While it has its Italian roots, it’ no secret that most Americans love pizza. Whether grabbing a free slice of Boriello Brothers pizza at a CC event or digging into a gourmet slice with toppings like figs or prosciutto, pizza has become an American classic.
But how has this cheesy and carb-loaded goodness evolved throughout American culture? Gennaro Lombardi, an Italian immigrant, established the first pizza shop in New York’s Little Italy in 1905 and the rest is history. Lombardi would sell slices of freshly baked bread topped with fresh melted mozzarella and tomatoes. As his local business evolved, so did the popularity of this greasy and delicious treat. Especially when servicemen stationed in Italy returned from World War II, this Italian staple became a full-fledged part of American culture.
Today you can take your pick from 65,300 pizza restaurants in the U.S. for a slice. Interestingly enough, only 57 percent of these pizzerias are individually/locally owned, while the rest are made up of familiar sounding chain names including Domino’s and Pizza Hut.
Pizza styles have evolved regionally throughout the country as well. Whether you want a classic slice of New York-style cheese pizza, some Chicago deep dish, or some sweet-tasting Hawaiian pizza with pineapple, these wide varieties have become staples on most pizzeria menus. California-style pizza has become known for up-scale and unusual toppings like barbeque chicken and bacon, and some pizzerias have Americanized pizza even further by combining fast food toppings to the classic slice. And don’t forget about all of those other creations inspired by the traditional slice: frozen pizza, homemade pizza, pizza rolls, pizza pockets, pizza bagels—the list goes on and on.
While the Americanization of pizza is interesting enough, the best thing about it is that you can truly add any topping and it will always be delicious. Whether you want to show your individualism and creativity with a slice creation, or use up what’s left in your fridge, pizza is a great go-to meal.
Pizza is one of the easiest things to bake when cooking seasonally as well. When we would cook up our popular cob-oven pizza down at the CC Farm this summer, not only would it be devoured before the pan hit the table, but the toppings throughout the season served as a great time-keeper of which vegetables were ready. In the beginning we could only add our copious amounts of oregano, by mid summer we could spice things up with homemade basil and cilantro pestos, but by summer’s end, we feasted on slices topped with heirloom tomatoes, peppers, greens, and zucchini.
Pizza is delicious and it can really bring people together. When sitting at a restaurant surrounding a perfectly fresh pie, or gathering around the cob oven down at the farm, pizza can be catered to anyone’s taste buds. And yes, gluten free, dairy free, and vegan variations are possible. Senior Maggie McCleskey’s life was changed by pizza. After going through bouts of veganism, thinking that there was no place for pizza in her diet, her pizza enthusiast friend Amelia Dotzenrod, also a senior, persuaded her to give the cheesy delight a second chance. She appreciates pizza as a way to show her creativity while pleasing her taste buds. “I now respect pizza in a way I never thought I could,” she said. “Pizza rolls, bagel bites, DiGiorno, gourmet…it’s all pizza to me and I feel like it’s the beginning of the rest of my life.” Dotzenrod a true pizza enthusiast, is a believer. “I just love sharing the joy that is pizza with people. Friends, family, strangers,” she said. “I just want everyone to know that pizza is there for you.”
Let pizza be there for you. Here is the CC Farm pizza dough recipe (adapted from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle) and some seasonal topping ideas, so you can slice up your life!
CC Farm Cob Oven Pizza Dough
3 Tsp Yeast
1 Tbs Honey
1 ½ Cups Warm Water
3 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tsp Salt
Dissolve the yeast into the warm water and add
olive oil, salt, and honey.
2 ½ Cups White Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
Mix in flours and knead into the liquid mixture.
Let rise for 30 minutes.
Seasonal Topping Ideas
Pesto, fresh tomato sauce, Onion or scallions,
sweet or spicy peppers, heirloom tomatoes,
basil, oregano, spinach, arugula, zucchini, and/
or yellow summer squash, mozzarella, parmesan, or goat cheese.
BBQ sauce, Mozzarella, Mushrooms, Spinach, Red Onion.
Pesto, Caramelized Onion, Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese
Olive oil or Pesto, Swiss Chard, Arugula, Leeks,
Mozzarella or Goat Cheese