National Pizza Day in the USA

53 Naples Pizza

“Hey Mom, they have pizza in Italy too!”  American tourist family overheard in Rome

February 9th in the USA is National Pizza Day. 

First, the facts…

… Over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year, 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias, including Italy at World Showcase at Disney World at EPCOT and around about three hundred and fifty pizza slices are eaten every second. Pepperoni is the most popular pizza at just over one-third of all pies ordered.

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s Amore” (Harry Warren/Jack Brooks)

pizza-tonight-when-the-moon-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-h2cg4e

When I was a boy growing up we didn’t have pizza!

For my Mum preparing food took up a lot of every day because there were no convenience meals and everything had to be prepared from scratch.  There was complete certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods at all, no pasta or curries and rice was only ever used in puddings.

The main meal of the week was Sunday dinner which was usually roast beef, pork or lamb (chicken was a rare treat and a turkey was only for Christmas) served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, which for some reason mum always called batter puddings, and strictly only seasonal vegetables because runner beans weren’t flown in from Kenya all year round as they are today.

We had never heard of moussaka, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine; Monday was the best of the left-over meat served cold with potatoes and on Tuesday the tough bits were boiled up in a stew (we would call that bouef bourguignon now) and on Wednesday what was left was minced and cooked with onions and served with mash and in this way one good joint of meat provided four main meals with absolutely no waste.  Thursday was my personal favourite, fried egg and chips and Friday was my nightmare day with liver or kidneys because I liked neither (and still don’t!)  I complained so much about this that later I was allowed the concession of substituting sausage for liver but I was still obliged to have the gravy (which I didn’t care for much either) on the basis that ‘it was good for me!’

If we had been Catholics then we would have had fish I suppose but we didn’t have things out of the sea very often except for fish fingers.

I can still remember my very first pizza and I consider myself fortunate that it was in Italy, in 1976, my first ever overseas holiday when I visited Sorrento with my dad.

Centro Storico Naples

It was lunchtime and because we were in Naples we had to visit a pizzeria because Naples is the home of the dough based, tomato topped classic.  Legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy gave her name to the famous pizza on a visit there in 1889. Tired of French gourmet cooking (as you might well be) she summoned the city’s most famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, and asked him to bake her three pizzas – of which, prepared in the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella) the simple and patriotic version was her favourite.

A lunchtime pizza stop in Rome…

Pizza Stop in Rome

Today, authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made with local produce and have been given the status of a ‘guaranteed traditional speciality’.  This allows only three official variants: pizza Marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil.

I became an immediate fan of the Italian classic and all of its variants just so long as it doesn’t have pineapple on it.  And, I am not the only one who thinks pineapple is wrong on pizza; in February 2017, the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said  and he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizzas.  He said…

“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not (unfortunately) have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza.  For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”

Interestingly I cannot see that Italy itself has a National Pizza Day!

Maybe because in terms of pizza consumption per population Italy is only fifth in the World.   Fourth is Germany, third is the UK, second is the USA but first is NORWAY!  I can understand that, if I lived in Norway I would eat cheap pizza because Norway is amongst the most expensive places to live in the World.

Canada joins in on Pizza Day and I nominate this Poutine (fried potato, gravy and cheese curds) Pizza as probably the worst ever variation on the famous pie.  If we had ever had pizza at home and my mum served this up I can guarantee that I would be there twenty-four hours later listening to her repeat over and again – “you are not leaving the table until you have eaten all of your dinner” or, on rare occasions that I could wear her down…” one more mouthful and you can get down” and just to make it clear that didn’t include “I don’t want to eat this shit”.

poutine-pizza

Happy National Pizza Day USA  and Canada and Australia too, I believe – have an extra slice for me (no pineapple preferred).

pineapple-pizza

 

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51 responses to “National Pizza Day in the USA

  1. I’ve found information about pizzas interesting. I hosted two Italian girls for three weeks an eon ago. They made a pizza for me while I was at work and they were between city tours. Would you believe this unknown is authentic?
    The girls were 14 and 15. The pizza they produced to my consternation was not one to them. Can you believe a potato pizza? Yes, dough and thinly sliced potatoes. It WAS tasty but missed the mark. Veggies please. 🙂

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  2. Thanks Andrew, you had me laughing at breakfast time. I can so relate to your waste nothing menu. I remember vividly the first time my mum cooked macaroni cheese – still my favourite dish and known as my signature (only) dish. I also remember how I hated Smash and frozen mixed vegetables! Brilliant post as usual.

