Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pizza -- Comfort Food?


Thai-style Barbecue Chicken Pizza, as served to my son recently, at the Culinary Institute of America


Welshcakes Limoncello had a very informative post on the subject of pizza recently, including a recipe for the Modica variety, which is where she lives in Sicily. It made me think about pizza in general. Since you all know that I am an Italophile you will probably find my thoughts about pizza rather strange.

There is a very good summary of pizza on the Wikipedia site here, where it discusses the original Italian varieties and the different regional varieties in the USA. Frankly my personal experiences with pizza in Italy have led me to prefer American-style pizza.

Yes, blasphemous I know. I even tasted pizza in Italy long before I tasted it in North America, so it's not that I prefer what I tried first. I just don't care for crust so thin and hard it is impossible to cut with a knife and fork, which is how you eat pizza in Italy. It never seemed to be quite round either. Of course each person orders an individual pizza in Italy. Toppings seem to be more limited too.

When I did the home stay with my Italian "family" in Verona for two weeks, Saturday night was take-out pizza night and we all ordered our individual choices. It was recommended that I try one of the regional favourites, Radicchio and Spek. It was perfectly dreadful but I had to manfully eat every last bite because I did not want to offend. I find radicchio a trifle bitter even at the best of times, but cooked on pizza, no thank you. Never again.

One of the best pizzas I have had in Italy was made by my friend Grazia, in Bologna. Pizza bianca. Simple: a very good crust, brushed with olive oil and topped with crushed garlic, rosemary leaves and sea salt and cooked to perfection. Absolutely delicious.

You see, I prefer my pizza with a slightly thicker crust, not bready but thicker than Italian pizza crust. I loathe anchovies so you can leave those off mine. Most other toppings I like. I'll even admit to liking Hawaiian pizza with ham or Canadian bacon and pineapple. So refreshing.

I did find the pizza shown above and served at the Culinary Institute of America rather an odd combination: Thai-style Barbecue Chicken. However my son enjoyed it and saw nothing strange about it at all. It did have a superb crust, as I can attest to, having tried a piece.

Well as to pizza being comfort food, I would have to say yes. There are times when I just long to have pizza. There's a great pizza place near my son's house, on the other side of Vancouver. Carpozzi's Pizza. It's run by a mom and pop Italian couple and the crust is just perfect for me, not too thick to be doughy but not too thin to be hard. Secondo me, la pizza perfetta!

I am truly grateful to the Italians for coming up with something so delicious and I am also grateful to the Americans who took this dish and ran with it. And for the better, in my humble opinion.

25 comments:

MedStudentWife said...

I think you wouldlike the pizzas Fidel & I had in St Maarten... made by a husband & wife team on the French side; a spit from where we were staying.

There will be more on this on my next blog about St Maarten food. I think you would have liked the crust :).. not too thin, yet not thick and doughy,like most North American pizzas.

The last pizza we had has mergez sausage on it...yummy !!

Ian Lidster said...

Why, pizza was what we had in our hotel room last night, and Wendy and I compared pizza notes. I too have had pizza in Italy, and agree with your comments on the teeth challenging hard crusts. We agreed however that the most delectable pizza we'd shared was one we bought from a little joing in Grenoble, France last October. It was truly heavenly.
As an aside from personal taste, the one pizza I detest is Hawaiian, with the pineapple. Love Hawaii, hate the namesake pizza.

Voyager said...

There's nothing like a great pizza, a cold beer, and a classic movie on T.V. There are some fabulous pizza joints out there (Amadeus Pizza on Granville Island; run by a family of Russian immigrants, go figure.) But in my opinion, nothing beats home made. Never exactly the same, depending on what ingedients are around.
V.

Josie said...

JMB, there is a great pizza place at 12th and Arbutus called Napoletana Pizza. Here is a link to their website, and you can check out their menu. I have never had pizza to compare anywhere in Vancouver. Give it a try. You'll love it.

Cheers,
Josie

Tai said...

mmmm foooood....
Not being the biggest pizza fan I'm hard pressed to offer an opinion.
So I won't!
But on the very very rare occasion that I make it, I like to believe that it's the best I've ever tasted. (No, not modest at all. But it is really really good!)

RUTH said...

I prefer a softer, thicker base and cust though must admit my experience of pizza's is limited...only visited my first Pizza Hut this year. As for comfort food....a good old fashioned steak and kidney pudding for me! :o)

Liz said...

I agree with you about disliking the very thin crusts. A good crust is the best bit of the pizza.

Daughter makes a very good pizza.

ipanema said...

I also don't like super thin hard crust. I prefer the American style. Anyway, I think pizza flavours have become regionalised. We have BBQ chicken pizza here as well. I am not sure whose version is it though. :)

There are times I crave for it too. :)

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb and thanks for the link. Why did you think I wouldn't like the post?! I do like radicchio but agree I'd rather not have it on a pizza but I dislike spek and cannot eat anchovies, as you know. I do like Ital crusts, though. I think all sorts of toppings can work but I must admit I was dismayed at the kind of cheeses Americans use on some of their pizze! I'd have liked to try the pizza in the pic!

