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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pizza: As American as Apple Pie!

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.”

—Yogi Berra

Apple pie? 


Without a doubt, pizza is the most American of American food. Based on my limited research (i.e., Google), we consume about 3 billion pizzas a year or 9.44 pizzas for each and every American! This really should not come as a surprise. After all, have you ever met someone who didn’t like pizza? I know that if I did, I would promptly banish them to Outer Mongolia!  

And despite how “American” we may think pizza is, it has been around in some form for a very, very long time, before American or even Italians discovered it in its most popular form today. The ancient Greeks made flat breads covered with oils, herbs, and cheese, and the Romans covered theirs with cheese and honey, flavored with bay leaves. But pizza as we know it—with tomato sauce—didn’t originate until tomatoes were brought back from the New World in the 16th Century. 

Pizza here, however, was a Johnny-come-lately. It really didn’t really take off until after World War II, when American soldiers who had been stationed in Italy, created a demand for the pizza they had tasted and enjoyed in Italy. Speaking of Italy, if you love pizza, then you must make the pilgrimage and taste it from the original source. In Italy, it is safe to say that pizza is not junk food. It is made with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and about half the cheese as its American cousin.

Americans, being the mongrels that we are, took the simple and elegant Italian pizza, and ran with it, creating a crazy and nearly endless list of flavors: hamburger pizza, pizza with clams, alligator pizza, potato and bacon pizza, BBQ pizza, Mexican pizza, and Hawaiian pizza (controversial, but one of my favorites). Tonight, in fact, I tried a pizza I’d never had before at a place called Pies and Pints in Morgantown, West Virginia. This pizza is called the Grape Pie, and it is exactly what it says it is: red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, and rosemary. Admittedly, I was skeptical, but it was pretty darn good. 

The two competing styles of pizza in America are deep dish and New York Style. New York style consists of a thin—Chicagoans would say flimsy—crust which requires a special technique to eat by hand. You take the wide end in your hand and slightly crimp the sides together so the tip doesn’t flip forward. Of course, you could avoid this if you simply used a knife and fork. But many consider this heresy. In fact, the mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio caused quite a stir when, shortly after his election, he was seen eating pizza with a knife and fork. He defended himself by noting that, being of direct Italian heritage, he was eating pizza in the traditional way Italians eat it. De Blasio Eats Pizza  On the complete opposite spectrum lies Chicago style pizza (sometimes called deep-dish), which is served in something that resembles a round cake pan with crust that can be as high as three inches and stuff to the gills with cheese and sausage. Pretty fitting for the City of Big Shoulders.

Personally, I lean toward New York style pizza. Also, I must confess that pizza is my biggest weakness: the one food I cannot live without; the one food I would eat as my last meal on death row. I probably eat pizza at least once—sometimes twice—a week. For me, the best night of the week to eat pizza is Friday while watching a movie. Second best is Saturday while watching SEC football. Of course, the perfect drink with pizza is beer—hands down. My favorite flavor is pepperoni with red onions, though I’m partial to green peppers and mushrooms too.  And speaking of pizzerias, here’s my random list of favorite pizzerias from around the country (though they are heavily weighted to where I live, Birmingham, Alabama):

Birmingham, Alabama

Slice: http://slicebirmingham.com

Davenport’s: http://davenportspizza.com

Cosmo’s: http://www.birminghammenus.com/cosmos/

Atlanta, Georgia

Fellini’s Pizza (Ponce or Peachtree locations): http://www.fellinisatlanta.com/fellinis.html

Savannah, Georgia

Vinnie Van Go-Go’s: http://vinnievangogo.com

New York City

Lombardi’s (apparently, the oldest pizzeria in America): http://firstpizza.com

Lexington, Virginia

Frank’s Pizza: http://frankspizzalexington.com

Rome, Italy

Just about any random trattoria. 

Well, those are my random musings about pizza. Makes you kinda hungry doesn’t it? If so, then go online or pick up the phone and order a pie. And that’s another great thing about pizza in America, it’s just so damn convenient!

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