The irony of artisanal pizza



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THE IRONY OF ARTISANAL PIZZA:

Pizza Returns to its Roots as a Peasant Food



Evan Silberman

Food History

July 25, 2014

Introduction

Neapolitan pizza originated in Naples, Italy in 1835 as a food for working class Italians. During the late nineteenth century, pizza arrived in America with Southern Italian immigrants as an ethnic, exotic food. After WWII, during industrialization, pizza lost its ethnic association and became a standardized homogenous dish. As a result of the artisanal food movement in the 1980s, pizza regained its likeness to its original form as an ethnic food. This paper considers how Neapolitan pizza and pizza in general started as a food for the poor and circled back to its Neapolitan roots as artisanal cuisine in contemporary society. The objective of this essay is threefold. First, it examines the emergence of pizza as a Neapolitan dish in its original form when, through legend, pizza became an Italian national treasure. Second, it looks at how pizza was established in America as an ethnic dish within the Italian immigrant community before rising to a national food without distinct ethnicity. Third, it discusses the artisanal movement and how pizza gained its authenticity as Neapolitan in contemporary society.

Pizza is a global industry worth 37 billion dollars, and pizza can be categorized as either fast food or slow food.1 Either way, pizza is a comestible commodity similar to sugar, pancakes, pie, and hot dogs. Applebaum describe that, “the comestible commodity is inevitably a fetish, hiding its own social character, which is to say the social relations through which it is produced and consumed.”2 He concludes that a comestible commodity is “made to serve the interests of progress….”3 The social character of pizza is now defined by the “Slow Food” Movement.

Campisi explains the Slow Food Movement as an opposition to fast food and the broader culture of fast life. Campisi characterizes “Fast Life” as, “a world in which speed, as provided by industrialization and mechanization, is championed as the model for living.”4 Slow food enthusiasts attempt to connect themselves with the tastes of regional cuisines in an effort to recapture a more traditional way of living.5 Anne Meneley, in Anthropologica, writes about the link between the Slow Food Movement and artisanal cuisine. The slow food movement, Meneley surmises, “replaces mass produced...fast foods with wholesome foods.”6 In some ways, the Slow Food Movement, and by extension artisanal cuisines are inextricably linked to age old means of food production.

Artisanal pizza can be considered an intersection of time-honored foodways that Slow Food enthusiasts seek. Gvion and Trostler tell us about restaurants, “as agents of lifestyle they act as a symbolic expression of ethnicity as they cultivate foreign culinary knowledge for local tastes, which moderates and regulates the exposure to ethnic foods and makes gastronomic tourism possible.”7 Artisanal pizzerias, then, in part are selling the experience of engaging in another culture, of being transported, through food to different time and space, without actually leaving the local region. Artisanal pizza is a contemporary cultural exchange between a purveyor and customer that is common in today’s pizza industry, in particular Neapolitan pizza.

Neapolitan pizza is distinguished by its production methods and quality of ingredients. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVN) is a governing body who certifies restaurants against their standards for Pizza Napoletana.”8 The AVN depicts Pizza Napoletana as a thin crust dough with tomato, oil, oregano or basil, garlic, and mozzarella or fior di latte with a distinct texture (soft), taste (baked bread), and appearance (red, white, and green). It is cooked in a high-heat, wood-fired oven, and must be served immediately, while it is hot. Since there are many variations of the APVN regulated Pizza Napoletana, this description will serve as the basis for the Neapolitan pizza.

Since Neapolitan pizza is made by hand, using traditional methods, and high-quality ingredients, it is also more expensive and highly desirable because it cannot be massed produced. In some sense, Neapolitan pizza is a return to a way of making food as it was originally intended, being produced traditionally, and resulting in a level of authenticity that isn’t often associated with fast food pizza. Authenticity is what Slow Food followers look for.

The Slow Food Movement, artisanal cuisine, and the lure of authenticity imply Neapolitan pizza is worth preservation. What is truly authentic Neapolitan pizza anyway? What is the cultural experience one is after? The origins of Neapolitan pizza expose a society in stark contrast with the idealism of contemporary food movements, but it does reveal the beginnings of a national Italian treasure worth holding onto.



