Being Italian and from New York, I have the ultimate privilege of knowing what good pizza is. Whether it’s picked up from Carmela’s restaurant, Phil’s, a quick slice at Bistro, or made from scratch, we know what we’re doing. It’s the real reason behind the acronym “T.G.I.F.” After enough road trips to and from Florida – and that means everywhere in between too – I not only never want to see another alligator again, but I’ve come to realize the gastronomic wonderland that I call home. I’ve also observed that there are some recurring offenses when it comes to royally fucking up a pizza, but three in particular are quite upsetting and should be made known so as to prevent the further rape of everyone’s favorite food. And here they are:
- Soggy crust. As soon as you pick up a slice and you feel the bottom is soggy, stop. You should know something is wrong, it should feel unnatural. If you were eating a sandwich by the pool and dropped it in the water, would you eat it? If you see that there’s a stain under the pie when you finish it (if you can finish it), then you have a case of soggy crust. I’m also willing to bet that the sauce is the horrendous ketchupy, runny, salsa-like sauce that I’ve seen being used at places that give off the facade of being authentic but really are no different from the average Pizza Hut. Also, spongy crust is largely a result of the crust actually being too thick and not cooked through. Visually, you can tell that crust is not cooked through if it still resembles dough. Duh. When a thick crust is cooked enough, you have a pretty decent Chicago-style deep dish that works. But, a combination of gummy, undercooked crust with a watery, fake sauce is something I wouldn’t wish on an enemy.
- Fake cheese. Now, I know that pizza can look different depending on how it’s made or where you get it. That’s fine. The biggest factor in its appearance is probably going to be the cheese. A good pizza will have an even distribution of, hopefully good quality, mozzarella cheese. It’s pretty hard to fuck up the kind of cheese you put on your pizza, but I mean there are people in the world who wear crocs. Cheap cheese can either be really dry, so you end up getting halfway into your slice until that one bite that takes the rest of the cheese with it, and this cheese won’t even taste good; or it can be too oily, which is pretty common. More often than not, even a decent pizza place will have some pretty oily cheese. The solution to this is a napkin and/or gravity. We’ve all been there, even here in New York, so we’ll let that slide as long as the cheese tastes good.
- Finally, the absolute worst thing you could do to a pizza, and I mean like making a Holocaust joke in a synagogue bad, is have too much oregano in the sauce. I don’t understand how human beings can manage to eat something so repulsive as that putrid, sweet, oddly herby sauce that luckily enough only mass distributors use. It’s the kind of sauce that you know just comes in a tube, which is why you’ll find it in Lunchables packs. It can be easily pointed out with its evil little specks of green, and the color is way more dark than regular sauce – almost like the difference between Hunts ketchup and Heinz. Oregano alone is one herb that can bring an army to its knees and should never be used in amounts of more than a pinch. And by pinch I mean enough to fill the footprint of a mouse. Non-Italians think they’re being all cute, clever, and cultured when they use oregano. Let me just say that, for the love of pizza and all things holy, DO NOT USE OREGANO. I’ve actually bonded people together in conversation over mutual fear and hatred of this kind of thing, because it is just that: something to be feared. Only awareness can prevent it.
I hope that I could illuminate some of the atrocities involved in the war on good food that happens every day. Just like with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, awareness is the first and biggest step in prevention. Arm yourself with knowledge, and demand the right to good pizza. Standing up and throwing your soggy, oregano-laced excuse of a slice on the ground while everyone else sits and tolerates the injustice is the sign that you are doing right in the world. Gandhi would totally be proud. Ideally, pizza should be thin with a crispy brown crust, delicately covered in a light, warm marinara sauce, and hugged with white, fresh mozzarella whose taste reveals itself more on the second and third chew. Cooking is an art, and pizza is just one of Michelangleo’s paintings on the Sistine ceiling of Italian cuisines.