Illustration by Nick Gazin
After originating in the Mediterranean in the 1800s, the round pie we call pizza became a global sensation post–World War II. Just about every nation in the world has its version of this versatile dish. The genius of pizza is that it's infinitely adaptable. Everyone has his preferences and unique predilections. Cultures put their own spin on pizza, but it's all equal… or is it?
A restaurant in Canada created the world's most expensive pizza just this month. For $450, you can get a white truffle pie with lobster thermidor, black Alaskan cod, smoked salmon, tiger prawns, and Russian Osetra caviar. It probably tastes like licking the crotch of a track suit after a marathon, but the Dr. Frankensteins who invented this monstrosity are able to call their dish "pizza" because their stupid ingredients are on a round disc made of dough. I refuse to stand for that.
It's time that we as a society put our foot down and set some guidelines for what is and isn't pizza. We've assembled an A-Z list of the most important aspects of pizza culture and SPOILER ALERT: none of them include fucking caviar.
This is the witching hour when it comes to pizza. While pizza definitely has its moments at dinner and during the wee hours of the morning when you're plastered, it really shines due to its ubiquitous presence at after-school extracurricular activities. Whether it's post-soccer game or during a study session for final exams, pizza absolutely dominates this time slot. We haven't seen numbers like this since Cheers in its heyday. In fact, if it weren't for pizza at practice, mathletes all across the nation would starve to death.
Honorable Mentions: Anchovies, all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, artichokes, anal leakage
Whoever says Bigfoot isn’t real doesn’t remember Pizza Hut’s contribution to the world of cryptozoology. In the 90s, Pizza Hut introduced the "Bigfoot.” This gargantuan pizza was one foot wide and two feet long. Initially popular, it was quickly discontinued. Though there are some who say the beast is still out there…
The giant, square pizza was something of a mini-trend in the 90s. Domino's had the Dominator, which didn't last long. Even Little Caesars had one called "Big! Big!" This was also discontinued, and not just because of the stunning lack of creativity in the pizza's name.
Honorable Mentions: BBQ chicken, Book-It, breadsticks
Photo via Flickr user Peter
Like revenge, pizza is a dish best served cold. Eating your pizza cold not only tastes great but is fast and easy. Sure the crust isn't as snappy, and the pepperoni now has the consistancy of an unused condom, but the congealed cheese is the secret weapon of the leftover slice. The magic of cold pizza cheese is not something I even want to understand. Telling me why it's good is like telling me how babies are made. WHO CARES, DUDE? I just wish there was a stork that delivered cold pizza to my house.
Honorable Mentions: CiCi's Pizza, crust first, coupons, CPK
Your parents sit you down and tell you that they still love each other. It isn't your fault, but they're going to start spending time apart. You know what that means? Twice a month you're going to get to order whatever toppings you want! Thank God your dad can't cook for shit. True love is a lie, and you're reaping all the benefits. Hey, maybe if your family spent more time eating a nice home-cooked meal around the table instead of inhaling pizza in front of the TV, you wouldn't be in this position in the first place. Ah, it's a vicious cycle. A delicious, vicious cycle.
Honorable Mentions: Deep dish, dessert pizza, delivery, DiGiorno
EAT PIZZA ANYTIME (YOU CAN)
Like a vaguely Jewish lightning bolt from the sky, Bagel Bites struck fast and hard on the cultural landscape in the 1980s and 90s. From its oppressively catchy jingle to its ability to be bought in bulk and served to snotty children (or snotty drunks), everything about the frozen pizza bagel was carefully crafted to immediately carve out a hole in my heart. Pop them in the oven for a few minutes and you have a bunch of tiny pizzas that can fit in the palm of your hand. In the morning, in the evening, and even at supper time. When pizza's on a bagel, you truly can eat pizza any time.
