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  • The first pizzeria in New York is also the first pizzeria in the United States.

  • Lombardi's opened in 1905 just down the street

  • at its original location when Italian immigrant Gennaro Lombardi decided to convert his grocery into a pizza shop.

  • based on the popularity of one of his employees' handmade pies.

  • Now it's a bit of a family problem.

  • But one estimate for the number of pizza shops in the five boroughs is at around 2000,

  • many of them serving and some of them focused on the slice, which

  • incidentally you can't get at Lombardi's, only whole pies here.

  • So we're going to have to go somewhere else.

  • In New York City, this really is something of a staple.

  • I mean, I have heard people describe the New York slice

  • as nothing short of a way of life.

  • Distilled down into this single piece of pizza is the stereotypical New York rush.

  • I want to be served quickly and cheaply.

  • I want to walk and eat and be satisfied and not late for my Idea Channel shoot.

  • Today we're going to talk about many different kinds of pizza,

  • both literal and figurative,

  • back on the Idea Channel set with pizza, literal pizza,

  • because if we're making an episode about it

  • it's a business expense.

  • There's evidence going as far back as ancient Rome, Greece,

  • and Egypt that, as Carol Helstosky says

  • in "Pizza A Global History", people used,

  • quote, "bread as a plate", which is

  • pizza's essential characteristic

  • besides its main toppings,cheese, tomato sauce, and as John Green says, possibly other.

  • Bread as plate, Helstosky says, puts pizza in the same lineage as pita, lavash, and tortilla.

  • But what we would point at and go, mmm, pizza,

  • didn't come together until 18th century Naples, Italy.

  • Considered low class food, Neapolitan pizza,

  • which we may call flat bread or thin crust pizza now,

  • was the first widely recognized marriage of bread, tomato, cheese,

  • and possibly other put into an oven and baked,

  • though the possibly other wouldn't become a craze until the mid 20th century.

  • The tomatoes that are so often the base of a slice or a pie

  • didn't make it to Italy from Central and South America until the mid 16th century.

  • Let's just think about that briefly, a time in Italy without tomatoes.

  • When they arrived, it was thanks to the Colombian Exchange.

  • At first, most Europeans thought tomatoes were poisonous

  • being in the deadly nightshade family of plants.

  • So they were sold as ornaments and decoration

  • until some brave soul somewhere ate one.

  • Mmm. Golden Apple.

  • This puts pizza at a crossroads.

  • Adventurousness and complex economic and cultural trade resulting from colonialism eventually

  • produced a simple, satisfying food with humble origins.

  • Since its start, pizza has depended upon globalization.

  • Trade got the ingredients to Italy.

  • Immigration brought it to America,

  • whose cultural dominance brought it to the world.

  • And at the end of that complex process,

  • its kind of funny to think that we're likely to call something that looks like this fancy pizza.

  • While Neapolitan pizza was rounding out on the Western coast,

  • further south in Palermo, Sicily there was a different square shaped pie in the works.

  • Sicilian pizza is based on focaccia,

  • a thick bread that's often topped with salt, garlic, and herbs.

  • So while it doesn't resemble the iconic pizza emoji,

  • this is still pizza, which is important,

  • because though there are first pizzarias, Lombardi's,

  • L'antica Pizzeria, Port'alba in Naples, it's tough if not impossible to point to a platonic pizza ideal.

  • There's no single original model that all pizza references.

  • The economic climate and poverty stricken population combined with available materials

  • at pizza's genesis to help feed whole families cheaply

  • in a way that was satisfying and nutritional.

  • More so than many other foods beyond its central ingredients,

  • pizza is historically a culinary solution

  • to a particular set of economic, cultural, and dietary conundrums

  • which differ between the communities experiencing them.

  • Pizza may have gone global.

  • But it is, in some sense, always local.

  • Related to the Sicilian slice but distinct

  • is what is often called the grandma slice, which

  • admits something great about pizza that I think we rarely confront explicitly.

  • It involves family, maybe not literally,

  • but gathering around people and sharing a meal with them.

  • I think about this whenever I get a slice from the corner pizza shop.

