While other Catholics, those would be the good Catholics, were eating fish obeying the religious practice of no meat on Fridays, my mom and at least one of us kids were headed down Linden Street for Tony’s to pick up greasy, cheesy, salty, saucy triangular slices of heaven! Usually, two large cardboard boxes were handed over. One contained a pepperoni pie and the other held one topped with sausage, green peppers, and onions. What could be more satisfying, especially after a long week of work and school? And who could really blame us? Pizza is not only one of America’s favorite foods, but it’s revered around the globe! And for good reason.
Fatty, rich, and sweet are components we mortals crave! And pizza has it all! Cheese is fatty, meat is rich, and sauce is sweet. And toppings such as: tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese contain glutamate. When tasted, it makes us want more. Yes, please! Then there’s the caramelization of ingredients commonly scattered over the surface. When they’re heated their flavors intensify and becomes sweeter. And last but not least is the Maillard reaction that happens when pizza is baked. Amino acids in high-protein foods react with the sugars in those foods resulting in downright deliciousness. Think crispy oily pepperoni and bubbly brown cheese. Ooey! Gooey! Truly a delight for our taste buds. And just the whiff of a “za” fresh out of the oven triggers serotonin production in our brains filling us with happy hormones and making our mouths water. Science never tasted and smelled so good!
From my journal: April 22, 2014, Newbury Park, California
“Today is the pizza party for my class..love it when they earn something we can all enjoy! Yum!”
Originating in Naples, Italy, pizza made its way to us over a century ago. The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi in the New York City. Today, the top three chains, Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, and Little Caesars reign supreme with over 17,000 locations across our vast country! Mamma Mia, that’s a lot of pizza pie! And to honor this popular food, National Pizza Day was established on February 9, 2000. Hip Hip Hooray!
FUN PIZZA FACTS
- Pizza is the Italian word for pie.
- The original shape of a pizza was square.
- 350 slices of pizza are consumed every second in the U.S.
- 93% of Americans say they eat pizza at least once a month!
- The number one holiday in which pizza is delivered is….Super Bowl Sunday! The number two spot belongs to Halloween.
- Pizza is most often ordered on Sundays. Least often? Thursdays.
- In 1962 the first frozen pizza Tortino’s hit the market.
- Pepperoni is America’s favorite topping. Anchovies come in last.
- The outer edge of a pizza is called a cornicione.
- The first Pizza ATM debuted in 2016 at Ohio’s Xavier University!
U.S. pizza creations have come a long way since their humble Neapolitan–style beginnings of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Red’s Pizza in Los Angeles sells a Montrose Pie that is covered with bananas and red curry! If you’re familiar with durian, a fruit people often describe as smelling worse than garbage, you might be surprised to find that C Fruit Life in New York City offers a Golden Pillow Pizza with durian and mozzarella cheese. And the top selling pizza at Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza in Manchester, Connecticut is called Skipper’s Dare. Smothered with creamy peanut butter, provolone cheese, and bacon, it pays homage to the owner’s mom.
There are as many toppings, combinations, and styles as there are inventive pizza makers these days. Gianfranco’s in White Plains, New York sells a Tuna Salad Pizza that is a fan favorite. Tuna salad is spread over a baked crust. Then lettuce, tomato, and a secret sauce are layered over the fish. The Crab Pie served at Matthew’s Pizza in Baltimore, Maryland is just as it sounds. Crab meat on top of dough that has been sprinkled with mozzarella and reggianito cheeses, then dusted with Old Bay. Another fishy option goes by the name 7 Fishes Pizza popular at Slice in Philly. It’s really a seafood party on flattened bread! Covered with sautéed clams, mussels, shrimp, tuna, crab meat, anchovies, and sardines, with mozzarella cheese, basil and a squeeze of lemon. The only catch is it’s only available in the month of December.
Now that I am aware of all these types of pizza, there is so much more to choose from and to create. And as far as conforming to no-meat Fridays, now I can have my pizza, and eat it, too!