A 1938 coupon from Alleva, America’s oldest Italian cheese shop (est 1892). It’s still open and run by the same family. We stop here on pizza tours and taste fresh mozzarella thats rarely more than 30 minutes old. The owner gave me this amazing artifact and I wanted to post it before it gets sealed up in a frame. NOTE: The coupon is no longer valid.
Scott's Pizza Tour Pizza News
I’m giving a lecture about history, art and science of pizza boxes TONIGHT at the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library. We’ll also have copies of my brand new book Viva La Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box on hand for your purchasing pleasure. The party starts at 6:30pm and I encourage you to BYOPizza Box for discussion!
Another great Italian pizza documentary shot in Naples in 1974.
Cool video of Neapolitan pizza in 1967. Notice pizza being served wrapped in paper (1:55) and sauce going on after cheese (2:53). ENJOY!
Speaking of Wheated, there’s a century-old bread oven in the basement! Just a couple weeks after signing the lease on the space, owner David Sheridan discovered this amazing antique built into the building’s foundation. It extends into the backyard, which is cemented over. The oven hasn’t been used in decades but it’s far easier to leave it in place than it would be to have it removed. The door was made by Dumbleton and Son in Brooklyn. Photo #3 shows the interior arch of the oven and the final shot is the light box (but it look more like something from a ghost hunt).
This ain’t no Hallmark holiday, this is actually a real thing based in history. Today marks the 124th anniversary of the naming of the Pizza Margherita! On June 11, 1889 the Italian “Department of the Mouth” issued a letter on behalf of her majesty Queen Margherita, consort of King Umberto I, to thank pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raphaele Esposito for presenting “three quality pizzas” in honor of the royal couple’s trip to Naples. The purpose of the trip was to dedicate a road (Corso Umberto I) but the most memorable event was clearly this peasant meal. Legend has it the queen’s favorite was a pizza with mozzarella, tomato and basil — a pizza featuring the freshest seasonal ingredients. This dish now carries the queen’s name and helped pull pizza out of the slums and into the mainstream.
Check out photos of the letter and the pizzeria where it all happened in my post from 2011.
Ever make an English muffin pizza? Check this Thomas’ ad from 1979 for proof you didn’t invent it.
Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza ads I found at the New York Public Library Image Archive! Notice the increase in cheese from the 1956s to the 1960s. German pizza from 1973 is a whole other story.
Today is the 118th anniversary of Gennaro Lombardi’s arrival in America. Just 20 years old at the time, Lombardi arrived at Ellis Island aboard a ship called Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm after departing from the port of Naples, Italy. He ended up on Spring Street, where most of his family worked as tailors. Lombardi took a job at a grocery/bakery on Spring Street, of which he took ownership in 1905 and converted into the nation’s first pizzeria.
At the time, pizza was only being sold in bakeries as a side item but Lombardi’s was the first to make it the focus of a restaurant. Several of New York’s most storied pizzerias were founded by former employees of Lombardi’s, such as the recently reopened Totonno’s on Coney Island (1924) and John’s on Bleecker Street (1929).
This amazing book by 16th century chef Bartolomeo Scappi (1500 - 1577) has some of the earliest mentions of pizza in history! There are a few pizza recipes, none of which resemble what we think of as pizza today. Scappi was big-time, having served in the kitchen for several popes during his career.
One recipe uses the word pizze to describe a “flaky-pastry for a day in Lent.”
"Get two pounds of flour, warmed milk made from either six ounces of Milanese almonds or else one pound of shelled pinenuts, three ounces of sugar, two ounces of rosewater, one ounce of salt and two ounces of sweet-almond oil; mix all that together with the flour and make up a dough of it that is not too firm. Knead it well for a quarter of an hour, and make a long, thin sheet of it. Brush it with sweet-almond oil or olive oil, sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon, and roll it up like a wafer cornet. When the twist is made, make tiny wheels of it and make pizze of those wheels by spreading them out with the heel of your hand. Those pizza can be baked in a pan like tourtes, or else you can fry them in oil. Serve them hot with sugar over them.”
This recipe defines pizza as a dessert dish that has absolutely none of the ingredients we think of today. No mozzarella (too expensive), no tomato (it wasn’t brought from the New World yet) and certainly no pepperoni (that isn’t even Italian). We think of pizza as a peasant dish, but here we have the pope’s chef making it, not to mention he’s in Rome and not Napoli. The word seems to have changed meaning over the years, eventually becoming the modern version two centuries after this book was published in 1570.