  • What strangers are eating a slice pulled from the same pie as mine?

  • Who am I, in some distributed and emergent sense, sharing a meal with?

  • Who are my pizza pals, my pie ties, my cheese chums?

  • This is not to say that everything is rosy in the plaza del pizza.

  • There are preferences, allegiances, and animosities,

  • perhaps none more pronounced than that between Chicago and New York.

  • At the heart of the geographically reinforced pie dispute is thickness.

  • New York's pizza is thin like Neapolitan.

  • And Chicago's is deep like Sicilian.

  • Like most things pizza, it's hard to say who did it first.

  • But Pizzeria Uno is confidently implicated somehow

  • in serving the first Chicago style deep dish pizza in the 1940s.

  • Chicago deep dish is often thicker

  • than even Sicilian pizza but still round like a Neapolitan

  • and more pie like with a thick, hard crust.

  • Jon Stewart famously called it tomato soup in a bread bowl,

  • which explains why we haven't removed a slice,

  • because there would be an avalanche of tomatoes

  • to clean up.

  • And we still have a lot to shoot.

  • Deep dish devotees, anyway, counter that it's more flavorful.

  • You get more for your money.

  • Or simply and inarguably, I just like it more.

  • Back off.

  • While the deep versus thin dispute may be notable,

  • it is not pizza's sole conflict by any means.

  • Rivalry is practically baked in to pizza consumption.

  • For one thing, pizza is both customizable and meant to be shared.

  • Everyone who's ever ordered one has argued about toppings.

  • Anchovies over my dead body.

  • Who likes mushrooms?

  • Monsters.

  • For the record, my personal favorite toppings

  • are pineapple and jalapeno.

  • That is not a joke.

  • Then of course, there's the question of where you even get the pizza.

  • Even within geographic allies, there's disagreement.

  • Do you order from Giordano's or Lou Malnati's in Chicago

  • or probably some other place that I've never heard of,

  • because I don't live there.

  • Where in New York is the best slice?

  • Di Fara, Anna Maria, famous Ray's, not famous Ray's?

  • And if it's not a pizza place, is it delivery, and if not delivery, DiGiorno?

  • Even if you can agree on toppings,

  • you still have to acknowledge that pizza is today

  • and has been for a long time heavily branded

  • and aggressively commercialized.

  • This is always my favorite part of eating a DiGiorno pizza.

  • Where preferences can be articulated,

  • they will be commercialized.

  • You want pizza bagels, bites, French bread pizza,

  • pizza burgers, chips, pretzels, Combos, or gum?

  • We gotcha.

  • How about pizza on things, tattoos and nail art, sure.

  • But what about pizza shirts, hats, hoodies, sunglasses,

  • socks, shoes, shorts, or a pizza wrap for your car?

  • We've gotcha.

  • Come on, down to pizza town, where everything has pizza on it for some reason.

  • Pizza may be an old world, rustic Italian food.

  • But it's an American phenomenon.

  • Up through the early 20th century,

  • pizza didn't make it far outside of Italy

  • except to the immigrant communities that brought it with them.

  • But at the end of World War II, GIs stationed in Italy

  • return home to the United States with a taste for pizza.

  • And what's more, as Helstosky writes,

  • during and after the war, pizza constituted a kind of edible goodwill ambassador,

  • repairing fractured relationships between the United States and Italy.

  • Suddenly there was a diplomatic and economic imperative

  • to saving a service member's cheese lust.

  • Pizza was sold as cheap, fun, family friendly,

  • marketed as an easy dinner for the busy housewife.

  • And biggened by the arguably superficial multiculturalism of the '60s and '70s,

  • pizza went from ethnic food item

  • to product, a process greatly aided by the freezer.

  • Pizza, now frozen, inert, turns from an edible item

  • to a sellable thing.

  • In addition to the freezer,

  • there was also one other piece of technology

  • that helped pizzas rise to ubiquity.

  • And that was the combustion engine.

  • So there's a joke that's in all of the food history books and pizza websites that I read.

  • And it goes something like this.

  • Did you know that the first pizza delivery occurred in 1889?

  • And so you're imagining like some pimply kid

  • in a Domino wire wheel pulling up to an Italian villa.

