Before my next post, I felt I should give some background. Way back when, when the Italian phrase “Less is More” was Americanized into “More is Better,” a whole country embraced this concept. They started to apply this to their lifestyles – more strip malls, more cash registers, more channels on TV, more criminals in politics, more straight-to-video movies.
And especially in food.
Every night after the Buffalo Pizzeria closed, Gianni Tantascelta would slide the most anticipated pie of the evening into the oven. This pizza was baked after all the tables were cleared and the floors swept, the chatter of customers was reduced to the sound of retreating footsteps and the lights in the building were switched off. One glowing source of light remained. The wood oven and its fire lay waiting for the final pie.
Gianni was from Naples, a Napoletano, where the best pizza in Italy was made with its’ “high crust.” Gianni had a favorite pizza, one loved by many Italians. The Margherita. Just the dough, the sauce, and the best mozzarella you could find. To him, this was perfection.
He loved that at any time, he could be less than 5 minutes from eating this healthy filling meal, and for that, he loved his job. He loved the fresh cut wood piled on the tiled floor waiting to be used, the almost pure whiteness of the mozzarella he sliced every morning, and the fact that he could tell by smell if a pizza was ready to come out of the oven.
Every day he sliced cheese, vegetables and meats to be used in his pizzas. Every evening, some of the ingredients would be left over. He believed that the freshness of the ingredients was the key to a good pizza, and therefore never used these ingredients the next day. But running his own pizzeria had opened his eyes to things he had never known before when just working as a pizza tosser back in Napoli – words like profit, inventory, costs.
So, he forsake his beloved Margherita in order not to waste. He piled the remaining ingredients on the last pizza. He pulled the pizza out of the oven with the wooden paddle, and set it on the counter. The steam rose from in between the bell peppers, the pepperoni, the olives and a few bits of ham from that night’s leftovers.
Mamma mia! Non era niente male!
It was true, the pizza didn’t look that bad. As he took his first bite, he knew that his father would be rolling in his grave with so many toppings. But he admitted to himself, it was one of the best pizzas he’d ever made. Gianni soon began to look forward to making this pizza every night, keeping tabs on the remaining ingredients so he could envision his dream pizza for the evening.
And then he met a girl. (Girls are usually the catalyst in stories like these)
One night, wandering the floors when there was a lull in the pizza orders, he noticed the most beautiful young lady enter the restaurant with an older woman. Since he was walking that direction, he intercepted them from his host and decided to seat them himself.
The way she struggled to read the mostly-Italian menu told him immediately that she wasn’t a paesan, and so he offered, “I can help you choose something. What do you like?”
She smiled at his kindness. “I like everything, really.”
Gianni liked her smile and decided he wanted to impress her. “I will make you a pizza you will never forget.”
Upon her acceptance, Gianni went back into the kitchen, rolled up his sleeves and made the first dream pizza that wasn’t for him alone.
When he personally delivered the pizza to her table, people at the surrounding tables strained to see this loaded pizza and scanned their menus for its title. Several customers waiting to order decided they would have that pizza, too, and the waiters started scrambling.
Gianni also noticed the commotion. From that day forward, the day of the 5 olive pizza was over.
The moral of the story is: Someone will always roll over in their grave over something. Or maybe it’s: If you pay attention to what people want, you will make money. Or just become evil.
Or maybe there’s no moral, but just a good pizza.
I’ll guess you’ll find out tomorrow.