There’s an old saying that money doesn’t buy happiness. But with a few bucks in your pocket, you can score a pizza, and isn’t that a ridiculously close second?
Whether you’re 2 or 92, pizza is one of our favorite foods, a perfect combo of the tastes and sensations we crave. No wonder it’s ubiquitous. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 75,000 pizzerias, not counting other types of restaurants that feature it on their menus, convenience stores that sell it to on-the-go consumers, airport food courts, sports-arena concessions, frozen selections in grocery stores and – well – you get the picture. Researchers at University of Michigan even think pizza might have addictive properties, which is hardly surprising to anyone who has ever bit into what can only be described as a little slice of heaven.
We have artisan, deep dish, thin crust, double cheese, sweet sauce and more toppings than you can shake a peel at. We have pizza nights, pizza festivals, pizza parties, and in Las Vegas, the world’s largest gathering of pizza people. Indeed, each year the International Pizza Expo & Conference lures vendors, restaurateurs, chefs, pizzaiolos, business planners and more to dish on the only food John Lennon was willing to suspend his macrobiotic diet for. Evidently all you need is love – and a pizza.
But back to the expo. Once again, this year, Hormel Foods team members are headed to Las Vegas. It’s practically a given, considering the company’s No. 1 selling Hormel® pepperoni, not to mention a host of other toppings available at retail and behind the scenes to foodservice and restaurant operators. In fact, the global company even has Anthony Panichelli, resident pizza expert, on the team. As is the case each year, he’s putting a spotlight on what’s piping hot in the pizza world.
Plant-based pizza toppings
The plant-based market is continuing to boom, Panichelli says, as consumers experiment with meat alternatives. Hormel Foods should know; it’s in the thick of it. The company’s Happy Little Plants® pepperoni-style topping offers the burst of flavor people love and expect from real-meat pepperoni, with a plant-based spin. Consumers can experience Happy Little Plants® magic at Tony Gemignani’s Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, Calif., and at Wrecktangle Pizza in Minneapolis, Minn.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the winning culinary combo SFAH (salt, fat, acid, heat). According to Panichelli, eyes are on the acid component right now. Not only does citrus offer a splash of color, think about how a lemon wedge can add a new level of acid and create a delicious flavor profile. If tasting is believing, Panichelli recommends the clam pie with lemon at Surly Brewing in Minneapolis and the asparagus and lemon pizza from Tony Gemignani.
Demonstrating you can improve on perfection, enter fried pizza. Known as Montanara style, you’ll find the crispy and delectable variation by Larry Bistrot in Naples, Italy; and by Don Antonio in the Big Apple – New York, N.Y.
Potato and pizza
Admittedly, you might need to think about this one for a while – or better yet, try it, Panichelli says. Potatoes and pizza are pairing up at places like Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis and Bonci in Chicago, Ill. This new-on-the-scene dynamic duo deserves a try.
Nashville is the place to be
When it comes to U.S. pizza meccas, you can’t help but think of New York City, Chicago and Detroit, Mich., and rightly so. But the field is widening, Panichelli predicts. Nashville, Tenn., suddenly has a lot more than music to its credit, thanks to Michael Hanna and St. Vito’s Focacciaria’s world-class dough and Joey’s House of Pizza’s homage to the classic pie. Meanwhile, Folk is earning a reputation for its neo-Neapolitan pizza, City House has a one-of-a-kind belly ham pizza, and Slim & Husky’s is another force to be reckoned with.