Pizza – A Love Story
directed by Gorman Bechard
starring Lyle Lovett, Michael Bolton, Bill Pustari
What Were We Thinking Productions
New York vs. Chicago style? Detroit style vs. Hawaiian? All of these are just a bunch of Pizza Posers. It’s New Haven Pizza that was so good it broke the Red Sox’s long running “Curse of the Bambino.” New Haven Pizza?” Never heard of it? Neither had I until this fun documentary on this history of charred food, Italian culture and the decline of American urban life in the face of urban renewal appeared. A few facts: there were no tomatoes and thus no pizza in Italy until the 1500s. Why? Tomatoes were completely “New World” and it took Columbus to get the pizza train rolling in Italy. Here’s another fun fact: Sargent Hardware in New Haven desperately needed labor in the 1880s, so they paid agents in Italy to round up country boys by the shipload and deliver then directly to the loading dock in New Haven. There they built the hardware a booming America needed, and they also brought us this delectable dish. And lastly this film discusses “Urban Renewal”, the civic motto of the 1960’s that destroyed much more of American cites than it saved. Running elevated highways though “bad” parts of town was thought a Good Idea. Maybe, maybe not. But some vestiges of pre-freeway America survived. Today New Haven boasts three competing Pizzerias, each with their boosters and detractors. The shops all live within spitting distance of each other, and each owns a loyal fan base by making simple food in 600 degree oven and deliver a charred but delicious ethnic delicacy.
Film maker Bechard thoroughly explores how these restaurants came to be and still operate. A list of celebs from Lyle Lovett to Henry Winkler to Cheap Trick’s Rick Neilsen detail their involvement with the food. Lovett plans tours around New Haven pizza. New Haven Pizza was flown across the Atlantic for concerts. there’s even a possibly apocryphal story about one restaurant refusing to open early for then-President Carter. The beststories come from the local patrons as they describe their involvement with the food and New Haven. “Sally’s”, “Apizz”, and “Modern” all live in a state of friendly co-existence. There’s old footage of the founders rolling dough, tales of prohibition and bootlegging, and a lesson on the correct pronunciation of “Mozzarella.” It’s a foodie doc to die for, and one of the better ones this season. I get up that way from time to time, but now I’m motivated to drop in at lunch and see what the deal really is.