Hundreds of delicious dishes have landed on the shores of America. Most faded into obscurity, and many became a favorite, such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, etc.
But then, there arrived a resurgence of an ancient dish with specific ingredients that seemed to have been more of an idea, rather than a dish. We call it the “pizza,” as coined by the Italians who took the idea and developed it into a feisty, tasty dish.
There are references to the dish all the way back to the sixth century B.C. Let’s use the definition by Marcus Porcius (234-149 B. C.). He was an elder who wrote the first history of Rome. He wrote about a “flat, round of dough baked on stones and dressed with olive oil, herbs, and honey.” What was the dish called then?
In reading the stories and legends of the pie, it seems that it was just an idea to accomplish a goal that would reach and satisfy the hunger of millions of people during those days.
The pizza arrived on the American shores about 1905, according to stories and legends, and it lay dormant in the Italian societies in New York City. Probably, entrepreneurs discovered the dish sometime after World War II, promoted it and presented it to the nation, and it spread like some contagious virus. The idea literally seemed to have taken over, reproduced and replaced some of the American dishes. I call it an idea because of its simplicity and so different in so many parts of the world.
I was introduced to the pizza in 1955 in New York City, where, at a bar, a friend and I each ordered a beer. Bob ordered a pizza. I had never heard the word “pizza.” The bartender brought out a huge pie, steaming and sizzling with all sorts of goodies on it. I asked Bob how he expected to eat such a large pie.
“Watch me,” he said.
He reached in the pan and pulled out a slice, rolled it up and ate it. I did the same. In 10 minutes, the pie was gone. It was just that delicious and feisty, with a thin crust, melted cheese and that tomatoey taste.
When I returned to my Southern hometown, I tried to find a restaurant that served such a dish. They had never heard of it. The closest I could come to a pizza was at an Italian restaurant, where I was served a hot pancake with melted cheese and topped with cut tomatoes.
There is another version of the pie, one that is prepared in reverse of the one we are so accustomed to and can be found in certain parts of New York City. Called the tomato pie, its cheese is added first, then the toppings, followed by tomato sauce on top.
Just look around right here in Richmond Hill. There are several varieties of pizza. My favorite is the New York pizza with a thin crust, double sauce, cheese topped with pepperoni and, with it, a cold, frosty beer.
The pizza, to me, is a simple, amazing dish today. It is an industry in itself. And yet, it’s only a revived, ancient dish.
Bond lives in Richmond Hill.