Pizza has always been America’s favorite food. It’s been the subject of movies, books, and songs. Pizza is not only a food of sustenance, but for some has become an obsessive delight. And for many fans, pizza is a sheer and utter passion. Pizza debate brings on an endless thirst for argument that cannot be easily quenched with just a slice or two.
People discuss their favorite pizzerias with the same emotionally charged energy as they would discuss politics or their favorite sports team. Pizza has become so entrenched into the culture that it is easy to forget that it was once simply peasant food. Pizza was, for many years, enjoyed by the lower echelons of society who could afford little else.
For most of pizza’s long and romantic history it was a regional dish. The great pizza in New York stayed in New York. The inside secrets of the best New York pizzas remained in the boroughs and neighborhoods where it was created. There would be an occasional newspaper or magazine article. Television and radio reporters would sporadically discuss pizza on regional and local venues. However, unless you visited New York, these insider pizza secrets remained mysteries to the rest of the country.
The pizza in New Haven stayed in New Haven. Frank Pepe began making pizza in 1925. Sally’s founded by Frank Pepe's, nephew, Salvatore Consiglio, came into being a decade later. Modern Apizza, also in New Haven developed their own brick oven masterpieces. Up the road in Derby, Connecticut, Roseland Apizza had created their own brand of
incredible pizza, independent of anyone else.
Most people outside of New Haven were clueless to the pizza being created there. This was true for most of the residents of the entire state. Most Connecticut residents had never thought of traveling to New Haven to eat pizza. And why would they? They had their own great pizza, or so they thought.
And so it had been across the country. State by state, region by region. From the East Coast to the Heartland. From the Deep South to the West Coast. From Chicago to LosAngeles, from Portland to Louisiana. Pizza made in a region stayed in that region. There was no cross over. No sharing of pizza ideas.
The only way you discovered regional pizza was by knowing someone who lived there or by traveling yourself to a particular area and searching it out. Other than that, pizza was regionalized and remained hidden and undiscovered.
This was true not only of the United States but across the entire planet. Pizzerias in Italy, all of Europe, and other continents hid their pizza secrets to all but the fortunate residents and random traveler.
However, things were about to change. Enter the great game changer. The Big Kahuna of Information was about to turn regional pizza into a global point of argument and dialogue.
The floodgates of the great pizza symposium were opened. The Internet was the single biggest catalyst to educate, inform, and open the debate of how to make and where to find great pizza. The earth had truly become a global pizza village. Now various countries, regions, cities, and towns were able to showcase their own marvels of pizza.
Slowly at first, websites were created. Here and there pizza was discussed. Pizza making secrets were shared. People became aware of pizza in other areas. Pizza Forums and blogs picked up the banner. And today you will find hundreds and hundreds of pizza related websites, blogs, and discussion forums. All of these information portals share insights and knowledge about pizza.
Finally pizza lovers across the globe had a common voice. Pizza was given a common arena of deliberation and examination.
And we are just getting started. More pizza blogs and websites are created daily. All with their own unique pizza perspective, individual recommendations, pizza picks and pans. The pizza debate continues.
I don’t want to discount the many books that assisted in the process of promoting the joys of pizza. Certainly, Peter Reinhart’s American Pie, My Search for the Perfect Pizza fueled the fire of pizza information. Ed Levine created a masterpiece with A Slice of Heaven. Penny Pollack and Jeff Ruby with their pizza tribute Everybody Loves Pizza also made a huge statement.
(Shameless plug: to purchase these books and a video review, go to: http://pizzatherapy.com/pizzabooks.htm )
However, the Internet hugely assisted with the promotion of these books and allowed for more seasoned debate about pizza. Now you did not have to go out to purchase a book. If you found one you liked, you could just order it online and have delivered right to your door.
As much as the Internet did to create knowledge about countless unknown pizzerias, it became a way to show people how to make pizza. For the first time pizza fans could learn recipes and techniques from home. They could discuss and even ask questions. And if that weren’t enough the advent of video allowed fans to learn pizza making by seeing it demonstrated in front of their eyes. And if they missed something the first time around, they could watch it again and again.
Some of the pizza information was free, while others (myself included) created their own pizza e-books for sale.
There were a number of pizza fans who decided to take pizza making to the next level by opening their own pizzerias. I have been shocked and surprised at the number of world class pizzaioli who revealed to me that they first learned pizza making from the Internet.
This has happened to me on a number of occasions. I arrived at a pizza restaurant, looking forward to a classic pizza. I had the pizza, loved the pizza, and when I asked the owner where they learned to make pizza they proudly declared: they learned all about pizza making directly from the Internet.
And so that’s how the Internet changed Pizza History. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
Note from Peter: Albert's website, www.pizzatherapy.com was one of the very first of its kind and I still proudly wear my Pizza Therapy tee-shirt all the time (with it's great catch phrase, "Pizza on Earth; Goodwill to All"). If you haven't already been to the site, do check it out. Albert has done a lot for pizza makers everywhere simply by sharing his love and passion for his (and our) favorite food. Thanks Albert!! We look forward to future posts from you.