Thank you for stopping by the Guide once again as it’s time for another in our series of food holidays. Whether food holidays are legitimate holidays are for another post. But we here at the guide believe in celebrating all such holidays. Why? Because of food, of course!!! So when researching the food that we would be celebrating for this next week, I looked into what was available.
National Coffee Ice Cream Day was a tempting one to me. But I just wasn’t feeling it enough. And then there was National I Love Food Day. That would make a lot of sense, except for trying to find out the history of the day. Our Wayback machine immediately started melting down the minute that we typed in “History of I Love Food Day.” As a result, we knew that we were going to have to find something with more history to it.
So Cheese Pizza Day It Is
And then National Cheese Pizza Day jumped out of our computer screen and started running down the hall. It took three days to grab him. After trying to put him back into the computer screen and failing multiple times, I decided that maybe . . . just maybe . . . that I could write something up about a cheese pizza. Because who doesn’t love pizza, bread, and tomato sauce all together?
My Best Cheese Pizza Day Experience
As for my first experience with pizza, I cannot even remember the first time I had that cheesy goodness on a piece of bread. What I do remember, however, is the first time that I had Chicago Style Pan Pizza. It was Zachary’s Pizza, off of College Avenue, in Berkeley, CA. I remember getting a bus down to the pizza place as we were in college and none of us had transportation. We stepped out and onto the street where Zachary’s was and saw tons of people milling around outside the pizza parlor.
Nothing Like Zachary’s
I had been to busy pizza parlors before but this was absolutely ridiculous. As we pushed past the crowd and into the establishment we realized that all of the people outside were waiting just to get in. They told us that it would be a 45-minute wait to be seated. But if we ordered the pizzas now, they would be ready for us when we were finally able to get a table. I know that pizzas don’t just pop right out of an oven. But 45 minutes in the oven was a bit more than any pizza I had needed to cook before.
So they threw us out onto the street, metaphorically speaking. We had to wait for our table. Normally, a bunch of college guys out on a Saturday night could be considered dangerous if they had nothing to do. But we were starving college students. And so all we could think about was food as we walked the streets, waiting for the callback. Usually, I don’t like to wander too far for seating for a place because they frequently call you back early. So we were waiting at the door about 20 minutes after we put our names down. And we waited. And we waited. An hour went by when they finally seated us
After The Wait
I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down at the table as usual when they start food early and we get there late the food quality goes down with every minute that goes by. Good to their word, however, the food was piping hot. I had never seen anything like it before. There was this crust on the side of the pan that was sticking up. It acted like a pie crust to hold in all the pizza toppings. The pizza held large chunks of tomato on top of a river of cheese that covered pepperoni and olive. It felt like someone turned the sprinklers on in my mouth. So I dug into that first bite of pizza and immediately convulsed with pleasure. I didn’t know what to think.
How Hungry Am I?
It’s been said many times, “hunger is the best seasoning,” when it comes to food. But as I began to dig in and experience the same pleasure with each passing bite, I knew this to be something bigger. And when I felt impossibly full after the first slice of pizza, despite being ravished with hunger beforehand, I knew that this pizza was like no other I would ever have. Nothing would be to me what Chicago style pizza was. (All apologies to those New York Pizza fans out there.) Even to this day my mouth salivates just thinking about it.
And while this turned out to be the most amazing pizza experience I had, I couldn’t end the post here. The Guide still commits itself to the finest in fake food news. Or for your consideration, Fake Food History. And while our Wayback machine was on the fritz, we still had the finest fake news source in the world (the internet) to be able to find out the historical origins of this marvelous dish were. And as I have rambled on far enough, I now present to you the fake history behind the Cheese Pizza.
Fake History Of The Cheese Pizza
Back in ancient times, in the land of Sardinia lived a group of cave people who liked to roll rocks across fields and see who would roll their rock the farthest. One gentleman of the group called Ugh could roll his stone farther than anyone else. To determine who would knock down the most wheat they would gather all of the crushed wheat afterward and measure it to see who one. Ugh and Bug were the competitors that day in the fields of Sardinia when they rolled their stones out into the field. Bug was going to roll where they always did, but Ugh found an especially thick patch of wheat and figured he would roll there to be able to win. As he would have knocked down more wheat.
