Today’s media review is in response to the amount of press pizza has been getting lately.
I love pizza. I’ve always loved pizza, of all kinds. But still… I don’t get it.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of pizza. I couldn’t have been much older than 3 when my father would take me with him to the Golden Key Tavern (on the West Side of Buffalo) to pick up pizza (they didn’t deliver). I’ve never forgotten that pizza – I can still remember the texture of the crust, the distinct flavor of the sauce, melted cheese, local pepperoni and Sicilian green olives, and it’s been at least 25-30 years since I’ve been there.
When I think of pizza, the first thing that comes to mind is a big, old-school, Buffalo-style pizza. Bubbly crust – not too thin, not too thick, toothsome and a tiny bit chewy. Spicy tomato sauce, not too sweet and no chunks, seasoned with oregano. Tons of melted low-moisture mozzarella – the kind that pulls away in strands when you grab a slice. Pepperoni – the good kind. Olives – the good kind (not the rubber bands from cans or jars). Pepperonicini rings (pickled peppers – not jalapenos).’
The only other pizza that mattered was the homemade kind – that was totally different from the pizzeria style. My friend Sarina was a recent immigrant from Italy. For special occasions, her mother would be in the kitchen all day making pizza that was unequalled in my life until I discovered a similar style sold in the mornings at a little bakery in Gennazano, Italy (where my father lives). This pizza was prepared in a pan like foccacia. It was just sauce (a really good, almost sweet, oniony tomato sauce) and grated Parmesan cheese (or some kind of dry sheep’s milk cheese). Simple and addictive. Sarina’s mother made at least a dozen sheet pans at a time. We ate every last bit!
Yesterday, there was a piece in the NYTimes by Frank Bruni, “Crust is a Canvas for Pizza’s New Wave“, discussing some of the most notable additions to the NYC pizza market – none of whom have been around for longer than 5 years… the old guys just aren’t playing in the same league. Click the link and get Bruni’s recommendations for the best blistered crusts, balanced toppings (hint: nothing like the pizza of my memory – but oh so good!), and an inconclusive discussion of the mozzarella wars (fresh mozzarella di buffula or low-moisture grated?).
Over the past few years, pizza has become an artisinal product worthy of its own lexicon, history books, blogs, and schools. A true Napolitana pizziaolocan take on guru-like status. Napolitana pizza has DOC status in the European Union. Though I’ve had some of the best pizza of my adult life in a small town not far from my father’s home, I haven’t been to Naples yet. Looks like I better add that to the list!