Honorable Mentions: Ellen DeGeneres's Oscars pizza stunt, Edgar (the delivery guy from the Ellen pizza stunt)
Picture yourself alone, adrift in a godless universe on a dark Wednesday night in America's Middle West. You just got off an eight-hour shift at the liquor store. You come home to an empty, cold apartment filled with drained energy drink cans and fast-food wrappers. You open the freezer. There, under the fluorescent light, you see it: your dinner. The consistency of it is not unlike the box it sits in. The taste? If not for the hot sauce you poured on it after 20 minutes in the oven at 375 degrees, flavorless. It's not delivery. It's depression.
Honorable Mentions: Flatizza, folding your slice
Bread is filled with gluten. Pizza is filled with fucking bread. So no, poindexter, you can't have gluten-free pizza. Or at least you shouldn't be able to. The proliferation of Celiac disease, however, has made money-hungry eateries of all shapes and sizes eager to cater to gluten-free geeks. Which is why, in spite of it all, you can now get gluten-free pizza. By virtue of the fact that the 17-year-old preparing it could give less than a fuck about your "condition," though, the restaurant warns that "Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgment in consuming this pizza."
The Godfather himself. This guy sold pizzas and thought that would be enough to make him president. Looking back, I’m actually surprised America didn’t go for that. However, in an apparent nod to the Italians who pioneered pizza before him, his sexual aggression with female employees got the best of him and tanked his campaign. And to think, we could have had our first "pizza president." Perhaps history will right itself in the next election cycle, and we can all finally vote for the "Noid."
Honorable Mentions: Hungry Howie's
Photo via Flickr user Rolando Tanglao
I’d like to start this off by thanking the Italians for inventing this fantastic dish. You were the first to put a bunch of cheese and random shit on a round disk made of dough. Pretty clever. We'll take it from here, though. Your crust isn't stuffed. Your pies are neither "hot" nor "ready" when I order them. Why is your sauce sweet? Where's all the cheese? I see zero cartoon mascots in your country. Do you even have an electronic system that allows me to track my pizza as it's being made? Oh, you don't? SMDH, Italy. Here in America, we're always "Makin' It Great."
Honorable Mentions: Internet pizza memes
Photo via Flickr user Cassidy
JUST GET SOME FUCKING BREADSTICKS, OK?
Pizza's overly eager little brother. Whereas the calzone is like pizza's obnoxious, arrogant cousin from the big city (a meal unto itself, basically a pizza folded into itself), breadsticks are a trifling but delicious complement to any meal. If you want to really lose your mind, usually there is a type of "insane" or "loco" or "crazy" bread that is just a bunch of breadsticks covered in melted cheese.
Wondering if anyone else wants breadsticks? Guess what? They do. Everyone secretly loves breadsticks. There are no Tumblr pages or novelty T-shirts dedicated to breadsticks, but that's because they're the Batman of comfort food. They're our silent guardian, our watchful protector, lurking in the shadows—the Carb Knight.
Honorable Mentions: The Jonas Brothers' hit song, "Pizza Girl"
Kale is a "superfood." Pizza is a "super" food, to be sure, but its health benefits are nonexistent. That's why, when you combine the two, not only do you negate the healthfulness of the kale, you ruin the taste of the pizza. What the fuck is wrong with you? Don't you know there are kids in Africa right now dying for access to superfoods?
Honorable Mentions: K! Pizzacone
LIQUID DEATH (A.K.A. "GREASE")
A two-ply napkin, applied to the surface of a grease-laden slice of pizza, is but an impotent attempt to protect the eater from the colon-crushing, waist-expanding nightmare that is said pizza. Emphasis, of course, on impotent. You can blot all you want, baby girl, but it ain't gonna do a goddamn thing, other than needlessly destroy a dozen napkins. If you're worried about the caloric content of your meal, here's a suggestion: eat something that isn't pizza. Or just throw up afterwards. The grease will coat your throat.
Honorable Mentions: Lactose intolerance, Lunchables pizza
Photo via Flickr user yoppy
MAKE IT YOURSELF (OR NOT)
There are many things you can make at home, and I am sure they're great: hamburgers, pasta, sandwiches, etc. It’s not that hard to make this shit on your own. Pizza, however, you can never do. I know you think you can, but unless you have a wood-fired oven and the ability to get that dough into a perfect circle, your DIY pizza is a sham. I learned a long time ago to give up on making my own pie. Every time it came out of the oven it looked like pizza's "before" picture in a plastic surgery ad. The slices end up being rectangular, the bread is too thick, and the cheese is never right. The above photo is ostensibly of a pizza, but throwing lunch meat on a round cracker does not a pizza make.
