Archive for October, 2014

The following interview with Liz Barrett, author of Pizza, A Slice of American History is revealing and timely. She explains how she was able to research her book and how she was able to find some of the incredible information contained in her new treatise on pizza. Liz also shares some great advice for anyone who wants to write their own book. Thanks, Liz for taking the time to speak with me.

Liz Barrett author of Pizza, A Slice of American History

Liz Barrett author of Pizza, A Slice of American History

How did you start researching the book?

Even though I’ve been writing about the pizza industry for seven years with PMQ Pizza Magazine, I was surprised at how much research went into writing Pizza: A Slice of American History. With PMQ, I mostly write about what’s happening now, along with some predictions for the future; for this book, it’s all about pizza’s history here in America, so I turned to all of my favorite pizza books, called up some pizza folks I know, and started scouring the Net for pizza information to help fill in blanks.

What was the reason you wanted to write the book?

I wanted to bring something different to the pizza book offerings that are currently available. My publisher and I had a long discussion before I started about the various topics I could discuss in the book that would make the book more unique. Because I came at it from the standpoint of a seasoned pizza journalist, I’m able to share lots of fun nuggets of information that readers can’t necessarily find in other books. I break down the history of each of the major pizza styles and then include a variety of additional snippets of information all throughout the book, like where to find the slices outside of the normal zone, how to make them at home, pizza trivia, and more.

9780760345603 A Slice of American History Review

What were a couple of the out of this world pizzas that you sampled?

I didn’t necessarily sample pizzas for the book. I’ve been “sampling” hundreds of pizzas since 2007, both for PMQ and for my own personal enjoyment.

Do you make your own pizza?

Every once in a while my husband and I will make pizza, and it’s good, but it’s not something we do on a regular basis. I really prefer to support the pizza makers and enjoy the pizzeria experience.

Any pizza tips for the home pizza maker?

Page 49 of the book has a whole list of tips for the home pizza maker. My favorite is: If you’re using a pizza stone to cook your pizza, put the stone in the oven during the pre-heat phase; when you put your pizza on the hot stone, it will mimic a deck oven.

What was the most fun you had researching the book?

When it comes to research, I’m kind of a nerd. I actually had the most fun with the research itself—looking back through old records to find when an ingredient was mentioned, and checking patent dates to see when certain ovens were invented, etc. When I’m on a hot lead, I’ll stay up until 3 a.m. trying to find the answer.

How did you choose the mini interviews that were included in the book?

2-pizzas-from-pizza

The people I chose to interview are just a few of the people I’ve respected over the years for being innovative, entrepreneurial, industrious, or just being a great example of the term “pizza lover”. There’s never room for everyone you want to include, but I wanted to give readers a taste of some of the people that help to make the industry what it is today.

What was the big takeaway from writing your book? Did you come to any conclusions?

That’s a great question. I think what stood out to me the most was that the same ingredients and equipment that were being used decades ago in some of these regions are still being used today. Pizza makers are very dedicated to their craft and honoring its traditions. The same ovens are being used in New Haven, Connecticut; the same square steel pans are being used in Detroit; and the same Provel cheese is topping pizzas in St. Louis. With pizza, you don’t have to be overtly innovative to please people. Give them what they remember, what gives them that warm, fuzzy, comfortable feeling inside, and they’ll love you forever.

Chicago Deep Dish from Pizza

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to write a book like yours?

Clear your schedule. If you can write, you can write a book. But, you need to have the time for the research, phone calls, follow-ups, late nights, re-writes, deadlines, etc. I put all of my freelance writing on hold when I wrote this book because I knew there was no way I could do both at the same time. You have to focus on the book until it’s done, or you will never meet your deadline on time.

What’s next? Do you have any other books planned?

I recently spoke with someone who wanted to co-author a book with me in the business/marketing field, since I cover that topic a lot for PMQ and my blog, The Pizza Insider. For now, though, I’m focusing my efforts on getting the word out about Pizza, A Slice of American History and making sure that it ends up on the coffee table of every house and the counter of every pizzeria!

Order, your own copy right here: Pizza, A Slice of American History.

Pizza, A Slice of American History Review

One day in the near future The Complete Encyclopedia of Pizza will be published. This distinguished work will contain at least 150 volumes and will explain in detail the impact pizza has had in America and the known universe.

There will be a volume on every type of pizza, including New Haven, New York, Chicago, California, Old Forge, Detroit and much more. Some volumes will be dedicated to those influential pizzaioli such as Frank Pepe, Salvatore Consiglio, Jonathan Goldsmith, John Arena, Peter Reinhart, Ike Sewell, Dom Demarco and Ed Ladue to mention but a few.

Until the Encyclopedia of Pizza is completed, you will be more than satisfied to discover Liz Barrett’s: Pizza, A Slice of American History. This volume covers numerous types of pizza in America, those persons who influenced the regional pizza and how the various styles developed.

As a student of pizza, I was somewhat skeptical how one book could explain the history of pizza in America and the various styles included. My fears were immediately laid to rest when I started reading the introduction by pizza activist, Scott Wiener.

Barrett discusses Neapolitan and New York style pizza. She opens with the history of pizza and the differences between AVPN, New York, Tomato Pie and New Haven Apizza (Ah-beets). Sprinkled throughout the book are sketches of pizza luminaries such as Penny Pollack (Everybody Loves Pizza), Mark Bello (Pizza A Casa), Roberto Caporuscio (Don Antonio by Starita), Peter Reinhart (American Pie) and Adam Kuban (Slice).

Each type of American pie is described and dissected. She covers Detroit, St. Louis, California, Sicilian and Grandma style pizzas. Barrett’s pizza knowledge is extensive and she has a unique gift to distill the information into delectable slices. As an added benefit recipes for most styles are included. This makes this a true hands on volume as the recipes can be replicated by the home pizza chef. You can learn not only the history of each type of pie but also how to make it with step by step instructions.

She even added to the knowledge base of pizza by describing Pizza Strips created by Rhode Island Italian bakeries and found throughout the “Ocean State”. These were slices of pizza I enjoyed growing up and have only found them in that region. The pictures included are a wonderful addition and fit in nicely with the character of the book. The images are impressive and create a brilliant visual history of pizza. You will discover some rarities which are true nuggets of the pizza saga.

For anyone who loves pizza, this book will fit nicely on your library shelf. Some of the topics are brushed over, but understanding the depth of the subject matter, that is not an issue. I would have liked to have seen a discussion on the strong influence of the Internet on Pizza, but maybe that can be included in a volume of the Complete Encyclopedia of Pizza.

This is a well written book for anyone who ever held a slice. Grab your own copy, and discover the wonders of “a magical little disk that makes things happen”. You will encounter with this book how pizza is very much a part of the fabric of America. Pizza, is A Slice of American History.

Claim your own copy, right here: Pizza, A Slice of American History