“What America Tastes Like” pledge: No Food Pictures.
As I explore the cultures in the United States by putting them in my mouth, I will share what the experience was. Not what it looked like. This is not a superficial relationship.
Kenosha, a little town by the big lake in Wisconsin, has plenty to figure out. After nearly 100 years, the local mattress factory and auto factory shut down. In what’s technically a suburb of Chicago, industry has left the town with the meager distinction of most-bars-per-capita. Local legend has it that when Cabrini Green was bulldozed, the criminal element left Chicago and moved to Kenosha to get drunk.
The town may have plenty of problems, but pizza is not one of them.
With lots of tiny places owned by Italian families, the town even taught me something new.
Pizzas have meat on them. Water is wet, the sky is blue, and pizzas have meat on them.
When I was 4, my favorite pizza was Andy’s Pizza in Indianapolis. As an adult I have learned why. The sausage was made in-house. The grind on the meat was thin and the sausage became a part of the sauce. This turned the tomato paste into a fennel-heavy porkfat and glutamate flavor powerhouse that complimented the mellow mozzarella.
When I was 18, my favorite pizza was the classic Gino’s East in Chicago. The crust was lined with pepperoni that became a delicious greasebowl, a melting-pot for the sausage to simmer in as the massive pie cooks up.
But then I lived in Washington State. It’s not a place for land-animal cuisine. Or pizza.
My first pizza in Wisconsin turned out to be the best pizza I’d had in years. And it didn’t have meat on it.
Valeo’s spinach stuffed-cheese pizza is essentially a perfect food item, yet it has no animals inside. The cheese is a fresh mozzarella that brings character and oozy-chew to each bite. The whole thing has an inner layer of ricotta and spinach. The sublimely simple cream-flavor of the ricotta takes the mineral edge off of the spinach. The two become something greater than either ingredient could hope to be on its own, although it is a high quality ricotta with a very clean “happy cow” taste. The crust is folded over the edges of the pizza in a nearly braided twist. It brings just the right amount of “bite” once you make your way to the edge of the triangle slice.
You’ll eat all the crust, too. It has a toasty flavor and an unexpected airiness to it on its own. Dip it in the complimentary bowl of sweet pasta-sauce that sits in the box with the pizza.
I learned something new a pizza could be.
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