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  3. There’s quite a difference in pizzas between the east and west coasts here. I grew up back east and there’s nothing that compares with a pizza in NY. I make do with the ones they have here out west. Wish I could try some real pizza in Italy. The potato pizza sounds pretty good, too.

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    • I rather like the idea of a potato pizza, I am going to give it a try. I imagine East Coast pizzas are more like the real thing!

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      • Yes, thin-crust East Coast pizzas tend to reflect the original Italian-style pizzas more than, say, Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, which are delicious if less authentic.

        West Coast pizzas tend to be more inventive and feature the fresh veggies and fruits available there.

        Personally, I used to like a taco pizza from a pizzeria not known for authenticity. The fresh salsa, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes helped offset the refried beans of an otherwise heavy food. (And I love Mexican food, authentic and not!) I don’t think they make them any more.

        The best pizza, though, was one I had on Sardinia. It was an anchovy pizza, strangely enough. (No one wants anchovies on a pizza, let alone a pizza that specifically features them!) I didn’t recognize it as pizza at first because it didn’t have a tomato-based sauce, but there is no doubt it had a thin crust and was just plain delicious!

        Your description of meals when you were a kid was identical to my upbringing in America, probably because my mother was a first generation American of Scottish parents. Though my mother made delicious liver with onions and gravy, I was happy to learn it wasn’t the best way to get the minerals and vitamins it provides. Once I realized that (and the fact it is a filter of nasty stuff in one’s blood), I cheerfully dropped it from my diet. LOL!

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      • Thanks for the contribution. I quite like anchovies so I can see how they work on a pizza.

        I will be happy if I never eat liver ever again.

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      • Never having had “the real thing”, I still suspect you’re right. Still… I wouldn’t want to give up my Pacific beaches. Perhaps a potato pizza might be a substitute.

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  4. Surely pizzas in the US aren’t the real deal? For a start, the Italian Pizza crust is thin…the US version is thick…

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  5. I remember my first pizza in 1976, as it happens,, in Florence. Your British menu is very accurate. I can well remember that idea of the same things on the same day.

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    • When I left home and had my first house in 1977 I continued to do it as a sort of habit.
      I went to Pizza Express in Giltbrook last weekend. Good Pizza but very expensive and the place was full of mad people who had gone shopping. I swear half of Nottingham was in the car park.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love that quote at the beginning of your post! I was lucky enough to go to Di Michele in Naples, which is supposed to be the best in the world. I’ve heard they’ve just opened a 2nd branch in London, so next time I’m down there I’ll give it a go. I remember queuing for over an hour to get a shared table, but the pizza was simple and definitely the best (and cheapest) I’ll ever have.

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  7. Another fun and informative post, Andrew, and I regret to admit that meals were not dissimilar in our house. 🙂 No, definitely no pineapple on my ham, thanks.
    More significant here as my daughter’s 4th wedding anniversary 🙂

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  8. I was surprised at the pizza takeaways in Italy. Really good. Totally different. And eating in too. I’m not sure why I was surprised!

    And as for the table? Once I had left a clean plate, I could say, ‘Please may I leave the table now mummy?’ I was given dispensation for mushrooms, smoked bacon, broad and runner beans though. All of which I later liked. Broad beans took a while mind. Say forty years.

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    • Broad beans take some getting used to I agree, the same with sweetcorn, I have never liked either! I was also a late convert to mushrooms. Don’t like anything smoked. The fear of liver and kidneys could have turned me vegetarian – both taste absolutely offal!

      I do like Pizza but there is a tendency to over complicate the toppings, best to keep it simple. I love those takeaway Pizza places in Italy and also in Malta.

      How is the BREXIT debate going in Gibraltar?

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      • I do like sweetcorn. Sometimes.
        Picky eater aren’t you!
        I loved kidneys, especially rabbit ones. We never had liver and bacon, always liver with onions, very tender, whichever one of calves or lambs wasn’t like old rope. The offering at school was abysmal.
        I don’t even like cheese on pizza, tend to make tomato sauce/base plus veg and olives. Not that I’ve made one for ages. Agree simple is better.
        No idea on Brexit debate here. Everyone is just sick of the scammy govt. Plus ça change.

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      • “Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.” – James Joyce
        How disgusting is that for a menu!

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      • Not sure about the urine but if I weren’t veg it wd prob suit. Used to love a mixed grill breakfast: minute steak, lamb chop, bacon, kidney, sweetbread, tomato, mushroom.
        Never eaten heart. Or brains. Or gizzards. Eat animals? Why is one bit worse than another? Indian stuffed peppers today with a cheesy onion mix and mashed pot topping plus tomatoey sauce. Much easier.
        Morries has no shortage of pesticide veg, just organic ones. Two packs of red pimientos were snaffled by Partner today. Hence stuffed red peppers.

