National Pizza Day

February 9th is National Pizza Day in the USA.

A National Pizza day in USA is not really surprising because over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year. 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias and it is estimated that 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”

The USA makes the extravagant claim that it makes the best pizza in the World and specifically from New York but  surely the finest pizza must come from come from Italy.  Maybe New York has a claim to make because at 15% the Italians are the largest ethnic group in that city.

Back to Italy.  Legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy gave her name to the most famous pizza of all on a visit to Naples 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 and she would chose her favourite. Like a judge on a cookery TV programme she decided upon the patriotic version, prepared in the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella) and this became the Pizza Margherita.

Everyone in Naples eats pizza, I have never seen so many pizza restaurants in one place, I tried to work out how many pizzas might be eaten here in a single day but I found the number to be so big it was incalculable and I feared that my head might possibly explode.

Interestingly I cannot see that Italy has a National Pizza Day. Maybe the reason why is this. 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!

Perhaps not so hard to understand when you discover that the National dish of Norway is something called fårikål – a dubious combination of boiled cabbage, sliced potato and sheep head meat. Norway doesn’t have a National Pizza Day or understandably a National Fårikål Day. It does have a National Day on 17th May each year which seems to cover just about everything including pizza and fårikål.

When I was a boy growing up I am certain that we had a version of lamb stew but we certainly didn’t have pizza!

We had never heard of moussaka, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine. There was absolute 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, rice was only ever used in puddings and olive oil for removing ear wax.

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.

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 because pineapple on a pizza is just plain wrong.

And, I am not the only one who thinks this way; in 2017, the President of Iceland, Guðni Jóhannesson said that he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizzas.

In his words…

“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.”

Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made only 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.

Pizza should be kept simple but sadly it is not only pineapple that is used to spoil it.

Canada joins in on USA Pizza Day and I nominate this Poutine (chips, 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 ”.

In Naples we stumbled upon an excellent pizzaria down a predictable untidy back street and went downstairs into the restaurant. Good job we were early because within half an hour it was heaving with customers. The food was cheap, the house wine was served in a jug and I would like to tell you that I had a classic Margherita but I can’t because I added ham, olives and artichokes to the topping.

We cannot go to Naples right now of course so have to settle for the next best thing. Last year I bought a pizza stone and Kim has become a bit of an expert at preparing the Italian classic, making the dough from Italian flour and preparing the toppings from ALDI. The stone works well in a regular oven by absorbing the heat and doubling the oven temperature. This process probably does enormous damage to the oven but it makes great pizza. Check out your house insurance policy before using it is my advice.

This is our favourite, thin crust tomato, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto ham and artichokes…

This may look like a pizza but it is in fact a jellyfish and it is important not to get them confused.

So, what is your favourite pizza?

57 responses to “National Pizza Day

  1. What surprises me is that they call it NATIONAL Pizza day. They call their local Basketball and Gridiron as WORLD Series. In fact so many local series are called “World” series. It is almost as if they don’t know that there are other countries in the world. Unless there’s a revolution to be defeated.
    Best is Super Supreme: pepperoni, smoked leg ham, smoked chorizo, mushroom, white onion, kalamata olives, capsicum, pineapple, all topped with mozzarella, oregano and garlic olive oil.

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  2. I think our household used the same table rules as yours I wonder if your vegetables were cooked to a pulp too?

    I have a favourite tiny takeaway place in Otley- they don’t deliver and have only just begun to take cards (since Covid). I tend to choose ham and mushroom (never pineapple) and I never eat pizza in restaurants.

    The other day, at the local garage when topping up the car with diesel, on a whim I picked up a frozen pizza, double cheese, At £2.00 it was good value and one of the nicest I’d ever tasted.

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  3. Like yo, I had my first pizza in Italy, in Florence. Sold by weight,which I found a little strange, but every pizza since has been a pale imitation.

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  4. Yes, my first pizza was in Italy too, when I worked as an au pair in Florence. And the simplicity of a Margherita still tends to win out. You mentioned ALDI. I’m sure it was there that I saw a baked bean pizza ….(reader, I did not buy it)

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  5. Pepperoni pizza and a pitcher of beer was the best combination there; of course the best pizza is from New York City!! Here we have gone to Luxembourg city to find it!! In my town now we have the champion pizzolo of France!! yeah!

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  6. Pizza is Italian…how can the US claim they make the best, ehh? I enjoyed reading this post!

