Mmmmm… pizza! Or as my dad called it– and as you’ll sometimes see on signs at the real authentic old-timer pizza places– “Apizza!”
I was born in and grew up around New Haven, CT. Some of the best pizza in the world is made in and around New Haven, and you could say I’m spoiled and snobbish about Italian food in general.
Oh, yeah. I want a pizza with a thin, crispy-tender bottom crust and tender-chewy-crispy edges. Maybe a little burnt in spots. A matte-finish, grey-brown colored crust that’s not exactly limp and floppy, but at the same time won’t stand up by itself in your hand.
A pizza that’s overall more saucy than it is cheesy. And more parmesan-y than it is mozzarella-y, and fragrant with garlic and oregano.
A pizza that’s not exactly pretty in an assembly-line uniformity way, but because it’s made with love and passion, is beautiful beyond description. Fold that bad boy in half and let the olive oil fall where it may.
Now I’m starving.
The pizza I commonly find has a shiny yellow crust– a thick and bready crust that’s wet and doughy just below the toppings. An overly-sweet tomato sauce, little to no seasoning, and entirely too much cheese. A bland, yet oddly aggressive pizza slice that stands at attention, mocking my grandiose notions of what a pizza should be.
Here in my adopted home of Maine, a large (16-inch) cheese pizza at Amato’s will run you $12.95. Their pizza’s not entirely awful, but I will forever compare pizza to the New Haven-style yardstick.
During this past year and a half, I’ve learned to make my own pizza. Partly because I’ve been broke much of the time, but mostly because I haven’t been able to get a decent pie here. Since I don’t have a wood-fired brick oven, I haven’t been able to get exactly the New Haven effect, but I can make something much closer to my preference than I can buy anywhere.
And the cost?
- Three packages pizza crust mix**: 99 cents
- Three 8 ounce cans tomato sauce: 66 cents
- One 16-ounce block mozzarella cheese: $2.64***
With the above (store-brand) ingredients, I could make THREE big cheese pizzas for $ 4.29.
OK… Let’s say I might also use 50 cents’ worth of grated parmesan cheese and 10 cents’ worth of spices****, bringing the cost to $4.89.
Where else are you gonna get three large pizzas for under five bucks?
Let’s pretend I’m planning a get-together and need three pizzas for my guests. But– alas– I’m broke and live in a place where good pizza eludes me.
- 3 large cheese pizzas at Amato’s: $38.85
- 3 large cheese pizzas, home-made: 4.89
I have a feeling I’ll be kneading some dough for that party!
* Apizza: the Italian word for “pie”, pronounced “Ah-BEETS”.
** Before I got over my fear of yeast, I bought pizza crust mixes. I’ve since learned to make my own fresh pizza dough, and never looked back. It’s so much fresher and tastier. I haven’t worked out the cost of making yeast dough, but even if it might cost me a little more, it’s worth it.
*** That price has probably gone up since the last time I made pizza, back in the spring.
**** You can get perfectly good basic spices at Wal*Mart for only 50 cents. On pizza, I use garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and maybe some crushed red pepper.