The Roots of Neapolitan Pizza

The origin of pizza is what contemporary cultural food movements are trying to connect to. Waverly Root tells us that Neapolitan pizza is without a doubt an origin of Naples Italy.9 According to Thorne, “Neapolitans were eating pizza when Naples was still a Greek Colony in the form of a flat cake made of flour and olive oil.”10 What Neapolitans were eating was yet to be considered the famous Neapolitan pizza that is universally associated with Italy today. Turim adds, “Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni."11 In the heart of the city, where it was very populated, many working poor lived outdoors.12 According to Helstosky, Alexandre Dumas, a French travel writer who wrote The Three Musketeers, in 1835 in Naples observed:

...At first, it appeared to be a very simple thing...Pizza was kind of a bread, but it was not purchased whole; rather, customers bought the size they could afford. There were also many varieties of pizza for sale: pizza with oil, pizza with lard, pizza with tomatoes, pizza with tiny fish, pizza with cheese...pizza was not so simple a food; it was actually quite complicated in that it told as much about the society that ate the pizza as it did about the pizza itself.13

The customers he was describing were the lazzaroni of Italy who subsisted on pizza because it was a cheap meal. His commentary wasn’t just about the complexity of food either, but a reflection of the society in Naples in the early nineteenth century. Pizza was sold at stands from a lidded metal box, or a narrow board. It could be purchased by the penny and one could buy what they could afford, and there was a buy now pay later system called pizza otto for those destitute.14 These payment methods reflected how difficult life was for the peasants of Naples. Pizza was an integral foodstuff that could be eaten quickly, did not require any utensils, and was extremely nourishing for those with little money to buy enough food.

Sir Emmanuelle Roco, writing in 1855:
“The simplest pizze, known as pizza with oil and garlic, are sprinkled with oil, then salt, then oregano, then finely chopped a few basil leaves. The former are often garnished with little fish as well, and the latter with thin slices of mozzarella, or sometimes with slices of ham, tamatoes, clams, and so on.”15

Pizza was a simple meal to some, with the potential to be more complex for others. In pizzerias of Nepals the experience of eating pizza was quite different. For those who could afford it, pizza was available with toppings such as shellfish and cured meats. The atmosphere was social and lively. Pizzaiolo (pizza chefs) were admired for their art of crafting pizza.16 An art that is cherished by foodies seeking today’s dining experience of Neapolitan pizza.

John Thorne, who depicts the typical Neapolitan pizzeria experience, asks us to think about the theatrics of pizza making and the atmosphere of the pizzeria. He describes the pizzaiolo performing for his audience as if he were on stage, and his customers are paying to watch an artist who has perfected his craft. Thorne writes:

At the cry of una pizza, he snatches up the dough from its resting place in a wooden trough, and works in quickly, vigorously with is hands, now with the golden trowel that serves as the emblem of his craft. Next, he dots it with lard or olive oil, lays out triangles of mozzarella, which until just recently was still floating in its own whey, perhaps throwing over as well a handful of sharper cheese. He adds a generous helping of freshly cut tomatoes or a ladle of sauce, and then lays over a crisscross pattern of anchovies. With a final wave of the hand, he crumbles dried oregano leaves in his fist, wafting the broken aromatic bits across the top.17


The clientele of the pizzeria are from all walks of life, but are always in a celebratory mood. They are enjoying a meal that was crafted for them by the expert pizza chef. Thorne depicts the ambiance of the pizzeria:

The air is noisy with convivial conversation, savory with smells of good food, smoky from the burning fire. In winter, the customers cram inside for warmth, in summer they spill out around tables on the sidewalk. And all this centered on a small piece of the most basic of great doughs- flour, water, and leavening - topped with a bit of cheese, tomatoes, anchovies, and oregano.18


According to Helstosky, pizza is thought to be eaten by all social classes starting after World War II. Prior to the mid-1800s, it was mostly an undervalued cuisine. What accounts for the paradigm shift is the popular story of Margherita Pizza made at the request of Queen Margherita and King Umberto. According to legend, Raffaele Esposito - a local pizzaiolo - was summoned to prepare three pizzas for the Queen. One of these was a tri-color pie with red (tomato sauce), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). The Queen was so appreciative; she sent Raffaele a letter of praise. The letter exists today in Pizzeria Brandi where Raffaele Esposito was a pizza chef. Pizza Margherita became “an important detail in the narrative of Italian nationalism,” Helstosky writes.19 The tri-color pizza represented Italy because the colors of the pizza were the same as the Italian flag.

