorite band. That’s me in a nutshell. Family, food, music and travel. I’ll see you down the road….