Vijay said...

I agree with Ipanema that pizza flavours have become regionalised. Check out what we have on offer from the local Domino's - the vegetarian menu & the non-vegetarian menu. I'm not a great fan of pizzas. I think we get only the American variety here. I've had the Peppy Paneer & Spicy Chicken. Both were good.

Janice Thomson said...

I like pizza now and then too but it's awfully high in calorie content so I stay away from it....but an interesting post to be sure Jmb.

Eurodog said...

I once had the idea of making my own pizza. Even bought a special stone. What a mess I made of it! Lunch was not going to happen so we ended up going to our local Ristorante Italiano called da Maria where there is a proper oven and a competent chef.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I'm a Ham and Pepperoni man myself.

Though I do like the Hot and Spicy variety, too.

Lee said...

I like pizza...but it has to be home-made. I like them with anchovies...I like them with pretty much anything. In the last restaurant I cooked in I used to make gourmet pizzas of smoked chicken, asparagus and marinated artichokes and mozzarella...and others with goat's cheese, semi-sundried tomatoes and marinated champignons...I just love the variety of toppings one can use...each to their own choice and taste.

One that really used to bemuse me and I could never come at was a pizza one of my staff on Hinchinbrook Island used to make for herself. Bronny loved baked beans and used to put them on her pizzas!!! Oh! Dear! lol

patterns of ink said...

I was talking with an "ANON" today about comfort food. Was that you?
Hey, if you scroll down my blog a few posts you'll see a picture of our Kippy in our RV. Yesterday, he got a fresh haircut. He's sitting beside me right now. He's become quite the couch buddy.

jmb said...

Hi MSW,
I was in St Maarten last November but doubt I'll be back soon. Sounds perfect to me.

Hi Ian,
Grenoble, the perfect pizza location. Too bad you don't like Hawaiian, although it does sound like an odd combination

Hi Voyager,
I'll have to try Amadeus when I'm next on Granville Island, which is often. I don't make homemade very often.

Hi Josie,
Now this one is close by and very reasonable too. I'll check it out.

Hi Tai,
Why do you make it if you don't like it? Probably on the request of someone who does!

Hi Ruth,
We all seem to have our drathers as far as crust is concerned. Sorry I don't share your love of steak and kidney pie, but I do like a nice beef stew.

Hi Liz,
The crust has to be just right in my opinion. You are lucky to have an inhouse expert

Hi Ipanema,
I don't think there is anywhere that pizza isn't available and loved. I'm sure many cooks have changed it to suit the local tastes.

Hi WCLC, I thought you might think I was criticizing the Italian pizza unfairly. I like many different toppings but some more than others.

Hi Vijay,
Well India has made Pizza regional for sure. I take it you don't have an account at Domino's. I thought that was pretty funny.

Hi Janice,
It is highly caloric but sometimes I have to have it regardless.

Hi Eurodog,
I have the special stone too although I use it for bread as well. I'm quite happy to order out myself because I think you need the special oven.

Hi Crushed,
A meat lover I see. I tend to go for the same one every time. The House special and the Meatlover's special. Both are excellent.

Hi Lee,
Well as a chef your homemade is as good as any store bought I'm sure. I do like lots of different toppings and I love the ones with goat cheese too.

Hi Patterns,
It wasn't me talking about comfort food. I'm never anon. I'll hop over and check Kip out with his new haircut.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting.
regards
jmb

Ellee said...

I think you and Welshcakes have persuaded me that I should make my own pizzas instead of buying them just for convenience. They taste so much nicer, I hope it will turn out as good as yours. I prefer the thin base.

Dr. James P. Holdren said...

What's with this comfort food thing? Welshcakes was on about that too. Is it some secret code between you ladies?

jmb said...

Hi Ellee,
Well buying them is certainly a timesaver for a busy lady such as yourself. I never would buy them from the supermarket but most of the pizza places make acceptable pizza.

Hi James,
Welshcakes is always talking about food, one way or another. I, on the other hand talk about eating out! No collusion between us, well not about food.

Regards to you both
jmb

lady macleod said...

The ONLY place I have pizza is the Upper Crust in Boston usa. It is brilliant1

jmb said...

Hi Lady Mac,
I don't think I'll be in Boston soon but I'll try to remember when I go there again. I do love brilliant pizza.
regards
jmb

Ruthie said...

If you ever get a chance, Lombardi's on Spring Street in Little Italy, New York, has the best pizza you'll ever eat.

And yes, pizza is absolutely comfort food!

jmb said...

Hey Ruthie,
I'll have to remember that as I am in NYC at least once a year. I had pizza for lunch from the Pacific Culinary Institute, a cooking school.
regards
jmb

Norma said...

We've recently returned from Ireland and I was potatoed out, so we had pizza tonight. My first experience with it was 1957, and I didn't like it at all. That photo looks really interesting.

jmb said...

Hi Norma,
No pizza in Ireland? I'm glad you are back in Pizza territory. It surely grows on one.
Thanks for visiting
regards
jmb