Article on pizza


            Pizza has been a favorite of Americans for over 100 years, and for almost as long, there has been an ongoing debate over who has the best pizza in the United States.

            Pizza comes in many shapes, sizes and styles. Some have just cheese and sauce, others have toppings. There is a type of pizza out there for everyone. Some well known styles of pizza include New Haven style, New York Style, Chicago Deep Dish, Neapolitan and more. However, it is unknown when pizza was actually introduced to the American people.

            “When Italian immigrants began to arrive on the East Coast in the 1870s, Little Italies popped up all over the place,” said Jeff Ruby, Co-author of “Everybody Loves Pizza: The Deep Dish on Americas Favorite Food.” The book is about the history of pizza and what it means to the American culture. It includes where to find 540 of the best pizzas across the country and has numerous pizza recipes.

Ruby added that “Lombardi’s in New York had the first license in 1905, but most likely Italian immigrants began serving it in America at least 10 years before, maybe more.”

            The citizens of New Haven, Conn. claim that pizza was first introduced there with famous pizza restaurants “Sally’s Apizza” and “Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana” on Wooster Street. However, according to Ruby, there is no real source of documentation.

            Sally’s Apizza was established in 1938 by Salvatore Consiglio.

“It was hard times, couldn’t get a job, so he decided to open up the pizza place,” said Consiglio’s wife, Flo.

Sally’s is known for their thin crust pizza, which is baked in the same coal fired oven that has been in operation for the past 60 years. They pride themselves in making everything fresh.

“Everything’s made fresh everyday,” said Flo. “You make it like you’re going to eat it, you take that kind of care with it.”

Sally’s main competition is Pepe’s, which was established in 1925. However, “The Spot” is the original location, with the original brick oven. Pepe’s expanded in 1936 to where it currently resides, right next door.

The third restaurant of the big three in New Haven is Modern Apizza, which is located on State Street. They all have the brick oven and the thin crust. All three are worth waiting in line to get a table too.

As far as New Haven style pizza goes, Ruby believes that it is one of the best pizzas one can find in America.

            “When done right, it’s one of the all-time greats in America,” said Ruby. “The simplicity is irresistible.”

            When it comes to discovering which pizza is the best, Ruby believes that it is all about having a good balance of cheese, crust, sauce and toppings, not too much of one or the other.

            “Judging one pizza against another is so subjective,” said Ruby. “Especially when you’re talking about different styles.”

            Adding that, “a New York crust has little in common with a Neapolitan crust, and neither even appears to be the same food as a Chicago style.”

            According to Ruby, making a good pizza takes fresh ingredients, a skilled pizza maker with a hot oven, and a good crust. When discussing the importance of the crust, Ruby states that on a scale of one to 10, it is a 15.

            “Every pizza purist will say the same thing, a good pizza starts with the crust, and if the crust is no good, the rest of the pizza is immaterial,” said Ruby.

            Adding that he is “no purist, I love all types of pizza, but I can’t forgive bad crust. Never have, never will.”

            During the year that Ruby and his Co-author, Penny Pollack, wrote their book, they ate pizza every day and every night. Ruby has eaten at several hundred pizza restaurants.

            “We based our decisions in the book on tons of research and reporting and eating,” said Ruby. “When we couldn’t get to a restaurant, we counted on the advice of food writers and pizza enthusiasts all over the country to guide us.”

            Ruby and Pollack tasted many different styles of pizza, each unique in its own way. However, he did have a favorite.

            “The pizzeria that blew me away more than any other was Una Pizza Napoletana in New York,” said Ruby. “More than anywhere in America, it was dedicated to replicating the traditional Neapolitan experience, and they get it right.”    

            The owner is Anthony Mangieri, who Ruby says “knows his stuff.”

            “He’s so obsessed with the pizza of Naples, his menu had a long philosophical screed about What Pizza Is. And he basically just stays open until he runs out of dough,” added Ruby.

            Chicago Deep Dish is by far the most different from all of the pizza styles. Many people feel that the Chicago style pizza is more like a casserole than a pizza. It is cooked in a deep pan, with a deep, thick, buttery crust, and a chunky tomato sauce. It has a lot of cheese and toppings.

            Ruby explained that the heaviness of the Chicago pizza is why so many purists seem to dislike it. He described deep dish pizza as “heavy on everything, crust, cheese, sauce and the good ones are still balanced.”

            Pizza is so popular in the U.S. that 94 percent of the population eats pizza. Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza a day or 350 slices per second. Pizza is a $30 billion per year industry.

            When it comes to pizza, the majority of people come to the same conclusion, they love it.

One Response

  1. I really like this entry–nice overview of pizza history with a focus on CT! I’m hoping to read more of your stuff in the future. Best — Dan

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