Who doesn’t love pizza?
Ah, but what kind? Soft crust, crispy crust, thick crust, or thin crust? What about toppings? Mild, zesty, meaty, cheesy, or veggie? Then there’s the age-old debate….warm or cold?
Considered quintessential American fare, pizzas are like culinary chameleons. The freedom to experiment with toppings (locally fresh or ethnically inspired), ingredients, and the distinctive textures and tastes of different crusts create countless possibilities.
Each pie, though, traces to a common ancestor from Naples, Italy, first introduced in the late 1890s to New Yorkers. The original components (a thin crust layered with cheese, tomato, and basil) were simple but deliciously addictive. Recognizing the potential of such a versatile, likable food, Italian immigrants were the first to open family pizzerias where they conceived and perfected their own signature recipes.
At TJ’s Take and Bake Pizza, we love all things pizza. Even books about pizza. So we decided to share with you our favorite reads. If you do decide to read any of the books on the list, they can all be savored over a long time or grabbed with a slice of TJ’s pizza for a quick nosh.
Where to Eat Pizza by Daniel Young
Subtitled variously The Last Word on The Slice and The Expert’s Guide to the Best Pizza Places in the World, this cheerful, chunky hardback is certainly not a pocket guide, but it weighs much less then its 2-inch spine would lead you to expect. There are no fancy art paper or atmospheric food shots here, which is as it should be.
But why a world guide to pizza at all, you may ask. Well, the author Daniel Young (a London-based food critic and author of the hugely successful international food guide Where Chefs Eat) is mad about pizza.
And, no, he didn’t eat in all of the 1,705 recommended pizzerias in 48 countries himself; he used local knowledge to do the legwork for him. Calling on the knowledge of 121 regional experts, who then chose 956 “pizza informants” in their regions, he put together the first-ever, comprehensive, insiders’ guide to the best pizza places around the world.
The content is mainly made of brief, summary-style entries, sometimes even just a sentence with a by-line. But there are also some of Young’s pieces scattered through the text on topics of burning interest to pizza obsessives: custom crafted brick ovens, repurposed Citroen trucks, house-made mozzarella, pizza boxes, pizza folding, etc. There are also some of more general interest, such as a piece about Pizza Tours, for example.
Photo Credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20454300-pizza
Pizza: A Slice of American History by Liz Barrett
With liberty and pizza for all. There is no doubt that pizza is one of the most popular foods in the United States. Americans reportedly eat a combined 350 slices every second! Although pizza had its origins overseas, it has come into full flour here (that was cheesy) in the States. Pizza: A Slice of American History tells the story of how this beloved food became the apple of our collective eye….or perhaps, more precisely, the pepperoni of our pie. Pizza journalist Liz Barrett explores how it is that pizza came to and conquered the United States and how it evolved into different forms across the country. Each chapter investigates a different pie: New Haven’s white clam pie, New York’s Sicilian and Neapolitan, Chicago’s famous deep dish, California’s health-conscious varieties, the various styles that emerged in the Midwest, and many others. The components of each pie (crust, sauce, toppings, spices, and much more) are dissected and recipes from top pizzerias provide readers with the opportunity to make and sample the pies themselves.
Illustrated throughout with modern and historical photographs, postcards, and memorabilia, Pizza: A Slice of American History is a comprehensive and fun cultural history read.
Inventing the Pizzeria: A History of Pizza Making in Naples by Antonio Mottozi
Pizza is one of the best known and widely exported Italian foods and yet relatively little is known about its origins in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Myths (such as the naming of pizza margherita after the Italian queen) abound, but little serious scholarly attention has been devoted to the topic. Eschewing exaggerated fables, this book draws a detailed portrait of the difficulties experienced by the then marginalized class of pizza makers, rather than the ultimate success of their descendants.
It provides a unique exploration of the history of pizza making in Naples. Touching upon issues of politics, economies, and sociology, Inventing the Pizzeria contributes not only to the commercial, social, and food history of Italy but also provides an urban history of a major European city, told through one of its most famous edible exports. Originally published in Italian, this English edition is updated with a revised introduction and additional images and sources.
Pizza: A Global History by Carol Helstosky
Pizza describes the history and evolution of one of our favorite foods in Italy, the United States, and throughout the world, from its humble origins in eighteenth-century Naples to its current status as one of the world’s most popular foods. The book looks at the history of pizza focusing on what pizza meant to different people and, in turn, the different things people have done to it.
In Italy, pizza has constituted the diet of the Neapolitan poor, has been a source of opportunity for the Italian entrepreneurs and has contributed to national and regional pride and identity. In the United States, pizza has become the nation’s most popular dish as well as a major source of profits for standardized fast food corporations such as Pizza Hut and Dominos.
Pizza: A Global History looks at the history of pizza from a variety of national and global perspectives and it also contains many illustrations and recipes.
Pizzapedia: An Illustrated Guide to Everyone’s Favorite Food by Dan Bransfield
No matter what your level of pizza fanaticism is, you’re going to love Pizzapedia. Food illustrator Dan Bransfield’s book is devoted to the ultimate universal favorite, which has never fallen out of favor with its massive audience. An essential primer and master class all in one, this delightfully retro-themed book is packed with information, charts, stories, recipes, and more including 80 charming illustrations.
Totally Pizza: The Wild Story of The World’s Most Famous Food by Mark Masker
Totally Pizza includes plenty of tales of culinary history, anecdotes, trivia, and surprise questions written in a humorous style that is engaging and fun-loving.
The jokes start in the preface where Maskers tells of his own addiction to pizza, which began in the 1970s when his parents fed him frozen pizza. “It was a win for everyone. I liked it because pizza made me shut up quickly when I was hungry, and my parents liked it because it made me shut up quickly when I was hungry.”
The book considers regional “American Pie” categories: New York folding slices, deep dish Chicago pies, and California gourmet pizzas. There is a franchise section which focuses on the stories of Pizza Hut, Dominos, Papa Johns, Chuck E. Cheese, and store bought frozen and kit pizzas.
Masker also looks at organized crime involvement in the illicit pizza business, with some pizzerias in the Northeast and Midwest serving as fronts for mob drug operations. In the final chapter, “Pizza in Pop Culture,” Masker mentions pizza that is referenced often in the movies. Two 1989 movies are Mystic Pizza set in a Northeast pizzeria known for its special sauce (starring Julia Roberts) and the Spike Lee movie Do the Right Thing in which Lee’s character delivers pizza.
If you want to delve into the humorous side of pizza, then this book is for you.
The United States of Pizza by Craig Priebe with Dianne Jacobs
Priebe has crafted a combination cook book and pizzeria guide. The United States of Pizza delivers vivid photography and colorful descriptions of dough types, toppings, tools, and techniques with personal roles for pizza making success and bits of history to enrich the recipes and corresponding pizzerias.
At the heart of the book, of course, are the signature pizzas, classified according to dough type: Naples style, New York style, Sicilian style, sourdough, stuffed, corn flour, whole wheat, and gluten-free.
Interestingly, every recipe in The United States of Pizza (whether the classic margherita from Patsy’s Pizzeria in New York or the Goodies Roonie, a stuffed crust pie with sausage from Big Fred’s Restaurant and Lounge in Omaha) is Priebe’s own interpretation. It works because he is a professional chef. “I wrapped each recipe around the experience of the pizzeria described,” he explains, “but I didn’t discuss ingredients or techniques with any of the chefs. I deciphered them myself.”
This book invites people to sample his recipes and visit the restaurants Priebe features, one slice at a time.