‘Stranger Things’ star Gaten Matarazzo on food and video games

Gaten Matarazzo says when he’s binge-watching shows with his friends and family, pizza and potato chips are among his go-to snacks. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Gaten Matarazzo knows a lot about pizza. The 19-year-old, who plays Dustin Henderson on Netflix hit series Stranger Things, was raised by a family of Italian chefs and says his grandfather, who owned a pizzeria, has taught him a lot about what makes a good pie.

“Toppings? The whole plethora of them are great on bad pizza,” he tells Yahoo Life, “but if you have a really, really good slice of pizza that’s quality? You don’t need anything to make it better.”

“A regular slice of cheese pizza is fine if the pizza is really, really good. But if you’re trying to mask un-quality pizza, you load it up with everything,” he adds. “Like, I order a supreme when it’s crappy chain pizza.”

Still, there’s one pizza topping Matarazzo describes as his “guilty pleasure.”

“My grandfather [would say] I’m not allowed to put pineapple on pizza, but my favorite is pineapple, pepperoni and bacon,” he says. “Here’s the thing: I understand the hate. It’s a reasonable hate, but I want people to try it and not think about the fact that it’s pizza: Just put pineapple and bacon together with pepperoni — all three of them on a pie — and it’s pretty great.”

Matarazzo says he spends equal time playing 8-bit video games and modern ones on his Nintendo Switch. (Photo: Nintendo)

Matarazzo says he spends equal time playing 8-bit video games and modern ones on his Nintendo Switch. (Photo: Nintendo)

Matarazzo spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting Nintendo, and says gaming is one of his favorite ways to unwind. “The nostalgia I’ve always felt for Nintendo has been a part of my whole life,” he says. “The first console I ever had, the Wii, is the reason my siblings and I became so close because before that, we wanted to destroy each other, but then we realized we could channel that into video games.”

In fact, if he hosted a binge-watching or gaming session, Matarazzo says his siblings, who he describes as his “best friends,” would be by his side along with his parents, his actress and social media personality girlfriend Lizzy Yu, and his pets.

“All of them in one go,” says Matarazzo. “And everything would be served on elevated tables to make sure my golden retriever doesn’t act like a jerkwad and eat everything.”

So what are Matarazzo’s go-to party foods? “I’m for sure serving pizza with a whole bunch of different toppings and I’ve always gotta get mozzarella sticks with it,” he says. “Maybe something like chips and French onion dip, which is the most mom-like thing I’ve ever said, but I’m here for it.”

When he’s gaming solo, Matarazzo’s tastes are a bit different. “If I’m by myself and I’m getting into a big story like Zelda, which I do frequently, then I don’t mind having a fancy-ass meal I where I can pause my game and really get into it,” he says. “That’s for sure mac and cheese time: I’m not going to eat anything sophisticated while I’m gaming, that’s not what the vibe is, so I think classic mac and cheese and either good old dinosaur chicken nuggets or a hot dog.”

While he’s currently abstaining from gluten and dairy to enhance his vocal performance in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, Matarazzo says when he’s indulging, he’s a bit picky about his macaroni and cheese.

“I get the good blue box,” he says, “and I have a very particular way to make it where you add a little extra butter and less milk and you only cook the pasta for six minutes. It’s perfection.”

Another thing he takes seriously? Mario Kart.

“I’m so good at it — like to a really unhealthy extent,” he says. “Every time I play with someone: I’m like, ‘Who wants to play Mario Kart?’ and anybody who has played with me says ‘no’ and anybody who hasn’t will no longer want to.”

“I’m mean about it,” he admits. “It’s where the Jersey Italian comes out. You wouldn’t expect it, but I get the accent and I get all red in the face.”

Other Nintendo favorites include modern releases like Nintendo Switch Sports and the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But has Matarazzo, who is deeply immersed in the ’80s in his Stranger Things role, dabbled in the 8-bit games of that era?

“I play most of the old 8-bit Nintendo games and I’m playing the old games on the Wii now,” he says. “As far as new games versus old games? Going back, the games are little bit harder to get used to, but I’ve been playing a lot of the older ones and I think I’ve come to the consensus that they’re both hard for different reasons.”

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