From this moment forward, pizza gained an association with Italian nationalism and elevated its status in culinary rankings. It was no longer a food for the poor, but something to be celebrated as a representation of Italy. Pizza eventually become a national dish of Italy in 1889, which solidified its place in history, a period in time, artisan pizza makers are trying to return to with their Neapolitan bent pies.

Before Neapolitan pizza was part of the artisanal food movement, it was an important food for Neapolitan immigrants in America. It connected them to their homeland, defined their unity in a new place, and shared a culture for those who were unfamiliar with it. As immigrants assimilated into American culture, so did their cuisine, and pizza eventually transformed from a regional food to a standardized, national dish.

Pizza in America

The unification of Italy created an identify for Italians that Neapolitan immigrants tried to re-capture in America. After the unification of Italy in 1861, there was a mass exodus of Italians to other parts of the world.20 A majority of the 9 million immigrants who arrived in the United States, especially along the eastern seaboard, between 1901 and 1910, were Italians.21 During its peak, Italian immigrants accounted for 7.4% of of the population of New York City.22 La Cecla, author of Pizza and Pasta, describes the causes of diaspora as a result of economic hardships for southern Italians after the federation of Italy. For example, feudal land was exploited and peasants were taxed heavily. Ninety one percent of the Italian immigrants came from Southern Italy. Most of them were of peasant background and thrived in close-knit, city environments. At first, Italian immigrants arriving in New York didn’t have an identity in their new homeland. La Cecla goes on to ask, “When these “recent” Italian citizens who spoke a number of dialects, crossed the ocean, they were asked, “Who are you?”23 Their heritage, no longer expressed by being Italian citizens was being redefined as they domesticated in their new environment. Italian immigration resulted in images and stereotypes of Italians being spread throughout the world, especially through food. La Cecla concludes, “Pasta, along with Pizza, have become synonymous with Italianness, in the dual sense that they provided an image of Italy presented to non-Italians."24 One-way in which outsiders viewed immigrants was through how they settled and what they ate.

Italian identity in America was the direct result of Italian immigrant communities. Italian immigrants lived their lives on a public stage making their private lives public through large outdoor markets, push carts, plants on balconies, and laundry dangling in the street. Mulberry Street in New York City’s “Little Italy” was a staged display of their culture. The imagined identity of Italy was not only created by the Italian immigrants lifestyle in New York City, but also as perceived by those who experienced their cuisine.25

According to food historian, Evelyn Solomon, the first pizzeria in New York City was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi, a Neapolitan immigrant who arrived at the age of 14. He started thin Neapolitan pizza out of a bakery to help increase revenues for the owner. Eventually, Lombardi had the opportunity to buy the bakery and opened his pizzeria using the existing coal-burning oven. Since Lombardi’s was established in an Italian immigrant community, many of the Italian immigrants arriving in New York passed through his doors. In fact, Lombardi’s was credited for the growth of pizza in New York City, which also spawned similar pizzerias along the Eastern seaboard. Many of the men who worked for him went on to open competing and now famous pizzerias, including John’s Pizza and Totonno’s.26 However, Lombardi’s provided more for the Italian community than pizza and pizza chefs. It was both a social and cultural intersection for the community.

According to Grandi, Italian restaurants were open by Italians to feed Italian immigrants and supply ingredients that were typical of their homeland.27 They provided social and cultural connections, which was important to a community that believed in closeness. Grandi underscores, “the preservation of foodways by migrant communities, and the loyalty to tradition that is implied indicates attempts to conserve, protect, and retain aspects of the past or of the place of origin and production.”28 In other words, pizza in the Italian immigrant society was familiar and it helped Italian immigrants retain social and cultural connections to their homeland. The pizzeria, in a sense, protected their beloved Naples, through the dish of Neapolitan pizza.

The Italian identify is something that Americans challenged in the early twentieth century. As Harvey Levenstein, author of “The American Response to Italian Food, 1880 - 1930,” tells us, immigrant Italians resisted attempts by Americans to homogenize Italian culture, and make it American, including their cuisine. Italians and Italian living conditions were perceived as below the standards of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Italians immigrants were perceived as unskilled, poor, lived in dirty and unsafe tenement housing.

