People dining in the finest restaurants on truffle-and-lobster pizza may be surprised to learn that pizza originated as a food for the very poor in Naples as early as the late eighteenth century. It took World War II to make pizza an international dish, soldiers returning from Italy with fond memories of tomato-and-cheese-crowned flatbreads. These novel “pies” began appearing in America’s metropolises, especially in neighborhoods where there were concentrations of Italian immigrants. In American hands, Naples’ bread-based pizza became thinner (New York) and thicker (Chicago). Eventually, pizza lost its moorings almost entirely as it acquired such toppings as pineapple, barbecued chicken, and jalapeños. Within a few decades, pizza conquered even the conservative tastes of school-lunch programs and became the basis for many an entrepreneur’s fortune, thanks to the innovation of home delivery. Helstosky offers practical recipes for making all styles of pizza. --Mark Knoblauch
"The Edible series contains some of the most delicious nuggets of food and drink history ever. Every volume is such a fascinating and succinct read that I had to devour each in just a single sitting. . . . food writing at its best!"
(Ken Hom, chef and author 2008-07-14)
"Books in Reaktion's Edible series are paragons of their type; concise and flavorful, jammed with interesting facts, period photos and just a handful of recipes, in case you want to 'do it yourself.' I recommend these books to foodies and academics alike."
(Robert Sietsema, restaurant critic for the Village Voice)
"A timely retort to gourmandism run amok, the first three titles in this chapbook series aim . . . to illuminate and elevate taken-for-granted staples via concise, discrete histories."
"It is indeed difficult to overestimate pizza's importance to America or America's importance to pizza, even if today's chain pizzas would make a Neapolitan fume. . . . However, while Pizza Hut and other chains have brought a standardized pie to the world, it was eventually by unstandardizing, Helstosky shows, that chain pizza has flourished globally, taking on the foodways of different countries."
(Nina C. Ayoub The Chronicle Review
"Pizza is structured a lucid thesis: the food originated as a poor person's meal but has been culturally reified. Helstosky makes an interesting point regarding the authenticity of a food, pointing out that those who bemoan the commercialization of the pizza ignore its humble origins. This is not say that she promotes or praises Domino's, but she points out the futility of trying to prevent a traditional food from changing. . . . Ultimately, Pizza offers a succinct overview of food history, with impressive analytical heft for a book of its size."
(Margot Kaminski Gastronomica
"Whether they're pizza fanatics or pizza deniers, readers are quite likely to find Helstosky's book fascinating. Her research is impressive, she writes clearly, the photographs are captivating, and the approach to delineating world history through a specific food actually works."
(Steve Weinberg Denver Post