Honorable Mentions: Mozzarella sticks, marinara, Macaulay Culkin's pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band
Photo via Flickr user Michael Gray
NEW YORK STYLE
The age-old debate: New York vs. Chicago. Chicago style is great. Really. It's delicious and filling. It's a truly special treat. It's also not as good as New York style. I mean, seriously. Look at this shit.
Why does this even need to be said? God bless you, Chicago. Your "pizza" is fantastic, but it's not pizza. Consolation prize for not being Los Angeles and putting avocado on your pies, though. Thanks for that.
Honorable Mentions: Napoli, Noid
"Papa" John Schnatter announced that implementing Obamacare at his Papa John's franchises would cause as much as a 14-cent increase in price and lead to employees' hours being cut. Heaven forbid a CEO who churns out one of the unhealthiest foods on the planet dole out a little extra cash to take care of his own. So next time you want a pizza, think about where your money is really going. (Your gut.) In fact, if the typical American family abstained from buying pizza and saved that money instead, then a lot more people in this country would be able to afford health insurance.
Honorable Mentions: Oregano, obesity
PINEAPPLE (PROS & CONS)
PRO: Warm, juicy, flavorful, a bit sweet and a bit sour, pineapple is a topping that ought to go without saying for true pizza aficionados. Also, pineapple allegedly makes your cum taste better. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but there’s no way pineapple is making your cum taste worse. If it makes you feel better, let’s also just say that it’s locally grown and organic. There you go. Now just put it on your pizza and enjoy yourself.
CON: This is pizza, not fruit salad. Next thing, you're going to tell me I should put grapes and cantelope on pizza. This is the slipperiest slope there is. When it comes to pizza, I am a strict constructionist.
QUICK DELIVERY TIME
Unless you're a mom or a nerd, pizza is not a pre-planned affair. Therefore, the quickness of delivery time is almost more imperative to your enjoyment of pizza than whether the damn thing is even edible. We all know at least one person who's eaten an uncooked frozen pizza because they needed it now.
In fact, the hierarchy of pizza qualities, in order from most to least important, is as follows:
1. Actively not made of poison
2. How fast it gets to your mouth
3. Quality of ingredients
4. Does the money you spend on this pizza go to scumbag anti-abortion groups?
5. GMOs or whatever
6. Did it fall on the floor cheese-side-down?
7. Did it fall on the floor cheese-side-up? (This is totally fine and actually improves the pizza, because you are eating a miracle.)
Honorable Mentions: Queen Latifah did a voice-over for a Pizza Hut commercial
In March of this year, a pizza place in Dallas, Texas, charged patrons $1,000 for a side of ranch in order to discourage the use of the creamy dressing on their Neapolitan-style pie. Jay Jerrier, owner of Cane Rosso, claimed that he was merely joking when he slapped the insane figure on a bottle of ranch hanging from the wall of his establishment. This "joke" quickly turned into a 900-comment-long Reddit flame war. Opinions ranged from "He's in the high quality end of the service industry, you're not paying for food, you're paying for his expertise. He has every right to point out that ranch should not be requested or used in his own establishment" all the way to clever pop culture references like "No soup for you!" Remember? Like in that sitcom your dad used to watch.
The truth is, ranch is delicious. Pizza crust is usually dry, dull, and flavorless. Why not dunk that shit in some creamy salad dressing? What are you, some kinda commie?
Honorable Mentions: Rock-afire Explosion
Let's all drop down on bended knee and kiss the ring of Pizza Hut founder John R. Pizzahut, who, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to go in through the out door and stick it where it doesn't belong. "It," of course, is cheese, and "where it doesn't belong" is inside crust. What now seems like an obvious move was highly controversial at launch. Who had ever dreamed of eating pizza backward? Now, it's accepted practice. Not one to rest on its past success, Pizza Hut has stepped up its game again and created the 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza.
