Pizza Personalities

Pizza Personalities

Who doesn’t love pizza? [1]

A while ago Jon Stewart went on the rampage, putting New York style pizza up against Chicago.  I’ve also heard others ranting about Italian pizzas.  Let’s consider this; what can pizza teach us about local behavior?

Starting at the beginning, Italy is considered the birthplace of pizza.  Maybe.  But the Europeans are epicures, and they flaunt fresh ingredients and moderation, so it’s no wonder their pizzas are made fresh, wood-fired, and focus on crust with accents of other ingredients.  Yum.

Here in the USA pizza may have its true origins, as a large-scale food that’s easy to prepare.  Its ingredients were mass-produced ahead of time.  Serving was easy, didn’t require utensils, and you could eat it for breakfast.

This large floppy version is best typified by the New York style, a form that New Yorkers argue is their own.  You can slice it, roll it, and serve quite a few people with it.  As part of their effort to possess this version of pizza, they no longer call it only pizza, instead it is “pie.” [2]

Finally we come to the american city where they invented the skyscraper, reshape their coastline to make parks, lift their buildings when they flood, and reversed the flow of their river when it suited them.  This is Chicago.

They embraced the pizza to an extent found nowhere else.  You can get all versions of pizza here that you can get anywhere else, except one.  And that one version is Deep Dish Pizza (henceforth DDP).

To some, DDP is an extreme that borders on the obscene.  But Chicago did not invent DDP as an extreme; instead it was a carefully crafted feast to be enjoyed locally, without fanfare.  There is an elegance in its execution, whether it’s made for 2 people or 16.

The DDP is an orgy of fragrance, flavor, and textures.  You can have your crispy ingredients on top.  You can have an oodle of melty cheese, you can have thin slices of sausage, or the entire sausage!  You can have a thin and crispy crust, or a thick and spongy crust – possibly even at the same time!

Finally, what does our pizza party tell us here?  That the Italians are confident in their abilities, they stick with their values, and consistently make a fine pizza.  That Americans know what they will settle for, mass produced mediocrity, convenience and cost.  New Yorkers?  That they are willing to brand almost anything their own, with passion.  And Chicago?  No fear, and no bravado.  Do they make mistakes?  Yes; it’s very possible to get a poorly made DDP in Chicago.  But it’s almost impossible to get a decent DDP outside of Chicago.

Now excuse me.  I need to find me a slice!

[1] Full disclosure here.  I love love love pizza!  And I can’t accept the possibility that someone somewhere may not.  In all fairness, I prefer any type of great pizza, but I think you know where this article may be headed.

[2] Pie?  Doesn’t this confuse things with such American staples as Apple pie and Pumpkin pie?  But that’s New York for you.  They’ve never had a true Apple or Pumpkin tradition, so their “pie” is all their own.  Sad.