Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Eating America's Pizza Map--With a St. Louis Layover

As I’ve admitted in this blog previously, I’m still wet behind the ears when it comes to pizza. What I’ve learned in 10 months working at PMQ has just reinforced how much I have to learn about the craft and business of creating America’s favorite food. Heck, before I started writing about pizza and interviewing passionate pizzaioli around the country, I had no clue how many regional species of pies had evolved on these shores. Gothamites--and their minions everywhere—will testify, of course, that real pizza begins and ends with—whooda-thunk-it?—New York-style.

In my recent column on square-cut pizza, I referenced just a few rectangular standouts, including the Philly Tomato Pie, New Haven-style Pizza, Pennsylvania’s Old Forge Pizza, two types of Chicago-style pies, Detroit’s increasingly popular flagship pie and, finally, that enigmatic square share of Provel cheesiness called the St. Louis-style pizza.

As a pizza journalist, I’m professionally sworn to objectivity and candor. Well, I didn’t take an oath or anything. Just my way of admitting I’m not a big fan of this cracker-crusted Gateway City icon. Locals WILL argue—until the Cardinals come home—that the 65-year-old cheese experiment their beloved Imo’s pizzeria made famous rules over sliced bread. I lived and worked in the St. Louis area for more than 25 years. I can honestly tell you that, besides the revered Red Birds, no St. Louis institution engenders the devotion and yes, passion, that’s heaped on this square pizza platform supporting everything St. Louisans hold dear—and some grease. Your kid ever ask you: “If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” St. Louis comic and TV host Eric Christenson, recently agreed to wed a St. Louis-style pizza in front of the Gateway Arch. Son of a gun wasn’t even born there! Hope they change the sheets after the honeymoon. (http://www.pmq.com/September-2015/Comic-to-wed-a-St-Louis-style-pizza-in-front-of-arch/)

For me, a military brat who grew up near assorted Naval ports along the Eastern Seaboard, St. Louis’ pizza finest is never more than a one-night stand. Listen, when you’ve got the munchies; and that steaming Gateway to My Tummy mama is loaded with pepperoni, sausage and bacon; and you wash those funky, edgeless squares down with a cold Budweiser; she’ll get it done. But that Provel just ain’t right! Don’t stretch like mozzarella. Too much like a grilled cheese sandwich.

The point is, though, my pizza taste buds are still minor league. I’m a dough-and-cheese apprentice, a novice, a pizza rube in need of schoolin’. So I’m not down with St. Louis-style pizza. That’s just me. Millions disagree, and millions more are ready to debate like Lincoln and Douglas for their favorite slice. So please, PMQ.com and PMQ Pizza Magazine citizens, lay it on me! Check out page 80 of the October PMQ Pizza Magazine and go to PMQ.com/pizzamap so you can get all “interactive” with our cool Pizza Map. You’ll also find an online form to let you stump for the style of pizza individuality that put your region on the map.

We’re a hungry land built on pizza freedom, and this is your chance, Pizza Nation, to be heard!

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