It took a true visionary to buck convention and begin the golden age of pizza we currently enjoy. Thank you, John R. Pizzahut. Your legacy will live on forever. Jackpot!
Honorable Mentions: Square pizza, salad pizza
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
I’m not saying the Ninja Turtles made pizza what it is, but the early 90s were a great time for pizza all around and the Turtles benefit from that association. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Rapahel showed the ideal dream life we aspired to but could never have: they hung with their bros all day, they used weapons, and they ate pizza all the time without any of the bodily consequences of being human. They could never get flabby stomachs, and their big, weird green muscles seemingly were never affected either. They also had a great loft-style sewer apartment that any slum-chic trust-funder would kill for. The Turtles were grotesque abominations of nature, just like we all are, but they had one another, and they had pizza.
Honorable Mentions: Tummy (where the pizza goes)
UNDERGROUND PIZZA JOINTS (SUCK)
I know you think that pizza place in the basement of some guy's house in a dark alley 20 miles outside of town has to be the greatest pizza in the world, but chances are, it's crap. Unlike “secret” burrito and taco spots, secret pizza spots don't really exist. If it's good pizza, people know about it. Hate to burst your bubble, but just stuff some Sbarro in your mouth and deal with the crushing reality that is delicious corporate pizza.
Honorable Mentions: "U Bake" pizza
Call me xenophobic if you must, but I hate when "worlds collide." Fusion, be it jazz or Japanese, maddens me. Which is why I'm confused and angered by any variation on the pizza's classic cheese, crust, and toppings formula. While burgers are great, and pizza is fantastic, the two should stay on their own ends of the culinary Mason-Dixon Line.
A Korean chain called Mr. Pizza down the street from me called sells seafood-covered pizzas with crusts made out of "sweet potato mousse"; said pizzas are served with orange marmalade dipping sauce and cost $30. This is not pizza. This is the subject of a listical describing how "weird" Asian culture is.
Honorable Mentions: Vegan pizza
There's a whole litany of ingredients that can go on a pizza, and at this point we've become bored with the same old cheese, pepperoni, and mushroom variations we've had for years. Anchovies are the standard weird topping, although some people swear by them. Jalapeños have made it into the rotation lately. My friend Dave loves to order jalapeños on his pizza. I try to avoid eating pizza with Dave. Isn't that a shame? A friendship torn asunder due to pizza? Pizza is supposed to bring us all together! While we all have our predilections, I would suggest sticking to the mainstays in larger groups. It's just gonna go down easier that way. But when you're alone, or with a trusted friend? Get weird, bro. Let that freak flag fly. Anchovies, jalapeños, and all.
Honorable Mentions: Wings (buffalo), white pizza
At Costco, you can purchase an 18'' pie for $9.99. That's an amazing price, and an exciting proposition. Yet no one you see purchasing one looks excited. It's almost as if their lives are hell.
Honorable Mentions: X-Files episode with pizza in it. Remember that one?
YOU BETTER TIP THE DELIVERY GUY
Only pornography has recognized that pizza delivery is a profession worth blowing. Women love men in uniform, which is one reason the pizza delivery guy was the top porn character of the 80s and 90s. Society as a whole, though, has been slow to recognize the importance of the job. Pizza delivery is a profession that deserves respect regardless of the position’s pay, like a soldier or mail carrier, and a new uniform would go a long way toward that end. I would suggest something sleek, black, and militaristic, with a hat that has room for the restaurant’s logo on the front. Maybe an arm band? How about leather boots? I think we're onto something.
Honorable Mentions: Yelp reviews, Yolo pizza
What grease goes in, it must come out, no matter how delicious it may have been going down. Zits are a nice taste of irony, too, since they make your face look like exactly what you just ate. Although they’re ugly and annoying, zits provide a helpful service: They protect us from ourselves. Without zits and fat, there would really be no reason not to eat pizza for every meal.
Honorable Mentions: 'Za (don't call it that)