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?