THAT'S NOT A PIZZA! You hear this kind of thing all the time. People are always declaring what is and isn't a pizza based on some geographic or personal bias. Chicago deep-dish pizza is probably the one style of pie most often slammed with this kind of judgment. There are biases against Hawaiian pizza (understandably), white pizza, Domino's pizza--the challenges to pizzahood are endless. I know one curmudgeon who goes on vitriolic rants against grilled pizza. Why? Just because it's baked on a grill instead of in an oven? Some of the best pizzas I've ever made have come off a charcoal grill.
Here's the problem: pizza has always been an evolutionary food stuff. What we eat today in the U.S. only somewhat resembles what they serve in Naples, the birthplace of pizza. What is recognized as the first tomato & cheese pizza was an evolution from previous pies that didn't feature that pairing. There are plenty of flatbread-based victuals around the world that may or may not have influenced the pizza.
There is no one definitive style of pizza. There's the style of pizza that you love. But to slam a style of pie because it doesn't match your narrow definition of what constitutes a pizza is a really bad idea and shoots you in the foot.
Example: I've never been fond of white pizza. A few years back, we'd made the pilgrimage to Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, often regarded as the best pizzeria in the U.S. We sat at the bar (which is often a good way to stem the wait and get seated more quickly). Instead of ordering off the menu, I told the bartender, "Just tell Chris to make whatever he wants." If Chris Bianco is the best pizzaiolo in the country, why not let him decide what's best for me in his restaurant?
The pizza that showed up is something I never would have ordered based on the description: a white pizza with red onion, house-made sausage and rosemary. I took a bite. My eyes rolled back in my head. My wife hates rosemary. I said, "You need to try this." She did. Her eyes rolled back in her head.
But how many people would have made a snap judgment and said, "That's not a pizza!" and not even bothered to try it?
Virtually any style pizza has something to recommend it. I'm no fan of California Pizza Kitchen. Sensational toppings are the focus with a lack of care for the crust. Barbecued chicken pizza? Blech. But it's all evolutionary. And there are some interesting directions those pizzas take. As non-traditional as it is, the BLT pizza is actually pretty good.
All this to say: allow your definition of pizza to be not so narrowly defined, and you might be pleasantly surprised at where it takes you.
Blaine Parker is the award-winning author of the new, unusual and amusing how-to pizza book, Free The Pizza. Also known as The Pizza Geek and "Hey, Pizza Man!", Blaine is fanatical about the idea that true, professional-quality pizza can be made at home. His home. Your home. Anyone's home. After 20 years of honing his craft and making pizza in standard consumer ovens across the nation, he's sharing what he's learned with home cooks like you. Are you ready to pizza?
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