03 February 2014


A week or two ago The New York Times published an article mocking the way in which the popular, newly-elected mayor, Bill de Blasio, ate a pizza at a well-known pizzeria in Staten Island. Mayor de Blasio ate his piece of the pie with — gird yourselves, readers — a knife and fork! When confronted with this blasphemy, de Blasio defended himself by saying he was just being true to his Italian roots. "That’s how they eat pizza in Italy!" he sputtered. Well, that may be, but de Blasio, who’s been part of the New York political scene for 25 years now, has to know how a true New Yorker eats pizza, Italian blood or no Italian blood. Take a look at these former New York mayors — they knew how to keep votes:

Mayor Lindsay

Mayor Dinkins

Mayor Giuliani
Mayor Bloomberg

This just hurts, Mayor de Blasio!

Movie about Italian immigration to Brazil
Mayor de Blasio may never come to know it, but I know that he would feel completely at home here in Brazil, because here the correct way to eat a pizza is with a knife and fork, no exceptions. Pick up a slice with your hands and you’ll have shocked and panicked waiters rushing in from all sides with utensils and napkins. In fact, all of this Brazilian knife-and-forking may well have everything to do with "Italian roots." Brazilians of Italian descent are the largest population with full or partial Italian ancestry outside of Italy. And with 1.4 million pizzas devoured per day, São Paulo surpasses every other city in the world except New York in pizza consumption.

Pizza à francesa
The differences between the pizza cultures of Brazil and New York took some getting used to, because they extend way beyond utensils. For Mark and me, the most striking difference is in the time of day that pizza is served. You want a midday pick-me-up slice from Stromboli’s on University Place in New York? Fear not, they start delivering at 11:00 a.m. and continue straight through to 11:00 p.m. But here in Brazil, restaurants that serve pizza before, let’s say, 6:00 p.m. are few and far between. And don’t think you can just get a slice, either. It’s usually the whole pie or nothing, unless you’ve gone to a restaurant that serves a rodízio of pizzas, in which case you’ll get a never-ending, all-you-can-eat array of slices with varying toppings (including dessert toppings) until you burst. And I remember the first time we were asked whether or not we wanted our pizza à francesa (the French way). What on earth was that, we wondered? Sure, we said. Well, the pizza was served already cut up into teeny tiny little bite-sized pieces, kind of like what parents do for their one-year-olds. À francesa is very popular here, but I’ve tried it, and I just can’t get behind it.

Just a few months ago a straight-off-the-boat Italian kid came to Búzios, opened up a pizzeria, and tried to model it along more Italian lines. He opened up at 11:00 a.m. ("We eat pizza for breakfast in Italy!" he told us.) Mark and I were so excited! We wanted a pizza at 4:00 in the afternoon? It was available. We wanted just a slice? That, too, was available. It didn’t hurt, either, that his authentic, thin-crust pizza was absolutely scrumptious, and that his prices were reasonable. We told all our friends. But unfortunately, the two of us were virtually alone in wanting pizza during daylight hours, and the kid got bored hanging around all afternoon without any business. So now he doesn’t open until 5:00 p.m., and that’s only to start firing up the ovens. At least you can still just get a slice there.

There’s a Brazilian expression, tudo acaba em pizza (everything ends in pizza). Although it originated from a rivalry between two soccer teams, it has come to be used for politicians who, after arguing and posturing and name-calling all day, end up reaching an agreement and going out for pizza with their former enemies. There’s a real edge of sarcasm, however, since the agreements they reach almost always fill their bellies (and pockets), but without leaving even a little crust for their constituents.

"Because here everything ends in pizza!
The Federal Senate Pizzeria

Specialties: Agreements, Conspiracies, Amendments for sale, Secret votes, Nepotism, Votes for sale, Illegal favoritism and much, much more . . .

For delivery call 0800 171 171**"

(**171 is the article in the Brazilian Penal Code that defines Fraud . . .)

And since I’m on the topic, and the blog has already gone over my self-imposed length limit, a shout-out to the best pizza in the world, ever: Bonvini’s, of Livingston, New Jersey, which closed its doors on December 13, 1997 to the continued heartbreak of its legions of fans. I’ve eaten a lot of good pizzas in my life, but none came close to Bonvini’s.

It says Jerusalem, but we know, deep down, it’s still Bonvini’s.

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