Through the lens of food, Italian dishes (such as spaghetti) were often noted on restaurant menus by their French spelling as “Italienne." At that time, Americans weren’t interested in and did not appreciate Italian food because of irrational fears about tomatoes being harmful, disinterest in fruits and vegetables in general, and a staunch disregard for garlic - all cornerstones of Italian cooking. Italian cuisine also ran counter to the cookery of the working class - i.e. soups, stew, and cheese. These negative perceptions of Italian immigrants and Italian food resulted in a campaign by American social workers to “educate” immigrants about the American ways of buying and preparing food. Cooking class were set up, and Americans tried to teach Italians how to garden. Despite their best efforts the American melting pot was no match for the close-kint La Familia. The Italian immigrants held fast to their old foodways.

“Italians...had much higher proportion of the cultivable land near their homes devoted to food production...As for food preservation, few people could equal the Italians in their late summer and fall orgy of canning, bottling, pickling, and drying, when huge quantities of tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, and other vegetables were packed into containers of all kinds and loaded into lardes, cellars, and any available space, to be drawn upon during the long winter and spring that lay ahead.”29

It was this fortitude, preparedness, and reliance on self and community that resulted in little impact from those trying to Americanize Italians and their cooking. It was in 1918 that the perceptions of Italians changed because Italy was now a political ally in WWI, standards of American dietary nutrition had shifted to include fruits and vegetables, publications like Good Housekeeping started publishing Italian recipes, and immigrants were now seen as eating what they could based on tenant living. This wave of immigration was nearly over, the population of Italian immigrants was dwindling, and the American interest in changing the eating habits of Immigrants was losing steam.30

In “What We Talk About When We talk About Food” Adam Steinberg, a curator at the Tenement Museum in New York City, writes:

Its first element was that there was no such thing as a national American cuisine until the rise of major food corporations in the late nineteenth century. Until then, there was a crazy quilt of regional and ethnic cuisines. Second, immigrants never eat the same foods the same way once they arrived in America. Third, there has long been a culinary “dialogue” between native-born citizens and immigrants, each influencing the other in what they eat. Indeed, American cuisine, such as it is, could be described as a dialectic between what immigrants eat and what U.S.-born citizens eat. Over time, these apparent opposites create a new synthesis.31
The rise of Italian food and the transition to Italian American cuisine was underway. Although pizza didn’t begin to receive wide recognition in the United States until after WWII, it was aided by wide-spread acceptance of pasta, particularly spaghetti, and tomato sauce. The changing attitudes towards the Italian immigrant eating habits encouraged the consumption of their foods. Frank Foulds, an American not of Italian origin, is credited for manufacturing dry pasta on an industrial scale. The industrialization of dry pasta, parmesan cheese, and canned tomatoes sauce increased the visibility and popularity of these products. Levenstein and Collins explain that “Canned spaghetti sauce became a favourite “convenience” dish for housewives, quick, economical, and easily prepared. Even more convenient was canned spaghetti and tomato sauce itself.”32 Pasta and tomato sauce surfaced in the self-serve cafeterias of the 1920s while “spaghetti houses” catered to Americans. In the 1930s, following the Great Depression, pasta also proved to be an economical dish. During Prohibition many non-Italians visited Little Italy for alcohol, produced in boarding houses for local restaurants. Visits to these establishments by non-Italians likely resulted in further enthusiasm for Italian cuisine by non-Italians.33

The resulting widespread acceptance of Italian food, the rapid production and distribution of pasta and sauce, and the intersection of Italian food with American ingredients, prepared Americans for the expansion of pizza. Helstosky suggests “with American and Italian-American tastes so well-attuned to Neapolitan-style tomato sauce, and melted grated cheese, it would seem almost inevitable that the first of the “foreign” fast foods to sweep America was pizza."34 American’s experience with pasta whet their appetite for more Italian cuisines. Pizza, which was previously mostly available in the pizzerias along the Eastern seaboard prior to industrialization, was ready for change as a culinary trend for the nationality of foods began.35 Previously ethnic foods were now being seen as non-ethnic and American.

