Many take issue with my perceived disdain for Deep Dish Pizza. They ask me: “Joe – taste, texture, and vile appearance aside – what is your problem with deep dish pizza?” Well, the answer partly lies in its shocking and tragic history…
We can trace the origins of Deep Dish Pizza back to the late 19th century where Austrian troops introduced it as an instrument of torture during The First Italian War of Independence. It was designed to punish not only all five sense, but Italy’s burgeoning national pride. So effective was it in its ability to break the spirit of prisoners (given the similarity of its appearance to actual pizza) that the Austrians dubbed it Tränen Kuchen (Pie of Tears). The Italians simply referred to it as Pizza Angoscia (Anguish Pizza).
Italian resistance fighters co-opted the dish during WWII, using it as a mode of secret communication by baking notes into its saucy morass. To the untrained eye of German occupiers, the Deep Dish Pizza would appear to be just another menu item. In truth, however, no self-respecting Italian would ever actually purchase the dish, ensuring that it would always be readily accessible to agents of Italy’s active underground network.
In 1949, article 17, paragraph 4 of the Geneva Convention prohibiting torture did not outlaw the use of Deep Dish Pizza by name, but it did include a fairly proximate recipe of the banned dish.
The dish then seemed to fall into obscurity, occasionally making an appearance on the menu of Italian circus geeks who would thrill audiences by consuming such items as chicken heads, rusty nails, lightbulbs, and, of course, what would later come to be known as Deep Dish Pizza.
Deep Dish Pizza eventually made its way to North America where it was used as a means of retaliation by Italian mobsters against their rivals, a sign of grave disrespect. It came to be referred to Il Piatto di Dolore Profondo (The Deep Dish of Pain).
It’s unclear how the dish made its way from the backrooms of mob restaurants to the dining rooms of pseudo-Italian eateries, but rumor has it that a dish destined for a rival mob boss ended up being delivered to the wrong house. The recipients, rather than complain, tracked down the restaurant and placed a new order. In time, word of this culinary abomination spread throughout Chicago, receiving such inexplicable support that the owner was able to retire from his life of crime.
It was renamed to the more palatable Deep Dish Pizza and has remained a North American menu mainstay ever since.
I hope you found this little less in culinary history informative. Join me next week when I break down the horrifying history of General Tso’s Chicken.
Dark Matter panel with Orville Nation won’t be happening tonight and will be rescheduled!