Italy and the world
Although we have a tendency to think of pizza as a modern fast food phenomenon, it has been with us for centuries (if not millennia). Although other ancient cultures have had some sort of pizza-like dish, it was the Romans (later Italians) that tossed the disk of dough into our hearts and the annals of culinary history. Perhaps you’re thinking that pizza isn’t particularly trippy, unless you’re driving 90 miles per hour in order to deliver it in under 30 minutes, but consider those who take the food of the commoner to a whole new level. There are far too many variations and novelty concoctions to mention in a single article, but I’ll highlight a few of them here briefly and then defer to the visual podcast that I and friend Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining made on a recent trip to Lucifer’s in Los Angeles. It’s up to you to find Geno’s East, The Original Ray’s, Santarpio’s or your friendly neighborhood House of Pizza on your own (but I’m always available to make suggestions).
First, let’s briefly talk about Arcadia, California’s Zelo and their Potato Pancetta. Picture a hearty deep dish pie with a cornmeal crust and stuffed to the brim with Italian pancetta, roasted slices of potatoes and mozzarella cheese drenched in a savory tomato sauce. With every bite there’s the comfort and taste of home fries with a zesty Mediterranean twist. Not everyone is a fan of Chicago-style pizza, but this rich and flavorful pie is like eating an earthy, sweet and smoky Italian ham and potato casserole. Zelo also features a tasty Wild Mushroom pizza featuring three different types of mushroom. We had them do a half-and-half for us, doubling our pleasure and fun. Their cornmeal crust is a special taste treat, along the lines of Geno’s East’s crumbly whole-wheat crust.
On the novelty side of the house, Pasadena, California’s Luigi Ortega’s has summoned a diabolical, spiteful pie from the fiery depths of Hell with the ominous moniker of “Dr. Death’s Suicide Pie”. This evil bastard only makes you wish you were dead – the first bite quickly numbs the mouth, tongue, lips and any other exposed flesh it comes in contact with. When I ordered it, I asked the manager for some milk; he told me that quenching the fire with milk was an exercise in futility, and offered me a dish of sour cream, which he said he would happily bring to the table – when I was done. The pizza is stocked with chunks of Buffalo chicken, spicy Andouille sausage and sliced jalapenos, all held together with a peppered mozzarella cheese. Chopped and sprinkled liberally on top are the grizzly remains of no fewer than six habaneros, with the pie doused in a fiery habanero tomato sauce that bore a striking similarity to magma. After the first piece, a strange transformation took place. Since I could no longer feel pain, the flavor of the ingredients became more present and I found that the pizza actually tasted good. I was able to eat the entire pizza, mercifully chased by the sour cream. Taste saved the experience, and I would try it again, but I don’t look forward to the three days of going down, down, down in a burning ring of fire.
My latest trippy adventure was at the equally fiery-themed Lucifer’s in Los Angeles. Rather than to prolong the anticipation, I’ll let you listen to the podcast and get a feel for what the adventure at this invitational tasting event was like first hand. Whether it’s a little slice of heaven or hotter than hell, good pizza never fails to please. Take another little pizza my heart, now, baby!
Watch Val eat Luigi Ortega’s Dr. Death’s Suicide Pie
Hear (and watch) the Deep End Dining / Trippy Food podcast from Lucifer’s in Los Angeles, California