  • What actually happened was that King Umberto and Queen Margherita,

  • after whom the Margherita pizza is named,

  • had the first ever pizza delivery

  • from Raffaele Esposito's Pizzeria di Pietro e

  • Cosi, the man and pizzeria considered the birthplace of modern pizza.

  • I couldn't find in any of the records,

  • though, how much they tipped.

  • But it wasn't until 1961 in the American Midwest

  • at Dominic's, later Domino's, that pizza

  • forged its interminable relationship with automobiles.

  • Tom Monaghan bought the struggling Ypsilanti, Michigan pizzeria Dominic's

  • in 1960 for $500 down.

  • Monaghan sold his stake in the company in 1999 for $1 billion.

  • Monaghan attributes much of his and the company's success to delivery.

  • In a 2003 interview, Monaghan explained

  • that pizzerias offered delivery until they were solvent after which they stopped.

  • Where other pizzerias saw hassle,

  • Monaghan saw dollar signs.

  • And he was right but only to a degree.

  • The Domino's story is a long and a super interesting one

  • even if you don't like their pizza,

  • longer than we have time to cover here.

  • But I'll put some links in the doobly doo.

  • Suffice it to say that the delivery racket kind of turned into a death race.

  • As local shops and other chains added engines to their roster,

  • Domino's got edged off the course.

  • It was Domino's, though, that popularized the idea that pizza comes to you.

  • Sure you can make it at home.

  • But 99% of people don't.

  • I own a pizza stone.

  • And I still order pizza from the corner shop on Fridays

  • because delivery pizza is, in some way, more real pizza.

  • And all the pageantry around it, discussing, ordering, waiting,

  • the arrival, opening the box, which

  • was another hugely important technological development

  • in the commercialization of pizza, all of that,

  • is also pizza, which brings us just momentarily

  • to leftover pizza, what remains on the countertop,

  • in the fridge, in the box, on a plate,

  • in a stack, covered in tin foil,

  • or left to the elements on Saturday morning,

  • delicious, delicious, left over breakfast pizza.

  • Don't fool yourself.

  • Though it was made by the same people as that delivery pizza,

  • left over pizza is a different kind of pizza.

  • It has undergone a transformation.

  • Left over pizza is somehow more indulgent

  • and maybe a little shameful but no less awesome

  • and maybe even more awesome.

  • Leftover pizza is also sometimes surprise pizza.

  • Leftover pizza is an artifact that remains,

  • commemorating DnD games or Netflix marathons,

  • all nighters, hackathons, and various get togethers.

  • Pizza is so delicious and so powerfully persuasive

  • in its ability to convince you to just have one more slice

  • because of the presence of naturally occurring glutamates in tomato and cheese.

  • You've maybe heard glutamates referred to as umami.

  • And that is what makes slices so neurophysiologically irresistible.

  • But I might argue there's also a romance to pizza that

  • makes it so enjoyable, leftover pizza doubly so.

  • It's not only laden with that savory flavor magic

  • but with memories of whatever pizza

  • fueled shenanigans you got up to the night before

  • and perhaps need a nice cold slice of pizza

  • to help you recover from.

  • Carol Helstosky writes, quote, "today,

  • advertisements for Pizza Hut Poland promote Indian style pizza.

  • Meanwhile, in India, Pizza Hut's website

  • uses an Australian cartoon to promote their specialty pizzas.

  • It would seem that the globalization of pizza

  • has led to a greater localization of the food

  • as consumers make pizza their own concoction.

  • Yet, somehow pizza still retains its Italian identity

  • and, to some extent, its American identity."

  • End quote.

  • In Costa Rica, you may find coconut and shrimp on pizza

  • and in France, egg.

  • German and Japanese pizza is often

  • topped with seafood, tuna and octopus,

  • specifically and respectively.

  • This is what I mean when I say beyond its central ingredients,

  • pizza is historically a culinary solution

  • to a particular set of economic, cultural,

  • and dietary conundrums.

  • It may be fair to say that every culture has its pizza.

  • But it's also increasingly fair to say that many cultures also just have pizza.