Author Topic: Pizza on The History Channel  (Read 5947 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Pizziaola

  • Guest
Pizza on The History Channel
« on: June 28, 2006, 10:42:11 PM »
I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this but, tomorrow night: The History Channel starts off its 12 part series called: American Eats with the premier episode: Pizza.
That's Thursday June 29 at 10;00PM Eastern, 9:00pm Central and 10:00pm Pacific--I think, check local listings.


Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 22328
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2006, 06:36:54 PM »
The article set forth below in connection with the History Channel’s program tonight on pizza appeared today on the NY Times website, at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/29/arts/television/29eats.html. The title of the article is  ‘American Eats’ Offers the True American (Pizza) Pie. The writer is Virginia Heffernan.

American pie is no longer apple, if it ever was. Or so goes the argument of the History Channel tonight, when stateside pizza is the focus of the channel's buoyant, intelligent and cuisine-ecumenical series "American Eats."

The migration of pizza westward — from southern Italy to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — is the story of mutation, innovation, perversion. And in spite of the documentary's wonderfully nonjudgmental narration, viewers will find it hard not to take sides.

Midwestern deep-dish types tend to see coastal pies as too wan or too fancy. Californians like their Spago-era artworks all fusioned and deluxe; I imagine they silently believe that other kinds of pizza are only for fat people. New Yorkers, who are fundamentally right on this subject, know they have the real thing.

Or almost. One thing this documentary does well is show how importation is always transformation: even when Gennaro Lombardi, the founding father of American pizza, opened his shop on Spring Street in SoHo a century ago, he was tampering with tradition. He had to use local tomatoes, explains the voice-over, "instead of San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius." And atop the local tomato sauce he melted ordinary cow cheese, instead of the distinctive Italian mozzarella made from water-buffalo milk.

But Lombardi's real contribution, let's face it, was droopiness. Neapolitan pizza tends to be crisp; its slices stay horizontal when you eat them. New York pizza droops. This dubious, if cherished, effect comes from the coal ovens.

The pizza chef at Lombardi's today, John Brescio, is a childhood friend of the grandson of the original Lombardi. With his Bada Bing swagger and major dialect, Mr. Brescio is far and away the star of this "American Eats" episode, which doubles as an ad for his venerable pizzeria. His deadly serious explanation of the coal oven makes a dandy aria.

"I want to show youse the fire," he says to the audience, beckoning viewers inside.

"Right now, where the coals are burning, it's 2,200 degrees. That heat transfers over to the floor of the oven, where the pies are cooking, and it goes down to about 850 to 900 degrees. And it takes three and a half minutes. With a coal oven you get a smoky, crusty flavor on the outside, and a light, airy — if your dough is made right — a light, airy, with nook and crannies all inside. So it's like biting into heaven."

The documentary also supplies a brief but zingy pre-American history of pizza, from its obscure origins in Rome or Phoenicia, no one knows for sure. This much is offered as fact: beginning in 1522, when the Spanish conquistadors found tomatoes in the Andes and brought them back to Europe, Italian peasants cooked with them, shrugging the anxieties of their social betters who worried that the red fruit, which is related to nightshade, might be poisonous. But when the indigent tomatophiles didn't die, others took their chances and by 1700 tomatoes were being profitably grafted onto focaccia in Naples.

In the History Channel's telling of pizza's rise to fame, near the close of the 19th century, Italy's queen, Margherita, asked on a whim to taste the vulgar dish that delighted the lower orders. A pizzaioli named Raffaele Esposito prepared three pies: pork fat, cheese and basil; tomato, garlic and olive oil; and one made to look like the Italian flag, with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves. Guess which one she loved.

(On some anniversary or another Spago or California Pizza Kitchen, the restaurants where Ed LaDou invented and then popularized eclectic pizza, should offer all three in a tasting menu, especially the pork fat one, which sounds delicious.)

