Food is an intrinsically human-centric endeavor; it is made by people for people. A shared meal is not just an opportunity to fill our stomachs; it is an invitation to enter into a relationship with another human being and a doorway to enter into their world, their space, and their culture. An art-culture project such as terabeza requires that we not only look to food as an art and artifact, but to the cultures and peoples that make the food. As we follow the story line of going around the world in Houston, food is intrinsically linked to immigration.
I love it when my international friends ask me to make them some "American" food. I jokingly replied to one friend, "Ok, what do you want? Italian? Chinese? Mexican?" As people have immigrated to the United States they have brought their culture and food with them. Food and culture, like people, are not static and unchanging; they adapt, change, are adopted by the native population and then recreated as local. The quintessential dish that represents this kind of transition and re-appropriation is pizza. Between 1876 and 1930 5 million Italians immigrated to the United States, many settling in places like New York City and Chicago (hence the reason that those two cities represent two distinct styles of pizza). They were fleeing poverty and seeking a better way of life but were met with prejudice and discrimination, some of which is present today and is critiqued (or reinforced...) popularly by shows such as The Sopranos.
Although I am a lover of all American forms of pizza, I definitely have a soft spot for the real thing. Our city is graced by Pizarros, a soon to be three-front, family run restaurant that serves legitimate Napoletana pizza. When I say legitimate, the tomatoes, flour, and olive oil are all imported. Everything else is made from scratch in house. Go visit one of the locations to see their brick wood ovens that are also imported from Italy. Take a moment and watch the process as they make the crust, adorn it, and cook it for a minute and a half in the oven.
Napoletana pizza is different from American pizza in more than just the ingredients (they are not greasy like American pizzas), it also different in style. It is simple. Napoletana pizza is baked at 900 degrees in brick ovens that were imported from Naples. The attention to detail, "local" training, and top notch ingredients and ovens imported straight from Naples are just a few of the reasons that Pizaros is one of 80 VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certified pizzerias in the country.
Try the margherita pizza and enjoy the uncluttered flavor of really delicious cheese, fresh basil, Italian sauce on a crispy bread crust. Order meat on it if you must, but at some point try it in its simplest form.