In the 1950s, “pizza suddenly burst onto the center stage” because “it was regarded as an ideal family food, equally acceptable to all ages and both sexes.”36 It was also a communal food, making it great for restaurants. Because it was quick to serve it was convenient for drive-ins and take home. However, pizza was still made to order starting with the dough, which took 20 minutes to rise. This changed when Greek-Americans, who owned a majority of the ethnic pizzerias on the east coast, figured out a way to prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate it, making it truly ready for fast food. It wasn’t long before companies like Pizza Hut started freezing and distributing its dough to regional stores.37 Tombstone pizza, like Pizza Hut, revolutionized the frozen pizza industry in the 1960s making pizza a cheap and fast way to feed a hungry family.38

Traditional Neapolitan pizza was disappearing. According to Donna Gabaccia, “Foods often lose...their authenticity, and—critics argue—their taste once they are mass produced by large corporations. It happened to hot dogs, beer, egg rolls, and bagels: it is happening right now to pizza....”39 By the 1960s large corporations were scrambling to buy up regional brands and marketed their products nationally including Kraft’s purchase of Tombstone.”40 Tombstone revolutionized the frozen pizza industry in the 1960s making frozen pizza a cheap and fast way to feed a hungry family.41 Pepsico also bought Pizza Hut for $340 million. In 1971 alone, the pizza industry was a 3.5 billion dollar industry.42 By the 1980s, Dominos was expanding its delivery empire bringing a standardized pizza to every home in America.43

To conclude, pizza was no longer seen as an ethnic cuisine and had a new meaning in a new culture. It was now a national food, having transformed from its peasant roots. Although it shared some characteristics of earlier Neapolitan pizza in its basic ingredients, its final preparation, distribution, cultural meaning, and heritage weren’t the same. Pizza no longer represented Italianness and was a dish with no distinct authenticity or relationship to its original culture. In a 1994 marketing survey by the NPD market research group, pizza was listed as one of the top ten favorite foods for lunch and dinner “entrees." In fact, pizza was the number one item, surpassing hot dogs and spaghetti.44 Pizza was now truly “American” and no longer representative of anything more than convenience food. It was no longer an ethnic dish of an Italian immigrant community, and had lost its connection to its popular place of origin, Naples. But pizza didn’t simply remain fast food for long.

The Artisan Pizza Movement

As the result of the artisanal food movement, pizza now began to restore its association with the original Neapolitan pie. Helstosky notes that the gourmet pizza craze started in the 1980s with California-style pizza. In 1982 Wolfgang Puck, a celebrity chef and restaurateur, hired Ed Ladou who created an extraordinary duck breast pizza for Puck’s restaurant, Spago in Hollywood. A few years later, Ladou went on to create the menu for California Pizza Kitchen, a national chain restaurant, making gourmet style pizza available across the US. One of their signature pies is a barbeque chicken pizza. At the same time, Alice Waters, was selling gourmet pizza on her menu at Chez Panisse in 1980, in Berkeley, CA. According to the Chez Panisse website, Alice Waters started the local food movement, serving organic, local, fresh, seasonal, and artfully crafted dishes prepared with great care. Carol Helstosky continues to tell us that artisan style pizza was a reaction to the standardized pizza of the 1960s and 1970s, and was a far cry from Pizza hut, which was the dominant fast food at the time. Gourmet pizza was also an extension of the counterculture movement of the 1970s and a yuppie food of the 1980s.

The counterculture movement, according to Warren Belasco, Author of Appetite for Change, was a period of dissidence against mainstream foodways, and a backlash against consumerism, and authority. Belasco explains the movement “evolved from political and cultural alienation during the Vietnam War to professional-managerial success a decade later.”45 Food, during this time, was a platform for rebellion against a myriad of social and political issues. The most prominent countercuisine was organic food because it embodied the counterculture ethos of self-enhancement, consumerist self-protection, and alternative production. Organic food is meant to be processed naturally - in opposition to otherwise highly processed and industrialized foods that were controlled by corporations and regulated by governments. The countercultural movement, shifting food from factory production to a more wholesome means of growth and preparation, was the backdrop for artisanal cuisine.

The growth of artisanal pizza also benefited from the emergence of the “yuppie” (young urban, and upwardly mobile professional) lifestyle that emerged in the 1980s. According to Wesley Perkins, yuppies “are perceived by commentators and commercial advertisers...with appetites for the best foods gourmet restaurants and specialty markets can provide.”46 In 1980, there were 6,000 specialty stores in the United States. By 1988, that number had climbed to 24,000.47 The popular restaurant trend by 1988 was nostalgia and simpler food.48 Spago, California Pizza Kitchen, and Chez Panisse were serving food that met the needs of yuppies, including Neapolitan style pizza.