As soon as both of them rolled their stones, lightning crashed and the rain soaked the field. So the group agreed that the winner and leader of the cave people would be the one who rolled theirs the farthest. This would have made Bug the winner. But Ugh demanded that they measure by getting all the soupy ground wheat and heating it up on the fire to see who had knocked down the most. As they heated up this ground wheat it began to puff up and smell delicious. Ugh obviously had knocked down more wheat as his cooked wheat was bigger. Bug felt he had been cheated and was going to fight about it until little Sug took a piece from the cooked wheat and stuck one in Ugh’s mouth and one in Bug’s mouth.
Soon afterward they didn’t care about who knocked down more wheat, or whose bolder went the farthest. They had bread and it made the whole of the cave people happy. They lauded both Ugh and Bug as the leaders who brought bread to the peoples. And were it not for the destruction of those people at the hands of the Franc’s they would be lauded as bringing civilization to the cave people to this day.
From there this bread would be passed on to the many people and would eventually land in the hands of the Persians and King Darius. Out on the battlefield during a big battle, King Darius would have those who carried the luggage cook bread during the fighting to maintain army strength during prolonged warfare. During one intense battle with the Assyrians, one of the boy cooks named Daniel was out there baking the bread. He had been baking bread on the shields of some of the fallen soldiers when he went to look for cheese and dates to go with it. He decided he was going to have a full meal for the soldiers coming back and may convince one of them to train him so he could be a great warrior.
Daniel went to a nearby village and bribed the villagers to get cheese, dates and goats milk. They couldn’t provide the goat’s milk right away but they gave Daniel a goat to take with him. Really they planned to give it to him as a curse for taking away their cheese and dates. They knew this goat was while and would wreak havoc. When Daniel brought the goat back to the smell of the baking bread the goat went wild and made a dash at the bread, but pulled away at the last second as he felt the flames. This pulled Daniel directly toward the fire. He threw the cheese and dates up into the air and dove out of harm’s way only to have the cheese and dates land on the hot flatbread.
He was worried his men wouldn’t like the bread and was about to throw it away and bake some more when some of the men returned early. The marvelous smell of the baking bread with cheese and dates drew the whole of camp to Daniel’s cooking. It became so popular that it made Daniel the hit of the camp. Unfortunately, as he was such a good cook, they refused to train him to fight because they knew they wanted Daniel to be there baking the flatbread with cheese and dates for them when they got back from Battle. Poor Daniel.
After this, Daniel left the Persians and ventured out as far away as he could get when he ran straight into the Greeks. When they knew of his heritage they were about to kill him until they could smell bread coming from his knapsack. They grabbed the sack and stole the bread tasting it for themselves. It was so delicious that instead of killing Daniel, they decided to enslave him. And they sold him to the master Greek baker Flavorus. When Flavorus was told of this bread, he knew that he could become rich beyond his wildest dreams. He made Daniel bake this bread for him. But when he spread the dates on top of the cheese the baker spit it out.
How could anyone like dates and cheese on bread he thought? He had some other things that he felt would work so much better. So Daniel would bake his bread and cheese and Flavorus added garlic, onions, and basil on top. Quickly his bakery became the pride of the Grecian empire. Don’t feel too badly for Daniel though. He would eventually be granted his freedom and have a family of four and took the name Focaccia.
Paris, the youngest of Daniel’s children decided he needed to see the world for himself and left his family to spread his wings. Unfortunately, he ran directly into Roman captivity. But like his father before him, his baking skill with the bread made him a hit with the Romans. For years the people of Rome would call this Focaccia’s bread. But after a while, they dropped the bread and just called this marvelous flatbread, focaccia. They would spread this invention to the rest of the Roman Empire, which was pretty much the known world.
As for the modern-day invention with tomato sauce, that didn’t come until Tony Pizzaro would make his trek to the new world after hopping a boat to the Americas on a Spanish ship bound for the Caribbean. He went to try some of these new amazing vegetables and fruits that he had been hearing about and maybe bring some of them back to his café in Naples. Unfortunately, he was not able to get there to the markets in the new world before many had picked the place clean. He did get there in time to see this red plant that was large and looked juicy but tasted funny. He asked one of the people in the market if it were a vegetable or a fruit and they could not answer him.
