The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

You Can't Get Pizza in Italy

American Pizza Chains Avoid the “Mother Country”

October is National Pizza Month in the good ol' US of A. It's also Italian-American Heritage Month.
The two just go together like cheese and pepperoni, right? Except that you can't get pepperoni on a pizza in Italy. By American standards, you can't even get pizza in Italy.

Go ahead. Look up the number for Pizza Hut in Rome. I'll wait.............hmmmmm.........can't seem to find it, huh? That's okay. I'll settle for a slice or two from Domino's in Naples. What? Can't find that number either? Well, surely there must be a Little Caesar's somewhere near the Colosseum. After all, Big Caesar hung out there. Really? No luck?

Who would believe that the biggest pizza makers in the world don't make pizzas in Italy? Actually, that would be pizze, the proper plural of “pizza.” “Pizzas” is an entirely American word. In much the same way as pepperoni pizza is an entirely American creation. Which is probably why none of the Big Three pizza purveyors peddle their product in the “Mother Country.” Nobody would buy it.

Italian pizza is to American pizza what a prize fight is to a street brawl: some of the components are the same, but the techniques are utterly different. And even though Italians outspend Americans by almost 4 to 1 in per capita pizza purchasing, not a single funny red roof, spotted game piece, or goofy little emperor figure can be found anywhere from the heel to the top of the boot.

But surely the American pizza titans must be chomping at the bit to take their version of the All-Italian favorite back home, right? Not so much. A Pizza Hut spokesperson claims, “Italy does not fit with our brand story.” Whatever the hell that means. A rep for Little Caesar's says, "Our initial focus is more on the developing countries rather than the developed." He then talks about expanding into Canada.

I guess the effect would be about the same as opening a Taco Bell in Mexico or a P.F. Chang's in China. Nobody but American tourists would eat there. And that would be largely because many of them are too damn stupid to know better. Case in point, a comment I found on Yahoo! while researching this subject: “At the risk of a million thumbs down, the pizza in Italy is not the same as Pizza Hut, or any other pizza place in North America. We missed good food there. (Even the week with a tour that took us to supposedly good upscale places) My heart jumped in Naples when I saw the McDonald's at the train station. Loved everything.” How do you answer that? Let me try. “Of course it's not the same, you palate-numbed idiot. The pizza in Italy is actually good!!” Pardon me while I get over hyperventilating.

A little more research discovered that there is, indeed, a Pizza Hut in Rome. And it got five-and-a-half stars on Yelp. It's on Martha Berry Highway in Rome, Georgia and may I highly recommend it to the adventurous world traveler whose heart jumped at the sight of McDonald's. Funny, his heart jumps and my stomach drops. Oh, well. He might also try the Domino's I found in Naples. It got a half-star less on Yelp, so it may not be as good as the Pizza Hut in Rome, but head on over to Tamiami Trail North in Naples, Florida and try it for yourself. There's even a Little Caesar's in Florence (SC) and a Hungry Howie's (don't know how we left that one off the list) in Venice. (That would be the Venice with a beach in Florida rather than the one with the canals in Italy.) Hey, it's the best list I could come up with. You can still tell people you went to Pizza Hut in Rome, capisci? They'll never know.

Seriously, there is an Italian equivalent of fast-food pizza......sort of. It's a chain place called “Spizzico.” The word is a derivative of “spizzicare,” Italian for “nibble.” You can find them in airports, train stations, shopping malls and such, where they serve rather huge slices of pizza along with such traditional Italian fare as French fries and soda. You can dine in or take out. That should make Mr. Heart Jumper feel right at home.

So in summation, may I heartily recommend you honor, observe, and/or celebrate National Pizza Month the way any good Italian would? Avoid Pizza Hut, Domino's, Little Caesar's, Papa John's, Papa Murphy's, Sbarro, CiCi's, Godfather's, and, yes, even Hungry Howie's and go out and find yourself a real pizza place somewhere. You probably have one near you. I'm writing from a small town in the middle of nowhere and there are at least ten fairly authentic, real Italian pizza joints run by real Italians located within twenty-five miles. Any and all of them are vastly superior to any and all of the aforementioned. In fact, I drove by one of my favorite places earlier today.

Would you believe my heart jumped when I saw it?

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