The gourmet pizza movement gained momentum in 1984 when the AVN was created as a means to standarde and preserve the pizza closest to its original form. There is also the APN, which certifies pizza makers. “But for many pizzaioli, these pizzas aren’t authentic without approval from a pair of Italian governing bodies the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) and the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN). The VPN certifies restaurants that meet certain standards as far as ingredients, equipment and methods,” explains Scott Wiener, owner of Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York. The APN certifies pizza makers, focusing more on technique, and that degree stays with the pizza maker no matter where he works.”49 However, it is not as widely adopted in pizzerias in the United States.

There are those who believe this type of certification is necessary to preserve the age-old traditions of a pizza making. Others believe it’s “a deeper, ages-old rift about whether pizza is best served to the masses or the classes."50 Either way, a debate about the legacy of Neapolitan pizza adds value to the dish by arguing about its worth. In a 2009 NYT article, “For the Pizza Makers of Naples, a Tempest in a Pie Dish,” Al Baker writes about a better kind of pizza, better even than what Gennaro Lombardi, who opened the first pizzeria in NYC, created in 1905 using his coal oven.

A combination of factors -- heightened food fetishism, the quest for authenticity, the economy -- have conspired to give birth to a new pizza age, one that has a distinctive Neapolitan bent (and various stylistic subcategories)....This year, though, has been the zenith: New-wave pizzerias have sprung up from the West Village to Bed-Stuy, powered by glitzy wood-burning ovens or grandfathered coal-powered ones, all trumpeting the pedigree of their ingredients, the authenticity of their methods, and the ancestry of their pizzaiolo (pizza chefs, to the uninitiated)..51
The artisan pizza fetishism described in 2009 is even stronger today in New York City. A search on Yelp for Pizza in Manhattan returns over 6,000 results. While many of these are not serving gourmet pizza, there are more that are then just a few years ago. The most famous pizzerias listed such as Lombardi’s started in America during the height of Italian immigration when southern Italians brought their pizza of Naples to New York City. They are now institutions that are listed in guidebooks and draw millions of tourists per year.

Looking at the artisanal food movement, one cannot help but notice how the fetishism of food created a search for authenticity. Restaurants like Lombardi’s, with a historical lineage to the old-way of pizza making, provide a means for experiencing a culture that is perceived to be authentic. Whether or not this is the case, doesn’t matter. The debate about the likeness of Neapolitan pizza as a treasured past, is another indicator of a moment in culture where pizza, more than a dish, makes something old new again.


Conclusion

Neapolitan pizza has come full circle, and is being prepared in new ways while retaining its roots in the form of an artisan cuisine. It is also living along side the pizza it so aptly is trying to displace, non-ethnic pizza being sold by global corporations. Almost half of the pizzerias in America are independently owned.52 That’s a startling contrast to the 1970s when ethnic cuisine was being nationalized and ethnic pizza owners were being ousted by the likes of Pizza Hut. What does this say about pizza in our contemporary society?

Neapolitan pizza is no longer a food for the poor. Rather, it is a pursuit for foodies with money and time to spare, while retaining its peasant roots through the Slow Food Movement. Neapolitan pizza didn’t begin its journey seeking culinary fame or national protection. It was once a simple dish with a single purpose: feed the poor and working class living in the streets of Naples, Italy. It then became a national dish of Italy through the Cinderella story of Pizza Margherita, which made Neapolitan pizza a legend. For the Italian immigrants in America, pizza was a link to their homeland. Lombardi started selling pizza - in the likes of Neapolitan pies of Naples - that took hold throughout the northeastern seaboard of the US. The Italians resisted the American attempt to homogenize their cuisine and pizza (along with pasta) provided that perfect food item to blend American and Italian cuisine. After WWII, pizza became a national dish because of industrialization and mass production. Eventually, thanks to a certifying body trying to protect Neapolitan pizza, a movement was underway to preserve it in the form of artisan cuisine.

Today, pizza is both a global food and a local artisanal product serving all social classes. The irony of “artisan” pizza is that it is really the peasant food of 1835 that people are buying for an authentic cultural experience. On the other hand, all other pizza is feeding today’s working class and low income populations and serves the purpose of the original Neapolitan pie. It’s as if the role of Neapolitan Pizza is reversed. Neapolitan pizza is at risk of being endangered and all other pizza is the new peasant food.

