*Disclaimer: I own nothing of Gainax, Khara, or Capitol Records.*

Shinji entered the apartment, checking that the coast was clear outside briefly before shutting the door. Quickly shuffling his shoes off, he dashed to his bedroom, changed his clothes, washed up, and returned to the kitchen, where he slipped on an apron as he began taking stock of his ingredients and implements while laying them out. The dough had risen, the tomatoes were crushed, the mozzarella di bufala had been sliced, the pecorino romano grated, the basil plucked.

For the past few days, he'd made a point of stopping in at a certain market downtown, picking up certain ingredients for a new thing he'd wanted to try his hand at making. Sure, he, Asuka, and Misato had dined on the take-out equivalent multiple times, but on the off-chance he'd watched various cooking shows while channel-surfing, he'd always been amazed at how much of an art form it seemed when it came to actually making the dish. Chef's curiosity finally overtaking him, Shinji had resolved to make one himself. And today, right now at this very moment, when he'd managed to get home early while his housemates were still at NERV HQ, he was going to surprise them with his little project. For once, he was quite confident in his abilities-he was going to knock the socks off their taste buds.

As soon as he was satisfied that he had everything out and ready, and that the oven was at the right temperature, he turned to the other inhabitant of the apartment and nodded. Pen-Pen the penguin, understanding Shinji's cue, nodded in turn and waddled over to the stereo system, where Shinji had earlier inserted a CD he'd picked up the other day from the music shop downtown. Pen-Pen pressed 'play', and soon the sounds of a mandolin could be heard throughout the apartment, as Shinji put flour into a mixing bowl and began rolling the ball of dough in it.

In Napoli, where love is king,

When boy meets girl,

here's what they say...

The ball sufficiently covered in flour, Shinji brought it out of the bowl and began to flatten and spread it out onto a cutting board, also covered in flour. While he did, the voice of a Western crooner came on as the song truly began.

When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie

That's amore...

When the world seems to shine, like you've had too much wine

That's amore...

Judging the dough to be flat and thin enough, Shinji first drizzled a bit of olive oil onto the dough and then began carefully ladling out the crushed tomatoes, spreading them around the dough's surface as if he were painting a canvas with a vibrant red.

Bells will ring, ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling,

And you'll sing "Vita bella"...

Hearts will play, tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay,

Like a gay tarantella...

He then proceeded to lay out the sliced fresh mozzarella, the means to counter-balance the acidity of the crushed tomatoes, while adding a bit of contrast to the color. He followed this with a sprinkling of the grated pecorino, adding saltiness to the overall package.

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool,

That's amore...

When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet,

You're in love...

He topped it off with the basil leaves, adding the fragrance that sealed the deal.

When you walk in a dream, but you know you're not dreaming, signore...

Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli,

That's amore...!

His creation all set, Shinji then placed it into the waiting oven, now at the ideal temperature. While it cooked, he quickly cleaned up the counter, washed up, and, after briefly glancing at the clock, took steps to prepare the table. It wouldn't be long before Asuka and Misato got home, and he wanted everything to be perfect...

Moments later, the door to the apartment opened, and immediately, the mauve-haired major and her redheaded charge were met with the most enticing aroma that waltzed into their nostrils unimpeded. It was then they noticed the waiting, smiling Shinji, a cloth napkin hanging from his right forearm, as he bid them welcome.

Wheeeen theeee moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie,

That's amore... (That's amore)

When the world seems to shine, like you've had too much wine,

That's amore... (That's amore)

Asuka and Misato looked at each other, slightly confused, before following Shinji to the kitchen table, covered with a pristine-looking cloth with three plates, napkins, glasses, and utensil sets waiting for each of them. Shinji pulled out Asuka's chair first before doing the same for Misato. In the background, they noticed Pen-Pen 'playing along' on a little accordion. Shinji proceeded to pour each of them some sparkling grape juice (since he was still too young to buy actual wine) and then, after placing the bottle down, went to open the oven and retrieve his creation.

Bells will ring (ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling),

And you'll sing "Vita bella"... (Vita bell, Vita bellaaa)

Asuka and Misato grew surprised looks on their faces as they witnessed Shinji lay in the center of the table a platter holding a beautiful-looking, Neapolitan-style margherita pizza, the crust a golden brown with just the right tiny amounts of char, the scent of the combined toppings wafting over them like a gentle breeze that made their mouths water. They did a double-take from it to Shinji, not taking long to put two-and-two together to see that he had made this gorgeous-looking pie. Shinji, a pizza cutter in-hand, proceeded to slice it into an even amount of pieces, and as he sat down, nonverbally encouraged them to grab their respective first helpings.

Hearts will play (tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay),

Like a gay tarantella...

(Lucky fella)

The minute Asuka and Misato took their first bites, it was as if their taste buds began singing like a heavenly choir. This may have been Shinji's first go at pizza-making, but it didn't matter-it was absolutely delicious, blowing any take-out pizza they'd had before right out of the water.

When the stars make you drool, just like a pasta fazool,

That's amore... (That's amore)

Asuka soon had a look on her face as if she was in ecstasy, while Misato began singing Shinji's praises in fluent Italian, drawing upon her time in the U.N. forces when she was stationed in Rome for a brief period. Shinji, eyeing his housemates as he ate his own slice, couldn't have been happier, both at the success of the first pizza made by his own hands, and with the reactions of its intended recipients.

When you dance down the street, with a cloud at your feet,

You're in love...

In no time at all, the three of them had finished off Shinji's creation, leaving barely a scrap. As Shinji made to get up and clear the table, Misato held him back, a hand on his shoulder, and volunteered herself to take care of it, picking up all three plates and sets of silverware and taking them to the kitchen sink.

When you walk in a dream, but you know you're not dreaming, signore...

While Misato ran the water as she washed off the dishes, Shinji looked back at Asuka, a genuine, appreciative smile on her face, something he privately treasured on the rare chance he saw it. Then, unexpectedly, Asuka got up from her chair, walked over to his side, leaned in next to his face and, after making sure Misato still had her back turned to them, planted a kiss on Shinji's cheek, catching him off-guard and making him turn as red as the tomatoes on the pizza. When Asuka returned to her chair, Shinji felt something wet lingering on his cheek; the scent gave him the clue immediately, as it turned out Asuka had given him a literal saucy kiss. Asuka quietly brought a finger to her lips in a 'shushing' motion, and gave him a quick wink followed by a tiny, impish grin. Shinji, catching the meaning, nodded as he smiled right back at her, indicating that this was something he'd never, ever forget.

Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli

That's amore!

Amore-that's amore...


**Author's Note(s)**

With his cooking skills, there's little doubt Shinji would make one hell of a homemade pizza pie. I did say this would be a saucy one-shot for Valentine's Day, and fittingly comes when CNN's Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy makes its premiere. Add a very, very fitting Dean Martin tune to the proceedings, and I feel I've outdone myself on the one-shot side of things.