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That’s Amore!
January, 2019

Sometimes a tune from the past just pops into my head. It happened to me just acouple of weeks ago. I was driving out to San Manuel, nothing but mesquites and prickly pear whizzing by me, when out of nowhere I found myself belting out in full Dean Martin mode “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…”My Amore Camille wasn’t along for this trip, there were no pizza parlors for 40 miles, and the sun was blazing overhead, the moon still six hours away. So how do you figure? What triggered the song, one I hadn’t thought of in decades? Whatever it was,try as I may, I could not get the “big pizza pie” thing out of my head for days (and nights). It drove me to research. Days later, I think I must be close to a Doctorate in Pizza-ology. Allow me here to share some of the research for my thesis. Let’s start with the “big pizza pie” thing.

Why did Dean call it a “piazza pie” and not just “pizza”? I always thought it was just a poetic lyric thing, “pie” being thrown in just as a word to rhyme with “eye.” But not so. Back in 1905 when pizza was first introduced into the U.S. at Lombardi’s grocery store in the “Little Italy” section of Manhattan, it was only sold whole, and the “round” known as a “pie.” As for “big,” the world’s biggest pizza was baked in Rome in December of 2012. It measured 13,580.28 square feet. It took 5,000 batches of dough baked over 48 hours, and earned it’s creator Dovilio Nardi (and assistants Andrea Mannocchi, Marco Nardi, and Matteo Giannotte) a place in Guinness Book of Records.

As for the origin’s of pizza, both the ancient Egyptians and even the Greeks, had and enjoyed a flat bread topped with other ingredients: pizza progenitors. The first written mention of pizza in Italy is found in a Gaite (Southern Italy) Latin language text dating back to 997. Pizzas, it appears, evolved from a focaccia type bread glazed in olive oil with herbs. Recently, I have started seeing “dessert style” pizza’s on menu’s, and thought “Oh man, that is taking it too far, why mess with a good thing?” I was surprised to find that it wasn’t a “new thing” at all. Originally pizza’s were often sweet, and the evolution to salty took almost 1000 years. It wasn’t till the 18th. century that in Naples pizza’s evolved into the tomato or pesto-based flat bread we know today.

Originally pizzas were the food of peasants, and totally shunned by the upper classes. Even as late as 1835, Alexandre Dumas, famed author of The Three Musketeers, noted while traveling in Naples that “The Neapolitan poor ate nothing but watermelon in summer and pizza in winter.” As the “peasant” classes left Europe in mass, many ending up in the U.S., they brought their foods with them. But even here, outside of Italian ghetto’s in New York, Boston, New Haven, Trenton, Philadelphia, etc., pizzas did not catch on with the masses. All that changed with the World War II, and American G.I.’s being posted in Italy. There they grew to love the salty, tomatoey “pie” and demanded it when they returned home to the States. And there is indeed something about that chewy, salty blend of crust, tomato, cheese, and meats, that has swept America. Did the 13,580.28 square foot pizza seem preposterous? Maybe not so much when I share these facts from the American market researcher Packaged Facts.

American’s presently eat an average of 46 slices of piazza each yearly (approximately 6 full large-sized). The favorite stateside topping is pepperoni, and we consume 251,770,000 lbs of it a year. That’s over 344 tons of this meat topping a day, not to mentions equal tonnage of shredded cheese and tomato sauce. Like anything, there is the good and the bad of it. Italian long-term medical research studies  claim regular pizza consumption (Americans eat it an average of twice a month, school-aged kids weekly) reduces the risk of developing esophageal cancer by 59%, colon cancer by 26%, and mouth cancer by 34%. So eat it to avoid cancer. But watch out when it comes to weight, cholesterol and heart issues. I won’t here mention those stats, the page isn’t long enough. So, how do I justify my pizza addiction? I mainly only eat Hawaiian. Hey, don’t snicker… Pineapple is a fruit, loaded with fiber and Vitamins, right? Oh, by the way a Hawaiian pizza is not Hawaiian. It was invented in 1962 by Sam Panopoulos, a native of Greece who ran a pizza parlor in Canada, and tired of the same old handful of ingredients, was looking for alternatives. He tried pineapple, liked it, added it to his products, and the rest was history. Thank you, Mr. Panopoulos.

Speaking of favorite ingredients, though pizzas are now popular nearly world wide, the toppings favored remain regional. I read the Japanese favor sweet mayonnaise topped with diced squid instead of tomato sauce and pepperoni. In Brazil, chefs top their pizzas with peas. In China a crust made of mini-hot dogs is a big favorite; and the French go big time for fried eggs on their slices. In India, the preferred pizza topping is tofu. Minced mutton (lamb) and pickled ginger, even goat with peas and potatoes, are all different ethnic takes on pizza toppings. One of my favorites, which is surprising as it is not a “Hispanic thing” like the rest of me, is anchovies. Anchovies, by the way, rank at the bottom, the least favorite of toppings generally “on menu” in American Pizzerias. I always did march to a little different drummer, which puts me in the company of one of my eight grandkids. 7 out of the 8 list pizza as their FAVORITE food. As for the one other, he favors Korean kim chee. No kidding! I asked him “how in the world can you eat that stinky stuff?” He answered my question with one of his own “Grandpa, how can YOU eat anchovies?” Darn kid is too smart for his own britches.

On his deathbed, Marco Polo was asked to repent of what he had written of his travels, as they seemed far too extraordinary and fanciful, to which he is recorded to have replied: “Repent? Hey! (maybe it was “hell”) I have not recorded half of what I have seen and done!” He could have said that of what is written about and done with pizza. So much so that it merits one more monthly installment, as you have not heard the half.

Till next month, “CHOW.”

 

Sun City Grand Resident,

Tony Delatorre

 

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