Decisions, Decisions


Pizza as we know it is an American invention. Yes, bare-bones Margherita pies (the first to use cheese) have been made in Naples since 1889, slightly predating our own pizza. But American pizzerias took these rudimentary single-person pies and made them many times bigger, so that they became communal dishes, then gobbed them with a profuse array of additional ingredients, so that they barely resembled the Italian originals. American pizza has since spread across the globe like melted mozzarella, always adapting itself to local tastes. In Tunisia, pizza is often topped with canned tuna and boiled egg. In Japan, a typical pie might feature shredded pork, seaweed, and shiso.


Even pizza is unable to resist bacon's capacity
to make everything better.

The emphasis in this country lately (if you can believe newspaper food sections and their blogs) has been on high-end pizzas cooked in wood ovens, their exquisitely thin crusts dotted with pricey ingredients. I prefer to go in the opposite direction, ferreting out grass-roots innovations that are taking place in the workaday pizza world. Via incessant television commercials, we're already familiar with the machinations of the big chains, which stuff their crusts with dodgy cheese, or pile them with novel-but-inane ingredient combinations.

Anyone who's eaten in Brooklyn's wonderful pizzerias—every block seems to sport one—has encountered the ziti slice. This hyper-carb wonder features precooked tubular pasta on top, dampened with marinara and annealed with mozzarella. It's a hand-held version of the Sicilian classic, baked ziti. Other inventions abound: Under the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn's Sunset Park, I recently stumbled on a pizzeria taken over by Mexican ingredients. Prominently displayed was a slice heaped with chopped bacon—at least three or four slices by my estimate. It tasted great, but I wondered if it wouldn't be better for breakfast. Jersey City, New Jersey and Elmhurst, Queens both boast pizzerias aimed at Indian vegetarians. One of the prominent offerings is an individual pie featuring tomato sauce, cheese, and an explosion of sliced fresh jalapenos. Have plenty of milk on hand when you try this one.

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