Pizza, an Italian sine qua non (Alan Richman, please call me!)

Above: Doug Horn’s pizza at the aptly named Dough in San Antonio is among the best I’ve ever had — in Italy and the U.S. That’s his margherita: there is a lot of great Stateside pizza but Doug’s is the most authentically Neapolitan I’ve tasted.

Did it all began back in January when Dr. V asked me what vino I’d pair with pizza?

The tenor of the debate seemed to have reached fever pitch by the time I weighed in with my post Pizza, pairing, and Pasolini.

A Solomon of pizza lovers, Eric, the sage among us observed rightly that we don’t have to do it the way they do it Rome.

Above: Doug’s mushroom and caramelized red onion pizza is not the most traditional among his offering but, damn, is it good! I have deep respect for Alan Richman (who also happens to be one of the nicest food writers you’ll ever meet) but his omission of Dough in the top 25 pizzas in the U.S. is a glaring oversight.

But now one of our nation’s greatest food writers, Alan Richman, tells us that “Italians are wrong about pizza… Pizza isn’t as fundamental to Italy as it is to America. Over there, it plays a secondary role to pasta, risotto, and polenta. To be candid, I think they could do without it.” (Here’s the link to the GQ article on the top 25 pizzas in the U.S. but it is a major pain in the ass to navigate.)

Above: Doug also does a wonderful, traditional Neapolitan flatbread. This is probably a trace of the origins of pizza as we know it today. I’ve never met anyone as passionate about traditionalism in pizza as Doug.

Alan has impeccable and unquestionable taste and I agree with almost all of his top-25 selections (at least those I have tasted myself). Anyone who reads Do Bianchi knows that I — like most Italophile oenophiles — have an obsession with pizza and that Lucali in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorites (a preference that Alan shares).

I know that Alan is just having fun when he says that Italians are “wrong about pizza.” And I agree that Americanized pizza is a wonderful and spontaneous mutation of the ingenious simplicity that the Italians have created — like so many things they’ve given the world.

Above: Doug also does some incredible fresh cheese and traditional Neapolitan cheese antipasti that he learned to make while studying to be a pizzaiolo in Naples.

But to say that “Pizza isn’t as fundamental to Italy as it is to America” is egregious hyperbolism. Pizza — like pasta, like the Italian national football team — is one of the few notions that truly binds the Italians together as a nation — nation in the etymological sense, i.e., a shared birth from the Latin natio. (I have a great deal to say on this but I’m literally running out the door to San Antonio as I write this.)

Alan, Eric, and Tyler, please come to San Antonio anytime: we have much to discuss and the pizza (and the Brunello) will be on me. I promise that the trip will be well worth it.

7 thoughts on “Pizza, an Italian sine qua non (Alan Richman, please call me!)

  1. More glorious pizza porn! I made gas-grilled pizza last night. It was decent, though I need more practice. I might try charcoal next, though it’s more tricky because of the intense heat. In Italy the pizza is always beside the fire not over it.
    No offense, but I have no respect for Alan Richman ever since he dissed New Orleans when it was on its knees.

  2. Oh my goodness. That antipasti with the egg on it looks like heaven on a plate. Must come to Texas ASAP. (In fact, we’re plotting a visit to you sometime this fall, just haven’t gotten around to, you know, telling YOU yet…)

  3. As a subscriber to GQ (both the magazine and its style tips) I was pretty gobsmacked by Mr. Richman’s poorly conceived and frankly pathetic article in the current issue. To suggest Americans warrant praise for successfully incorporating pizza into their breakfasts shows a sad failure (or refusal) to recognize this country’s culinary and dietary shortcomings. His criticism of both a thin crust and Mozzarella di Bufala DOC suggests he hasn’t been eating very good pizza, which, judging by his Best 25 list, is absolutely the case.

  4. Simona, Alan takes it too far in that piece… Dough in San Antonio is amazing…

    Marco, I didn’t see Alan’s piece on New Orleans but I personally feel that there is never any reason for a food writer to be haughty… after all, writers or bloggers, we are writing about food and wine — not politics. Alan is a nice guy in person, but he can take it too far (as evidenced by his take on pizza). Isn’t pizza porn fun? Doug’s pizzas are highly photogenic.

    Sgt. Sassafrass, I don’t know but I’ve been told that snobby food and wine writers generally don’t write back to squirrels.

    East for Beginners, Tracie B and I would LOVE for y’all to come visit us in Texas. Even the German Professor would be impressed by the Mexican food here. Does the Cheese Hater like BBQ? I’ve been experimenting with all the BBQ places between San Antonio and Austin… some of them are AMAZING…

  5. Jeremy –

    Thanks for the invitation; would be great to share a pizza and Brunello with you in San Antonio one day. But wait–did you just suggest pairing wine and pizza? Sacre bleu (or however you say that in Italian)! We must not be in Italy…



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