When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s September 5. It’s National Cheese Pizza Day!
Most people think of pizza as an Italian dish, but in reality it originated in South Dakota. Oops…make that Greece. Or Rome. Or Persia. Which is to say, its exact origins are unknown. Let’s just say somebody, somewhere, at some time, learned to mix flour with water and cook it on a hot stone. Flat, round bread, baked with toppings and eaten by hand, was viewed as an economical, tasty, and convenient meal fit for a working man. Regardless of where it was invented, pizza had become a popular dish in Italy by the 17th century, especially in Naples, whose residents were brave enough to add tomatoes (which were believed at the time to be poisonous), creating the first “modern” pizza. According to legend, in 1889 King Umberto of Italy was vacationing in Naples with his wife, Queen Margherita. Curious to sample the local cuisine, the King summoned a popular local pizza chef, Raffaele Esposito, who prepared three varieties of his special dish: one with pork fat, cheese, and basil; one with garlic, oil, and tomatoes; and a third with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella (the colors representative of the Italian flag). While all three were delicious, the Queen especially enjoyed the last pizza, which Esposito named a Pizza Margherita in her honor.
Italian immigrants introduced pizza to America in the latter half of the 19th century. The first peddler sold pizza out of a metal washtub he carried on his head, for “2 cents a chew.” Pizzas were originally known as tomato pies back then (and are still called that in parts of the Northeast, such as Trenton, where my family is from; nothing beats a traditional New Jersey tomato pie). Different regions of the country became well-known for their unique pizza styles: Chicago has deep-dish, New York has thin-slice, and Detroit has twice-baked. While toppings can define a pizza – popular ones include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, anchovies, and olives – there is something compelling about a plain slice of cheese pizza. I definitely think it’s holiday-worthy.
To celebrate, we stopped by a local pizzeria, NYC Pizza in Vancouver. They have a lunch special: two slices of cheese pizza and a soda for $5.00. Can’t beat a deal like that! And while they may not be authentically New York in style, they come close. The crust is thin and bendable, at least, and there’s an appropriate amount of grease. Good stuff!