After covering Italy and New York but before California, the program makes a detour through New Haven, where Frank Pepe, who was allergic to cheese and tomato, first put white clams on a pizza. In the 20th century it seems that every chef and franchiser wanted to try his hand at pizza, and the documentary entertainingly and respectfully chronicles the contributions of Pizzeria Uno, Domino's and even DiGiorno's frozen pizza.

But in all this hat tipping the History Channel is especially indulgent with Chicago, which got into the pizza trade during and after World War II, when soldiers came home hungering for Italian fare. Ike Sewell and Rick Ricardo, two non-Italians, decided that Italian and New York pizza wasn't brawny enough for real American guys; they bulked up the crust, thickened the cheese and added meat enough for a meal. This is deep-dish pizza, and it takes about 40 minutes to bake.

Mr. Brescio is again unsmiling.

"Chicago, for me, is too thick," he says, offering with that "for me" a courteous nod to culinary relativism. "You eat one slice, you're full already. And most of it is dough."

Case closed.

American Eats

The History Channel, tonight at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Offline freshflour

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 60
  • I Love Pizza!
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2006, 11:07:27 PM »
Yes, I just saw this.  An interesting show.  And as an added bonus, see my post under the Lombardi's restraurant review thread for their "secret ingredient".   ;)  (ok, not really all that secret)

Offline enob

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 55
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Chicago
  • I Really Really Love Pizza!
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2006, 11:09:38 PM »
It was a good show but it made me feel old since I have eaten at all the pizzeria's they mentioned.

Offline Bill/SFNM

  • Lifetime Member
  • *
  • Posts: 4042
  • Location: Santa Fe, NM
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2006, 11:18:20 PM »
It was O.K. From a production standpoint, it seemed geared to the video-game generation - visually frantic - it gave me a headache. I guess I'm too old. I'd rather the camera linger slowly over a perfect pie for 10 seconds than have 20 shots of different pies jammed down my optic nerve in the same interval.

Bill/SFNM

Offline Fio

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 277
  • Cook it HOT.
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2006, 12:19:02 AM »
It was interesting, but I've seen it all before.  The perspective of the show is how BIG corporations have bastardized a wonderful food.  Pizza Slut, Dominos, Uno, mass production -  Americans turned a Rolls Royce into the Model T.  The best part of the show was the first five minutes when they talked about Gennaro Lombardi and his coal burning ovens.  It went  downhill from there.  The history of frozen pizza? Give me a break. When they say Americans eat a billion slices of pizza per year you know what you're in for.  Might as well watch a documentary about McDonalds.

- Fio
Since joining this forum, I've begun using words like "autolyze" and have become anal about baker's percents.  My dough is forever changed.

Offline pizzanapoletana

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 958
  • Location: London -UK
  • Pizza Napoletana as it was made in 1730!
    • Forno Napoletano - Pizza Ovens
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2006, 08:16:15 AM »

..." when Gennaro Lombardi, the founding father of American pizza, opened his shop on Spring Street in SoHo a century ago, he was tampering with tradition. He had to use local tomatoes, explains the voice-over, "instead of San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius." And atop the local tomato sauce he melted ordinary cow cheese, instead of the distinctive Italian mozzarella made from water-buffalo milk.

..."But Lombardi's real contribution, let's face it, was droopiness. Neapolitan pizza tends to be crisp; its slices stay horizontal when you eat them. New York pizza droops. This dubious, if cherished, effect comes from the coal ovens.


I will never undertsand why journalists do not do proper research before writing such articles....

Pictures from Gennaro Lombardi's shop when it was still a groceries store as well, shows that it had Italian imported ingredients (including can tomatoes......)

