Pizza is one of the oldest edible American pastimes, however, it reaches back about forty years before the U.S. was even founded. If time travel was a viable option, let’s just say, I wouldn’t go back any further than 1738, the year pizza was invented. A world without pizza is a world of which I need no part. The pizza phenomenon made its way to The Unites States at the end of the 19th century, and has steadily gained momentum ever since. If there were pizza futures, it would be a blue chip investment.
In 1970s Long Island, New York, a new type of pizza was forged in the fires of… well, ovens. Italian-American immigrants longed for the classic pie that their grandmothers used to make in the old country. If pizzas were fertile, and a Sicilian wooed a traditional round, the offspring would be, what is now known as, Grandma pie.
Grandma pie begins with a square or rectangular shaped pan, coated in olive oil. The dough is stretched, the fresh marinara is spread, and a thin layer of mozzarella is sprinkled. Often times, the cheese is applied first, disguised underneath the sauce, to “become” Ninja Mozzarella. The major difference between Grandma and Sicilian takes place at this point. The dough is not given much, or any, time to rise before getting tossed into the oven. This is a similar process to one of the components which differentiates bread and matzo (the bread-like item eaten by Jewish people on Passover). The Jews didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, as they had to flee Egypt in a hurry. I can only speculate as to why Italian grandmothers, the namesake for Grandma pie, slung the pizza in the oven so quickly… perhaps because full mouths are quiet mouths, and Grandma needs her peace and quiet? Either way, this method produces a resulting specimen unmatched by any other type of pizza. Instead of the soft, fluffy, very thick crust, which gives Sicilian pie its recognition, Grandma pie results in a thin, golden-browned, crispier crust, most notable in brick-oven round pies. This provides two fringe benefits: the ability to eat more pizza, and a delicious, crunchy soundtrack to accompany said feast.
As previously stated, this phenomenon began in New York, but as a result of its cult following, has recently spread its tendrils to select locales across the country. The catalyst for this article was my recent trip to Vinny’s Pizza in Jupiter, Florida. I had never even seen a Grandma pie before, and immediately inquired with the man behind the counter, who, as it turns out, is the owner, Derek Maninno. Upon his enthusiastic explanation, intrigued, I tried it, and let me just say, I am like a cucumber that has become a pickle: there is no going back to any other type of pizza! When you decide to take the Grandma Challenge, as I did, check out www.myvinnyspizza.com
In the U.S., there are approximately 4 billion pizzas sold each year. Of the estimated 323 million people who live in the entire country, unfortunately, most of them don’t know what they’re missing!