About time: The United States Pizza Museum opened Friday. It’s in Chicago, and this angers some people. Of course, everything angers some people these days, but pizza cuts to the pith of regional identities. New Yorkers — surprise — are furious about this.
They don’t consider deep-dish to be real pizza. They say it’s a thick soup. Sauce on top of cheese? What’s next: the bun inside the hamburger? If you regard the crust-sauce-cheese order as something handed down to Moses on a hot stone, yes, Chicago style breaks the rules.
But let’s break down why New Yorkers are wrong, and Minnesotans — once again — are the real winners here.
First, New Yorkers are poor judges of pizza.
Exhibit A: New York pizza. Exhibit B: New Yorkers’ passionate defense of Exhibit A.
While in New York last summer, we went to some late night joint with a sign from 1954, “upstairs seating” that consisted of two wobbly tables and walls shellacked with grease. It was the usual stuff — boring crust, insufficient sauce, indifferent cheese, sitting under a lamp for an hour.
It’s OK most of the time. But when it’s bad, it’s like someone spilled half a cup of Chef Boyardee sauce on the floor mat of a taxi. But New Yorkers will still think it’s the best. Because it’s from New York!
Chicago-style allows the sauce on top of the cheese because it’s thick. Besides, some joints put the topping over the cheese, some under, so don’t tell me Chicago is tampering with the fabric of the pizza universe.
This war will rage forever, unless the Pizza Museum people realize there’s only one place to put their new institution. That would be Minnesota, of course.
Here’s my case: We have always been pizza pioneers. Back in the ’70s, deep dish came to a place called My Pie, and it was a hit — in fact, most people don’t know that the Time magazine cover that showed Gov. Wendy holding up a fish was supposed to show him holding up a deep-dish, but it all slopped out.
You can get every style of pizza you want here. There’s Detroit style — despite the name, it does not have motor-oil sauce and the contents of an ashtray for topping. You can get Chicago, New York, California, and — unlike any of those places — you also can get Minnesota style: cracker crust, thin layer of cheese baked by a solar flare, crispy cups of pepperoni that contain little lakes of grease.
Minnesota is the home of Totino’s, a pioneering frozen pizza and inexpensive staple of college. Having eaten about 500 of them over the course of my youth, I am qualified to say they were horrible, and also I would gladly eat No. 501. When I mention “Alpo crumbles and cubed pseudo-pepperoni,” it is with admiration and awe. I ate that. And then with the full knowledge of what it was, I ate more.
Jeno Paulucci, another great Minnesotan whose statue should stand in the Capitol rotunda, invented the pizza roll, which folds the essence of pizza on itself: All crust on the outside! All essence on the inside! There is a recipe online for pizza-roll stuffed-crust pizza, and if you made it Chicago-style and wrapped it in slices of New York style, I think you’d get a black hole.
One more thing: New York and Chicago styles both need flour for their crust, right? And where did that come from, back in the days of our Mississippi mills? That’s why we deserve the museum.
In effect, all pizza is Minnesota style. But we’re not asking for thanks. Just a museum.