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  7. My favourite is thin-crusted marinara. I’m with you on the pineapple, it has no place on pizza. Making pizza is surprisingly easy and it looks from the photos as if Kim has mastered the art without a wood-fired oven. My first pizza was in 1973 on holiday in Sicily. However, my mother was a fantastic cook and regularly cooked all manner of “foreign” dishes. Indeed, my popularity at school was due to my mother’s cooking as school mates hoped to score an invite.

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  8. I have only come to appreciate pizzas in recent years. This is because those on offer in my youth were such pitifully scrawny things. Anything hot and spicy does me. A real favourite is Calzone – probably because it looks like a giant Cornish pasty. Nicolino’s in Emsworth does an excellent one.

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  9. I don’t think I had pizza until the mid 1990s.

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  10. Happy National Pizza Day, Andrew! Pizza is an interesting topic and food. Just think of all the variations – so all pizza is not created equal. Besides, the eater has different preferences. I like to think that the odds of getting bad pizza are very slim because chances are that it is going to be tolerable. But the question of the best? Tough one because of the variations. Being good, that is better than average is quite the accomplishment in itself, but determining the best would be quite the challenge.

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  11. My favourite is the basic Margarita, best eaten in Italy of course.
    And do you remember that back in the day olive oil was bought from the chemist, not from a Deli? I never had stuff from tins growing up and I longed for the tinned tomatoes and tinned beans my school-friends had, plus bread bought from the shop. We had freshly bought and cooked food – even though it was cooked until mushy – and the bread was home made. I didn’t know how lucky I was!

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  12. This comment may not go down well with everyone. Original Italian pizzas may be one thing, but these days, with curry pizzas, Chinese food pizzas, breakfast pizzas, God-knows-what pizzas, it’s become a meal whereby you are forced to eat the plate as well as the food! Where did I have my first pizza? Absolutely no idea!

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    • In my opinion best to keep it simple. I also don’t like stacked burgers which you can’t eat without dismantling it or fish and chips with the fish served on top of the chips so you have to rearrange the food on the plate before you can eat it.

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  13. Andrew, with such a predictable menu growing up, once you went out into the world and started discovering what was out there, food must have been an adventure unto itself! I love real pizza, and agree with you on toppings. Great that Kim has been perfecting a homemade one. I make pizzas at home a lot, and use them to get rid of leftovers, so none of my home baked pies resemble anything classic. I toss on any scraps I can find in the fridge: chicken, corn, chopped broccoli, leftover pasta sauce… Grate some cheese on top and viola!

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  14. In our household we knew which day it was from the dinner, but my mum did make a decent curry, taught by her mother who lived in India for a time. Other than that spaghetti came from a tin until I was about 17 and made proper spag bol. My first pizza came from an Italian Pizza restaurant that opened in Wakefield around 1969 and I had some great very basic pizzas in southern Italy – just a few toppings and a very thin crispy crust. We have a pizza stone too and I make our pizzas now. A favourite is ham, mushroom and mascarpone with rocket scattered on top (after taking it out of the oven) or pepperoni, jalapeños and mozzarella – with anchovies for me. Thin crust is best.

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  15. Just picking up on the International Stores thread, with a bit of trivia. They were acquired by Gateway (remember them?) who were then taken over by Safeway, who closed most of the smaller stores. Safeway themselves have now been absorbed into Morrisons, who probably wish they still had the chain of smaller stores, given what Tesco and Sainsburys have subsequently done!!

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  16. I love the fact that it is National Pizza Day today, Andrew. Peggy and I weren’t even aware of it! But we had planned on ordering a pizza today. We are over on the coast again. Most meals we prepared before we left, including a delicious corn chowder recipe that Peggy put together. But we always like to do take-out at least once when we are on the road. Eating in is out, because of Covid. There is a great pizza restaurant here called Wild River.They have a great variety including Pizza Margherita. Their menu includes shrimp pizzas, Mexican pizzas, chicken pizzas and on and on. They even have one with sauerkraut. We are going for the smoked sausage today. As for pineapple, I’m with you. –Curt

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  17. I started salivating at the very first picture! I would generally go for a simple Margarita or a pizza fungi. As thin as possible. I think the best I have ever eaten definitely were in Italy, but John is our resident pizza chef and does a pretty good job too. Just thinking, I bought a pizza stone and John makes the pizzas. You bought a pizza stone and Kim makes the pizzas. Not daft, are we?

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  18. Margherita pizza tastes good.

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