Frankly, I never tire of pizza. Different crusts. Different toppings. It’s all good. However where can you find true pizza?
Pizza is just one food legacy handed down from the Greeks over two milennia years ago. The early version was called plankuntos, a flatbread more like today’s focaccia bread and used like an edible plate to sop up juicy foods. We need to fast-forward into the late 19th century and Naples to find the genesis of “real” pizza. In my opinion, the very best pizza of all-time resulted from a chance visit by the Queen of Italy to Naples. A local pizzaioli (pizza maker) created one in her honor that contained the three colors of the Italian flag – red from tomato, white of the mozzarella, and the green of fresh basil. With this inspiration, the seminal Margherita pizza was born. As Italians began to immigrate into the US during first decades of the 20th century, pizza came with them. In those early years it was confined to the emigrant enclaves in east coast cities, and the majority of Americans saw it as food for the lower classes. However, when the GI’s returned home after liberating Italy in WWII they also liberated their fellow citizens of pizza prejudice. The soldiers brought the taste for a food they loved back home, and the pizza craze quickly spread across the continent.
Sadly, it’s hard to find a Margherita pizza made in the cookie-cutter, mini-mall chain pizzerias of today. It seems the American idea that “more is better” has added nearly every topping imaginable onto pizza. Still, the perfect pizza, made with just these key ingredients – olive oil, fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and whole basil leaves on a thin crust – can be found in at least two places. One place I recently visited where these old-school ways are practiced is in New York. Lombardi’s was founded by emigrants in 1905 and has never changed their menu. A recent addition to my list, and you may have caught their review on the Travel Channel, is a new-world pizzeria paying homage to the old-world style. Named Apizza Scholls and located in Portland Oregon, they have replicated the style using the freshest, pure, and most importantly, only the key ingredients.
I’m sure there are others who continue creating these pies. If you’re aware of one, please do us a favor and add to this list.
http://www.apizzascholls.com/ Portland, OR
http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=3825 New York, NY
Written by Steve Smith and Christine Johnson