But as he had come several thousand miles to get something of this new world vegetation to bring back with him, he couldn’t go back empty-handed. So he purchased the overpriced tomatoes and waited three months before he could hop another boat back to Europe. For months he obsessed over what to do with this red fruit. Then on the trip back, he noticed that some of the over-ripened fruit turned mushy. He did not want it to go to waste so he cooked it up into a sauce, which when added to a little salt and a little sugar tasted marvelous. He knew what he was going to do.
So when he finally made it back to Naples and his little café that he wife and son had been running for the past three years while he was out around the world (supposedly getting exotic vegetables and fruits), he told them he had found the answer to their prayers. They looked at him funny. And they were about to have him locked up as a madman, figuring the journey had addled his brain.
But he insisted they listen and started making his family’s recipe for focaccia and put a healthy helping of this strange red sauce from the red plants he brought back with him. He then added some cheese on top and placed it in the oven to cook until the bread turned golden brown. Tony then waited patiently after cutting up slices and giving them to his wife and son. Both wife and son worried he would poison them, so they looked at the food suspiciously. But eventually, they gave in and took a bite as it did smell delicious. They instantly knew that they had something that could save their café from ruin. And pizza, as we know it today, was born. Why did they call it pizza? Who knows?
So what did you think of the crazy story of pizza? Wild right? I never knew that tomatoes were the missing ingredient and were the American addition to the marvelous pizza. That discovery blew my mind. But we here at the Guide never leave you wanting. So we wouldn’t leave you without a recipe or some great pizza places to try out. In this instance, we decided to find the five best Southern California pizza places and to show them to you. If you live nearby, definitely check them out. And if not, be sure to let me know some amazing pizza places in the comments. I would love to know the best ones near you.
Five Best Southern California Pizza Places –
5) St. George Pizza –
Located in Huntington Beach, St. George Pizza prides itself on being authentic and affordable Italian fare. From Calzones, Salads, Italian entrees, and burgers, St. George has a wide mixture of foods the whole family can enjoy. What is incredible is all of the different styles of pizza that they have created for you to try out. Whether you would be more in the mood for Shanghai Pizza or prefer a little spicier with the Mexican Pizza, St. George will tickle your taste buds. And if you are in the mood for just plain Cheese Pizza, it’s excellent as well.
With some of the most unique pizza topping combinations you will find anywhere, Craftsman is a California delight. Opened in 1933 by Nikola Rasic on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Craftsman has wanted to be much more than just a pizza place. They are a true gastrophile’s delight. They do amazing pairings with pizza and wine as well as a beautiful mixture of flavors for the toppings on a pizza. If you need some cheesy goodness, it’s a must try in Southern California.
3) Pizzanista –
For those of you who are into the thin crust delicacy of a New York-style pizza, Pizzanista is the place for you. With two locations in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Pizzanista has a flair for the culinary as well as the decor. Rehabbed out of old buildings, Pizzanista has that edgy feel to it. And its pizza is no different with a panoply of unique flavors to tempt the taste buds. Definitely, a must go to for the pizza lover in all of us.
If you ever want to have a bit of the old world mixed in with the new, go to Pizza Bella, located in the heart of Old Town San Diego. For the past 40 years, Pizza Bella has prided itself on being more than a pizza place with authentic Italian Cuisine. And they do not disappoint either, with new and inventive pizza creations to make the harshest food critic salivate. And then again, you can always go for the kitchen pizza, which tosses in almost everything except the sink. If you are in San Diego and love pizza, then this is the place for you.
Located in Costa Mesa and Long Beach, I cannot say enough about Rances. (You can check my review here.) Maybe it’s because I love Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza. But in truth, I have had BJ’s Pizza. They claim they make deep dish but I always felt disappointed by it. Rances goes way beyond all of that. Their menu may be simple, but the flavors are so rich and complex they will make your mouth explode with pleasure. While I love this pizza, Rances does things one step further. They make this marvelous crust that tastes more like a flaky pastry, crumbling as it enters your mouth. If you haven’t been, you must go. One warning. You might want to order over the phone. Your pizza will take 45 minutes to cook. So, you might have to kill some time if you order it in person.
Continue The Conversation –
So what did you think of the fake history of pizza? And if you have been to any of these pizza parlors, I would love to know what your take is. Also, if you have great pizza near you, let me know some great places that I should visit while out in your neck of the woods. I always love hearing from you.
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Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life