Having discussed the matter on Norma's Frank GiaQuinto thread, I wanted to explore the history and evolution of the NY pizza, it's different styles, process, taste and history. I read a few other threads regarding the evolution, one in particular here: http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,14920.0.html
Was curious as to what other people's recollection of NY pizza was in the past decades, where they lived, what style of pizza they grew up with.
I grew up in Pelham Bay/Co-op city in the Bronx as a child, and our family would frequently stop by places like Louie & Ernie's, my father drove into the city every day through South Bronx and recall stopping by his favorite places. There were so many pizzerias back then serving a different pie than today's standard NY slice. I remember each had their own unique approach to their process. Everyone made their sauce a little different, a different combination of cheeses, very sharp aged Parmeggiano Reggiano or Grana Padano in their cheese mix.
My heritage on my father's side is half Calabrese, half Campania from Salerno. He was second generation. I distinctively recall our food had a regional bias, much spicier and oilier than what I remember eating at some of my friend's family's homes. And lots of pork. I still eat Frittuli, which is boiled pork bones, pork meat and rind that is simmered in even more pork fat and stock and have fond memories of that particular food. My father made sauces like that as well. What I remember most is the amount of red pepper, peperoncino in nearly everything. Lot of fiery spice and strong flavors. Salty and sharp cheeses like Caciocavallo. I always felt Calabrian food pushed flavors to extremes, I remember dried cod, anchovies and didn't shy from oil and fat. My father used to preserve fish in bottles of olive oil and salt.
The pizzerias, my parents took me seemed to reflect that. My family were friends with several pizza shop owners, and I clearly remember a particular style of pizza. A more sturdy thin crust, cooked at much higher temperature gas ovens for less time. I remember the cracking crust, the gobs of cheese and orange oil dripping down my hands and pooling on my paper plate. Lots of sausage, pepperoni, sometimes anchovies. The pizza sauces then were very robust, and spicier. My parents moved to NJ later on, and those times became memories. I went to college at NYU, and recall seeing those pies still available at places off Bleecker St, and north of Canal. I know there have always been the standard NY pies and slices that we all know today, but back in 90's, several places were still making those special "Neapolitan" pies that I remember, not to be confused with the Wood Fire Oven Naples pies. Back then, when NY pizza was evolving, there was a time when pizzas baked in hotter ovens in a particular style were differentiated from the standard slice and labeled as "Neapolitan". I feel that somewhere along the way, that particular pie got diluted, and slowly disappeared. Alot of those places actually closed down in the 90's when corporate gentrification took over..... This is when the likes of Dominos, and Sbarros entered the fabric of NY pizza culture.
So I found pizzamaking.com forum one day and after reading, had a flashback of a great pizza moment more than a decade ago when I first tried Di Fara. What struck me was how much it reminded me of pizza I ate when I was younger. In particular, the extra dosage of olive oil, tons of whole milk and bufala mozzerella. extra heaping amounts of Grana Padano.
What are your personal memories of NY pizza? I had a similar discussion with someone regarding Chinese cuisine lately. As most people would recognize Chinese food as chicken and broccolli at a local takeout place, there are quite a few variations to their cuisine. There are differences such as Shanghai, Hunan, Cantonese, Sichuan each catering to a sort of specific region immigrants came from and thought it was similar to what pizza and Italian food was back in the day. Today, I see much more convergence in pizza, and Italian food as one can easily pick 10 random pizzerias in NYC and 8 of them will pretty much taste exactly the same.