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      • Stuffed pepper is one of my favourites. Do you run an egg through the rice filling? I really like that!

        My granddad used to eat tripe and onions – the very sight of it made me queasy! Have you ever seen how they prepare tripe? The amount of effort involved to produce something inedible is truly staggering!

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      • No rice. Cheese flour onion herb mix, topped with mashed potato spiced with ginger garlic lemon cumin seeds. Sauce afghan is tomato onion fennel coriander yoghurt. Well, think that’s what I’ve cooked!
        Tripe! Oh nos. Tried it once. It just expands in your mouth. Ab. So. Lutely. Vile. Vilissimo.
        Used to be a freebie on the bars at Sunday lunchtimes in Yks. No idea why as the vinegar would ruin the beer.
        I think being a vegetarian could suit you 😉

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      • Sounds bloody lovely, I am going to nick that recipe. Enjoy!

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      • It is good. Might post it up as I’ve taken a pic of the peppers waiting to be cooked. Like anything Indian, it involves pans(to be eashed up) and time though … 🍅🌶

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      • Those pizzas with lots of toppings, here in the USA, often are called “garbage pizzas” informally! (Or “supreme pizzas”, on the presumption that more is best, a classic American misconception.)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Pizza for dinner tonight then ……. although it’s never as good as in Italy! No pineapple for me either.

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    • I have got a garlic pizza bread to go with the spaghetti bolognese.

      Pineapple is a weird ingredient to put on a pizza topping, in Australia they apparently add kangaroo meat which is just as peculiar but most bizarre is Sweden where they add peanuts and banana!

      Which is your favourite?

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  10. I like the list of foods we had never heard of. Covenience food for me was a tinned Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney pudding. Fish fingers and beefburgers were new. I first saw yoghurt around 1970 (Ski), which reminds me of the Alpen advert which showed people skiing (what’s this muesli stuff?). It was adventurous to try Heinz spaghetti hoops, or a Vesta curry, risotto or chow mein with crispy noodles. Wine was rare. The only cheese we had was Dairylee triangles. There were still a lot of people around like the Bernard Hill character in the 1989 Shirley Valentine film who would have dismissed all these new foods as “foreign muck”. Even the Abigail’s Party satire of these social changes was dated as late as 1977.

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    • I still like those Fray Bentos pies!
      Yoghurt was as wild as a Continental Duvet.
      We were never allowed beef burgers.
      Thanks for your contribution.
      I am heading to Yorkshire next week for a couple of days with the grandchildren – Blitzkrieg!

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  11. Isn’t Norway or Scandinavia anyway the biggest eater of ice cream too? Perhaps there is a parallel?

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  12. I am a fan of Italy and the Italian cuisine, but it seems that the common rule “don’t eat in touristic places” is also applicable for Italy. Unfortunately.

    A very tasty post, Andrew.

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  13. Nice blend of stories here: the current event, different cultures, and stories from your childhood. I really enjoyed hearing about your weekly food routine. From the way you tell the story, it sounds like once you discovered variety, there was no going back. We rarely had pizzas when I was young, too, because it was “restaurant food” and we couldn’t afford to eat out most of the time. But these days I make my own pizza. It’s a great vehicle for getting rid of leftovers. Just clean out the fridge, spread the stuff on top of dough with sauce, sprinkle some cheese, viola! I suspect Italians would not call my leftover concoction “pizza.”

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  14. What a great trip back to meal memories, Andrew. I hated cooked dinners. Always tried hiding my veg under the mashed potato. We always had fish and chips from the chippy on a Friday and I always loved covering everything on the plate in curry sauce. I still do that to this day whenever we get fish and chips. On a Sunday, dessert was usually one of those sponge puddings that my mother had to boil in the can. Do you remember those?

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    • I do remember them Hugh but I don’t think we ever had them. My mum always made her own monster puddings, Jam Sponge, Spotted Dick, Bread and Butter and great dollops of thick custard.
      I remember now trying to hide bits of the food usually under the knife and fork!

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  15. I am a pizza fan, Andrew! And I have been eating it for many, many years. The first time may have well been in Italy in 1967. Did they even have pizza way back then? One of my all-time favorites is Chicago Deep Dish pizza. I am with you on the pineapple rule. I can also skip the anchovies. –Curt

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  16. I still remember my best pizza in Italy. It was in Tivoli and it was street pizza.

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