Neapolitan pizza is not crisp and doesn't stay orizontal... even the other US journalist did confirm that (including Ed Levine, which I think anyway has a biased opinion and his writing are not supported by evidence)

Online Pete-zza

  • Lifetime Member
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 22328
  • Location: Texas
  • Always learning
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2006, 09:12:12 AM »
Marco,

I. too, am amazed at how often Neapolitan pizza crust is described as being "crispy" As another example of this, the recent Cook's Illustrated article on Neapolitan pizza includes the following excerpt:

The Problem: Classic pizza Margherita is characterized by a crispy crust garnished with nothing more than a thin veil of tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, and fresh basil. The problem? Most of these recipes depend on the stratospheric temperatures of a commercial oven to deliver a sufficiently thin and crispy crust. (Emphasis is mine)

I would have been happier if the History Channel program on pizza last night had devoted some time to the fine artisanal work that is being done around the country with Neapolitan-style pizzas, even if not truly authentic. As is all too common with such programs, it is Lombardi's that seems to get the most attention, undeservedly in my opinion. John Brescio must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Peter

Offline Lydia

  • Registered User
  • Posts: 838
  • Location: NORTHERN ALABAMA
    • Viddler
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2006, 02:03:03 PM »
I watch watch these pizza programs with alot of anticipation. I'm like a wide-eyed kid in a candy store.

How much of the work-area will I see this time? what equipment? who will they show handling and shaping their dough? how much bench-flour? Oo..ooo..ooo rewind it! I think I saw a a bit of the label on the can of tomatoes!

I also have a complaint, but it isn't exclusive directed at the writer of this program, but to many non-California writers who have labled "California pizza" improperly.

Being born and raised a California girl I have major problems with California Pizza Kitchen repeatedly being referred to as California Pizza. CPK is metropolitan pizza, it's unusual toppings are not readily accepted by the majority of Californians. California is NOT the SF bay-area! Californians are simple and very traditional when it comes to their favorite pizzas. The chains that started in California such as Round Table, Shakey's and StrawHat produce "California Style pizza". These became the "giants" of this region and has become what is accepted as "great pizza" just as the deep-dish has become Chicago-style and "great pizza" in that area. Because these chains are viewed as "California-style pizza"by Californians, many people (myself included)posted about Round Table under the same topic as Shakey's, despite that productions methods are different. They still have similar characteristics and they all originated here. It's our pizza heritage.

As these places have changed hands, and as quality has decreased or just simply has changed, "California Style" is in danger of become extinct despite the high demand for it.
-------
I just got word yesterday from KitchenAid that they are preparing to release an 8 inch pasta roller (release date unknown and was said not to be too soon), so hopefully this will aid in home production of authentic "California style" pizza.

Oh well, that's my 2 cents worth.   :)
The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.They say he acquired his size from eating too much pi.

Pizziaola

  • Guest
Re: Pizza on The History Channel
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2006, 02:21:46 PM »
It wasn't bad, in fact it was better than other "history" of pizza productions, but still not as accurate as The History Channel should have been. Their presentation of the facts were confusing since they chose to jump around while supposedly going in chronological order. Lombardi kept the grocery store until about 1910, he did not shut down the grocery store when he turned it into a pizzeria.Lombardi's has always used San Marzano tomatoes, they still do even today. The cheese wasn't just cows milk, it was fresh hand-made cheese which they also continue to use to this day. (unfortunately, Lombardi's under Brescio's management, is suffering from a total mangling of its history and worst of all; it no longer serves pizza worthy of the legacy he takes so much pleasure in hijacking)

I also think they could have spent a little more time on discussing the return of traditional methods--they did, but only briefly when they interviewed Evelyne Slomon and showed her making artisanal pizza in her restaurant. Let's face it, artisanal pizza has a lot less commercial value then the Domino's and Pizza Huts of the world. Perhaps Domino's got such a prominent place because they helped to finance the project. I think the MTV like editing and pace of the documentary made up for the fact that they had to cram an awful lot of information into 45 minutes (without commercials) on a subject that clearly should have taken 90 minutes to 2 hours to be presented with any kind of serious attention to historical detail.


 

pizzapan