I wrote this paper because my first job out of high school was working at a quick-service pizzeria located in a mall food court. It was a positive experience and provides me with many fond memories. I was inspired by it to pursue culinary school, and starting dreaming of opening my own pizzeria. Since I am not pursuing this dream, I wanted to learn more about pizza in an attempt to stay connected to a food and experience I love. After researching the journey of pizza from its roots as a peasant food to its likeness as artisanal food, I am again inspired to keep dreaming about owning my own pizzeria. I am in touch with an industry I once knew intimately. Whether I would sell “American” pizza, or artisanal style pizza, I understand the important history of it and how the choice between two distinct styles of pizza can mean so much to reflect our society. Perhaps, I might even discover a new way to classify pizza to truly reflect the world in which we live at the time.

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Steinberg, Adam. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Food: Using Food to Teach History at the Tenement Museum.” The Public Historian 34, no. 2 (May 1, 2012): 79–89. doi:10.1525/tph.2012.34.2.79.

Thompson, Sharon. “Yuppies Credited With Elevating The Status of Food.” Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), August 31, 1988, FINAL edition.

Thorne, John. Pizza: The Art of the Pizzaiolo. Boston, Mass.: Jackdaw Press, n.d.

Turim, Gayle. “A Slice of History: Pizza Through the Ages — Hungry History.” History.com. Accessed June 15, 2014. http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/a-slice-of-history-pizza-through-the-ages.



Waverley, Root. Food of Italy. New York: Vintage, 1977.


1 Rick Hynum, “The 2014 Pizza Power Report.”

2 Appelbaum, “The Comestible Commodity, Subject of History.,” p. 217.

3 Ibid.

4 Campisi, “The Joy of Cooking.,” p. 406.

5 Ibid.

6 Meneley, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Slow Food,” p. 165.

7 Gvion and Trostler, “From Spaghetti and Meatballs through Hawaiian Pizza to Sushi,” p. 953.

8 Morin, “The Old Way," 34

9 Waverley, Food of Italy., 500.

10 Thorne, Pizza: The Art of the Pizzaiolo., 5.

11 Turim, “A Slice of History.”

12 Ibid.

13 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History., 7-8.

14 Ibid., 9.

15 Thorne, Pizza: The Art of the Pizzaiolo., 5.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid., 2.

19 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History., 26.

20 “Issues Relevant to U.S. Foreign Diplomacy: Unification of Italian States.”

21 Levenstein, Revolution at the Table., 233.

22 La Cecla, Pasta and Pizza., 61.

23 Ibid., 50.

24 Ibid., 53.

25 Ibid., 50 - 54, 65.

26 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History,. 54.

27 Grandi, “Pizza, Rice and Kebabs.,” 27.

28 Ibid., 2.

29 Levenstein, “The American Response to Italian Food, 1880–1930.,” 11 - 12.

30 Ibid., 1-19.

31 Steinberg, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Food.,” 83.

32 Brown, Ray. B and Fishwick, Marshall Marshall William, Dominant Symbols in Popular Culture., 242.

33 Ibid., 231-249.

34 Ibid., 242.

35 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History., 62.

36 Levenstein, Paradox of Plenty a Social History of Eating in Modern America., 230.

37 Ibid.

38 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History.

39 Gabaccia, We Are What We Eat Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans, 173.

40 Ibid.,169.

41 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History.

42 “Rise of Pizza," 78.

43 Helstosky, Pizza: A Global History., 67

44 Mintz, Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom.,114.

45 Belasco, Appetite for Change., 127 (Amazon Kindle Location).

46 Perkins, “Religious Commitment, Yuppie Values, and Well-Being in Post-Collegiate Life.," 244.

47 “Yuppies Credited With Elevating The Status of Food.”

48 Iggers and Writer, “A Look at Food Trends Ahead in ‘88, and the Ones We’ll Leave behind.”

49 Morin, “The Old Way.," 34.

50 Baker, “For the Pizza Makers of Naples, a Tempest in a Pie Dish.”

51 Patronite and Raisfeld, “Pizza Revolution.”

52 Rick Hynum, “The 2014 Pizza Power Report.”



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