Any Way You Slice It
By Deborah Cassell
Depending on where you grew up (Naples? New York?) and where you now live (Chicago? L.A.?), pizza takes on a personality as distinctive as the people who call those places home.
Neopolitans who frequent true pizzerias eat their wood-fired tomato-and-basil pizza Margheritas with a knife and fork. Residents of the Big Apple prefer a hand-held, over-size New York-style slice … folded in half for easier eating. Fans of “Da Bears” dig into deep dish pies from Chicago landmarks such as Giordano’s, Pizzeria Uno’s, Gino’s or Lou Malnatti’s (my fave). And iconoclastic, health-conscious Californians opt for thin-crust, gourmet varieties — goat cheese with roasted peppers, for instance. (Visit one of California Pizza Kitchen’s locations nationwide for a sampling.)
At home, experimental pizza makers and kids of all ages enjoy English muffin-, tortilla-, pita-, and Boboli-based creations. But when the urge for a good slice calls, the majority of consumers turn to the freezer case at their local grocery store.
There, national brands such as Freschetta and DiGiorno compete with local favorites such as Chicago’s Home Run Inn, as well as private-label brands, including those produced by Richelieu Foods, Inc. The Braintree, Mass.-based manufacturer’s latest product line is certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture. The results are as tasty as they are pesticide-free. (Turn to this month’s cover story, “Survival of the Freshest,” for details.)
No matter where you spent your youth or now hang your hat, when you think pizza, you most likely credit its creation to a certain boot-shaped Mediterranean country. The Italians may or may not have invented pizza, but they coined the word … and perfected the modern tomato-and-cheese-based pie.
Today, true connoisseurs can spend some dough on a trip to the nation that boasts the best pizza (and gelato) in the world. Alternately, they can turn to 2006 Food Marketing Institute exhibitor ItalPizza, whose thin-crust, wood-fired product is actually imported from Italy and distributed by Sinco. (Visit www.italpizza.it for more information.)
Whatever the origin, toppings or crust style, pizza is a staple of the American diet … any way you slice it. SF&WB
Pizza and The Pix
If you’ve not heard of Mystic Pizza (the frozen pie or the 1988 film starring Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor, with a cameo by a young Matt Damon), then take a trip to your local grocer’s freezer — and stop by Blockbuster while you’re at it — for a tasty, comedic experience.
Dinner and a movie have never had a more symbiotic relationship.
What came first, you might ask, the pizza or the film? Well, the Zelepos family first began offering its so-called “slices of heaven” in 1973 at its pizza shop in Mystic, Conn. It later created a frozen pizza line of the same name based on the family recipe. Current varieties include cheese, pepperoni, supreme and fire-roasted veggie.
Many years later, Los Angeles screenwriter Amy Jones made the local restaurant a landmark with her 1988 film, “Mystic Pizza,” which brought tourists to the East Coast in droves. As a result, in 1991, Mystic Pizza opened a second parlor in nearby North Stonington, Conn.
The Zelepos family probably will never share the secret ingredients in its Mystic Pizza, but fans don’t need it now that they can shop online and in stores for this delicious product. As Leona — the movie’s fictitious restaurant owner — said, “No reservations necessary.”