Pizza… Can you remember a time without it?
It seems like it has been around forever. It is one of the few foods that has successfully invaded both fast food and gourmet establishments alike. Ask a child what they want for dinner and 8 times out of 10 you’ll get an enthusiastic “PIZZA!” Its ongoing success seems to have something to do with its continuous ability to evolve. The pizza I see advertised today barely resembles the pies we shared with our parents when we were younger.
There are an infinite number of combination for today’s pizzas. Chicago deep dish, New York thin crust, Detroit pan… the list goes on, not even mentioning all of the specialty styles out there.
Every crust also has its own way of being prepared and cooked too. Wood fired pizza oven at 900 degrees, convection ovens, grills for some of the ultra-thin crust pies, and don’t even get me started on the pizza stone.
Different pizzas mean different supplies. Each crust takes a different method of preparation. Special pans for a Chicago style deep dish, greased with lard or butter, makes for caramelized cheese around the edges. A large square or rectangular pan is used for the Sicilian styled thick crust. Flat pans are for the Romana style thin crust (normally 3 feet long!). Then, no pan is used at all for the grilled flat bread pizzas.
Even after style and crust is determined we have to start thinking about what goes on top. Nothing is off limits these days. Don’t like marina sauce? How about a white sauce with garlic? Traditional sauce? With so many variations I don’t even know what traditional means anymore. Cheese or sauce first? Both work! White sauce was not even thought of 20 years ago, now it is main stream. Pesto, Tapenade, Muhammara, Gremolata, Olive oil and even Barbecue sauces can all be found at your favorite pizzeria.
After the sauce is chosen, now it is time for the final toppings. I still like the old school meats and veggies, but, evolution has left me behind. Chicken with garlic, spinach with tomato slices, I have even seen taco pizzas. Greens like kale and spinach seem to be what is in fashion these days… healthy pizza? Who knew? What I can tell you is that fresh ingredients always work best. Take your time, pick the best ingredients, and have some fun with it. The point being, IF IT TASTES GOOD, USE IT! Match your topping to the sauce, and your sauce to the crust. A mixture of flavors that work well together will make your pizza the best.
I like to think that if Raffaele Espotito was around today, he would be happy to see how his gift to the Queen of Consort, Margherita of Savoy, has grown into one of the most beloved foods in the world, and how it continues to evolve with the changing world.
As for me? I’ll be down at the local pizzeria trying to figure out what mutton is and why it would ever be put on a pizza.