Pizza

I don’t remember the name, but it was an Italian dive restaurant downtown in our small village that served pizza when I was a kid. It started with a C, Cimino’s I think. I doubt my younger siblings would remember it, and my parents are gone now so they are of no assistance. They also had one of those electric bowling machines I got pretty good at, at age six, enough to beat several guys at a pub at college years later.

When I visited home during college, Mom started making pizza from a quick bread mix with sauce and everything in the package. I think she was still using the green can of so-called parmesan cheese back then.

Now I go to a beautiful Italian market and buy OO flour, full-fat mozzarella which we grate at home, and have them slice pepperoni to order. Only the best Parmigiano Reggiano will do.

I’ll never forget my college roommates. When we moved from dorm to college-negotiated apartments with a free bus to and from campus every 20 minutes I was named the cook. I stretched every cent. Noodles with meat and tomato sauce, brownies, you name it. We had $10 per week per girl and other neighbors would happen to stop in, “oh, it’s dinner time?” Come on in, I made enough. You’ve only done this all semester.

My roomies were astounded that I could make things like pasta or brownies, from scratch. They grew up thinking everything came from a box or a can. For two years I never cleaned a pot, set or cleared the table. Shopping was a different matter. There were supposed to be six of us living in a three bedroom apartment. Then there were nine. Then there were neighbors who conveniently arrived for dinner and a game or two of Uno.

I sent the girls with an extensive list that after menu planning, I had painstakingly listed by supermarket department. I asked for a 50# bag of potatoes, knowing it would be gone within a week and not grow eyes. They returned with canned potatoes, because they were only $.20 per can! Do you know how many raw potatoes I can get for that money? From then on I pushed one cart and asked the rest of them to grab things for which I asked.

To this day I shop at least every other day, not weekly, or monthly as my mother-in-law does. I look for what is fresh in produce, meat that’s on sale for chili and stews, and stock up on dried pasta, rice and Israeli couscous and broth (for the dog) as needed.

Back to pizza. Thin crust. I normally do not use tomatoes. Perhaps I’ll make two this afternoon, one with tomato, mozz and pepperoni (perhaps sausage as well) for my husband. One with par-cooked (by me, not canned) potatoes, a bit of mozz, fresh rosemary and a sprinkling of Parm. There should be plenty to go around for the staff here, as they’re always hungry. No, not personal staff.

Heaven forbid I’ve that many folks helping me out in our household! It’s small, just enough for a husband, wife and dog so they’d be tripping over each other. They do appreciate my food, which got much better after I quit the NYC rat race and spent my life savings on cooking school, even sold my car to make that dream come true. It was a dream since age eight, and Mom didn’t want me in her kitchen. She certainly didn’t want me anywhere near a knife. I think her knives were so dull they could have taken off my arm.

Now I’ve a hardware store and a butcher in walking distance who can sharpen anything. The butchers love me because I buy, create and bring in tastings. Hey, I’m the only customer that brings food into a grocery store. Hardware, I help choose for the culinary and pet departments (as a retiree) and that keeps me in good standing with the owner. It helps that I spend money.

Now when my husband is posted for a few months to a foreign land and I accompany him, when our tiny apartment has a glass cutting board and those “laser” knives that never need sharpening, I store the junk and go to the nearest housewares store and buy the real deal. Before we fly home, I make sure that our new friends have the good stuff.

Here’s to pizza! I watched a show early this morning on Netflix, created by Chef David Chang of Momofuku, about pizza in Brooklyn, Connecticut, Tokyo and elsewhere. Brooklyn chef says only sourdough crust, sorry but I love the smell of regular (not rapid rise) yeast proofing and baking. And the point of my story is…….

I moved to NYC, worked in mid-Manhattan and found a nice place to live, by myself, in Brooklyn. All the shops were closed both when I went to work and slogged home at night. I had guests coming for dinner and they loved pizza. It was 1987. On Saturday the Italian deli was open so I went in to ask for some cheeses.

Nonna said no. She asked why I wanted the Bufalo Mozzarella. “You’re not going to make any of those Yuppie pizzas, are you?” “Of course not.” That day I made three. One with potato and rosemary, another with spinach, goat cheese and roasted garlic. I forget the third. It was probably a pure Brooklyn pizza with tomato sauce, cheese and basil. Cheers and make your own dough! It’s fun, especially when you make 17 toppings and have families over with little kids as it shows you what they’re going to grow up to be. Adventurous or timid. Pizza is a window into a soul. Buon appetito! Dee

 

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