PLY - Art Space / Pizzeria in Manchester, UK

A brand new art space is opening in Manchester next week and it’s going to be amazing! Why? Because when you’re exhausted from looking at amazing art, you can relax by the Stefano Ferrara oven and order yourself a pizza. 

Following Neapolitan tradition, the pizzas at PLY will bake in about 90 seconds! To celebrate their opening, PLY asked a bunch of people to submit 90 second films, each of which will play on loop at a pre-opening exhibition. I was honored to receive the invitation, so if you’re in Manchester and want some pizza with your art I strongly you suggest the masterpiece I shot in my living room in about 15 minutes. It’s a classic.It may or may not feature pizza boxes. 

PLY | 8 Stevenson Square | Manchester | M1 1FB
www.plymcr.co.uk

EVENING VIEW: Thursday, August 7, 6pm – 8pm
EXHIBITION: August 8-17, 6am – 11pm daily

I tasted a bunch of different frozen pizzas for BuzzFeed in an effort to answer one of the most common questions I get on pizza tours: WHAT’S THE BEST FROZEN PIZZA ON THE MARKET? 

Of course videos like this are made to be funny, but I want to clarify some technical questions that might pop into some of the more inquisitive pizza minds:

1. We baked each pizza according to the instructions on the box, so if a pie looks funky you can blame the pizza company. 

2. This does not represent every brand on the market, so don’t freak out because we didn’t try Tombstone or Freschetta or whatever your favorite frozen pizza may be. BuzzFeed brought 8 pies but one was microwave only (we only had an oven) and one got cut for time (Amy’s Organic, which I usually like but did not on this tasting). 

3. I grew up eating Ellio’s so I enjoyed it during this taste test even though I would never go out of my way to eat it.

4. I gave each pizza a rating out of 5 stars but none made it over 3.5 so they didn’t include them in the edit. 

5. Obviously frozen pizza should be judged on a different scale than fresh pies but since some these companies claim they deliver quality comparable to pizzeria products we really should hold them accountable. 

Brazilian Pizza Boxes will Blow Your Mind

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I recently spent a whopping 40 hours in São Paulo, Brazil and my brain almost exploded from excitement. São Paulo has had pizza for over 100 years and there are so many pizzerias in town that nobody really knows the exact count (it’s in the thousands). I ate some pizza, but my biggest takeaway had to do with the pizza boxes. They are insane. 

You can see in the photo above that Brazilian pizza boxes don’t look like normal pizza boxes. First of all, they’re not square. I get the question all the time “Why does a round pizza go into a square box?” Squares are easier to deal with in manufacturing and assembly. It takes much less time to assemble a standard American pizza box, but what’s the fun in a boring square box when you can get octagons like they have in Brazil!?!?

Once you recover from the shock of octagonal pizza boxes, take a closer look at the artwork. All three boxes in the above photo contain funny die-cut shapes on their lids. The one all the way to the left becomes a soccer field, complete with goal posts that pop into place and a two-piece soccer ball that snaps together for gameplay. But the other two boxes get even crazier.

Here’s what the box all the way to the right looks like when you snap out and assemble all the pieces:

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Today is the 125th Anniversary of the Pizza Margherita Myth

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Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Pizza Margherita! It’s a big day for pizza lovers everywhere in which we avoid sausage, peppers, onions, anchovies, pepperoni and the like in favor of a simple combination of crushed tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil. 

As the story goes, Queen Margherita joined her husband King Umberto I on a trip to Naples in 1889. As a sign of goodwill, she sampled a local food, popular only with the peasants, called pizza. The pizzaiolo she hired, Raffaele Esposito, crafted three different pizzas for her: one with only oil, one with fish (whitenbait) and one with mozzarella and crushed tomato. As the final pizza was about to leave the kitchen, Esposito’s wife Maria Giovanna Brandi tossed a handful of basil on top so that it will match the colors of the Italian flag in a display of patriotism. The queen loves the pizza and Esposito dubs it Pizza Margherita in her honor. 

It’s a fantastic story, but one with many holes. I’m as guilty as anyone for perpetuating the legend, but the time has come to take a closer look at the facts behind one of pizza’s great creation myths. 

In 1889, the pizzaiolo Rarraele Esposito owned a pizzeria called Pietro e basta cosi (Pietro and that’s enough). That pizzeria still exists under the name Pizzeria Brandi. It’s one of the most famous in Naples but the main attraction isn’t edible. Brandi has a framed copy of the famous thank you note sent by Queen Margherita to Raffaele Esposito. 

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As the only historical document tied to the events surrounding this story, this is an extremely important letter. First of all, it gives us a date. The top of the letter clearly states “11 June (Giugno) 1889,” which is why pizza enthusiasts celebrate today. But that’s about the only concrete piece of information we can get. Check out the translation:

Household of Her Majesty
Capodimonte
11 June 1889

Moth Office Inspectorate

Most Esteemed Raffaele Esposito. I confirm to you that the three kinds of Pizza you prepared for Her Majesty were found to be delicious. Your most devoted servant

Galli Camillo
Head of Table Services to the Royal Household

No mention of mozzarella, tomato or basil. No mention of the Italian flag. That doesn’t mean the queen didn’t eat the famous pizza, it only means we don’t have clear evidence of it happening in the only document tied to the events. 

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The Pizza of Our Youth

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Michael in front of his toaster oven as it reconstitutes treasures from his youth.

There’s something so special and untouchable about the pizza you grow up eating. Every Sunday night you’d gather with family at the same restaurant and order the same dishes and eat them the same way. You’ll eat better pasta, better chicken marsala and better pizza in your life but somehow it will never make you feel the same as those family get-togethers. Sunday nights were particularly special for my friend Michael Berman, who would spend them at a restaurant called Pines of Rome in Bethesda, Maryland. Michael is a fantastic photographer, recent author of a great book about things to do in NYC with kids, AND he runs an excellent blog called PizzaCentric. I was deeply honored when Michael invited me to his Brooklyn abode to share some of the pizza he carefully transported back from his favorite pizza restaurant in Bethesda after a Memorial Day weekend visit.

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Actual conversation between two adult males about pizza transportation.

I tried to visit Pines of Rome on Michael’s recommendation when I was in Washington, D.C. a few months ago. I got there 30 minutes before closing time but the pizza guys had already gone home, leaving me with a consolation prize of eggplant parmigiana, which I ate on the bench out front. I knew in my heart that one day I would make good on my blood oath to Michael to eat his favorite hometown pizza. 

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