Friday, November 2, 2012

Five Facts for Foreigners - Vol. XI

Pizza. Everybody seems to love it.

Preference is definitely a regional, as well as a very personal thing. Most people have a craving for a certain place when they hear the word. Folks in the U.S. are familiar with terms like New York-style pizza, Chicago-style 'deep-dish' pizza, or in Austin: Mangia Pizza and Conan's. (...and apparently East Side Pies. I'll have to try them when I go home to visit.)

Image found here.

Within the pizza-loving community there are die-hard deep dish devotees, staunch thin crust connoisseurs, and avid hand-tossed aficionados. There are the extra sauce enthusiasts, and those who lean toward light sauce. Deciding on extra cheese or light cheese can make or break personal pizza nirvana. Then there are the toppings... on the top, light, or on the side?

Finding the perfect pie is as much a challenge today as finding a faster trade route to the East Indies was when Columbus sailed the high seas. Pizza lovers are all seeking a rewarding find, and are sometimes even willing to go to great lengths to achieve their personal treasured trifecta: perfect crust, balanced flavor, & some kind of decent price. And once in a while... when we think that we've almost nailed it, we might just let price fly out the window. That's usually a regrettable mistake. Desperation rarely yields anything worth savoring.

After searching high and low, I can tell you that the pizza you seek in Brazil is found in precious few places. I say this as a THESLC (thin crust, extra sauce, light cheese) kind of girl. On a recent vacation, we happened across one of the most divine pizza places ever. After regular disappointment over the past 6 years, I honestly didn't get my hopes up.

We were blown away. The pizza was so amazing, that we each ate a medium—at least three nights that week. It was that good. I must note, that as an extra sauce chick, I didn't even miss it. Would it be possible to improve on perfection? I only entertained the thought for a second.

We seriously considered taking one to go... (on the plane home) but the trip would be too long, and it would get soggy (it's that thin!) so we went home brokenhearted, with bittersweet memories of the best pizza we have tasted in Brazil.

If you are ever in Fortaleza, Teresina, São Luís, or Salvador then you must make it a point to visit Vignoli's. If you live there, we are jealous: BEST. Pizza. Ever.

The topic of toppings could take a year or more to pick through, so I'll focus on the top 5 major differences in pizza toppings here versus national U.S. pizza chains. That should be easy enough.

I'll call this list Top 5 Surprising Finds Listed Under Toppings in Brazil Pizzarias...
  1. Corn – Corn! Apparently this is also available on veggie pizzas in local joints around the U.S.

  2. Image found here.

  3. Peas – The distant cousins of spinach heard that there was an opening in the pizza biz, and decided to try it out. They are bona fide rock stars in pizza places across Brazil.

  4. Image found here.

  5. Prunes (or Peaches) – What is probably the most surprising pizza on the menu is the "Californian," which is comprised of canadian bacon (or smoked turkey), prunes, peaches, pineapple, figs, and/or raisins. I have been waiting for a Californian to weigh in on this. Is this pizza really representative of Cali? (I'm guessing "no" on the prunes part.)

  6. Images found on Google.

  7. Sliced, Hard-Boiled Eggs – {insert exclamation of surprise here} I'm sticking to my guns, and still maintain that this is just weird... and stinky... and weird.

  8. Image found here.

  9. Tuna – Don't knock it 'til you try it. I'd recommend that you make it at home with lots of minced garlic & za'atar on top, for good measure.
  10. Image found here
The top 5 pizzas that you will find at pizzarias around Brazil are...
  • The Portuguesa – ham, hard-boiled eggs, tomato, black or green olives, and oregano

  • The Margherita – fresh basil, oregano, tomato, and black olives

  • The Mussarela – Although dictionaries don't recognize this spelling, 95% of pizzerias use it. Variations are mozarela, muçarela, muzarela, or the traditional Italian spelling: mozzarella.

  • The Napolitana – palm hearts, tomato, black or green olives, and oregano

  • The Calabresa – salami, onions, and black olives

Below is a sample menu from a local pizzaria.

To enlarge, right-click and open in a new window.

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