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Pizza history

Rock-afire Explosion

So this might mean more to some of you than it does to others, but it’s pizza-relevant nonetheless…

Back in the ’80s there was a pizza chain called Showbiz Pizza Place. If you’re not familiar with it, you might have heard of a similar place called Chuck E Cheese’s. The basic idea of both restaurants was that they served pizza, had a bunch of arcade games, and provided entertainment for kids via large anthropomorphic animals.

Showbiz, which is now defunct, featured a live music act (if you can call it that) called the Rock-afire Explosion, manned by animatronic animals.

Since the Showbiz chain has gone down, there has been a group of obsessive Rock-afire Explosion fanatics that collect and maintain the musical robots. As is the case with so many quirky hobbies nowadays, there is a documentary about the phenomenon coming out (scheduled to be released in Fall 2008, according to the documentary’s MySpace page).

Here’s the trailer:

Keep your eye out for the film’s full site here.

Happy birthday to modern pizza!

Pizza Abstracted; or, Jetset Pizza

Tomorrow, 11 June, we celebrate the 119th birthday of modern pizza by honoring an historic event in 1889.
The following is from a recent newsletter I got from Scott’s Pizza Tours.

In 1889, King Umberto and his wife Queen Margherita of Savoy embarked upon a goodwill tour of a newly unified Italy. The queen requested a special pizza tasting as part of the royal couple’s visit to Naples in order to join in the growing popularity of what was generally a street food for the poor. She hired a pizzaiolo (pizza maker, pie man) by the name of Rafaele Esposito to prepare a variety of pizzas. Legend has it that Esposito’s wife Brandi placed a handful of basil leaves atop a pie that already boasted fresh mozzarella and tomato, giving it all three colors of the Italian flag. Margherita enjoyed this pie so much that she had a letter sent to Esposito declaring the pizza “buonissime.” The wise businessman he was, Rafaele named the pizza in Margherita’s honor.

The royal thank you note is dated June 11, 1889 and still hangs in Pizzeria Brandi to this day. Therefore, it is on this day that we celebrate the birth of the modern pizza.

So tomorrow, grab a delicious slice of the good stuff and chow in celebration.

PS: My apologies for the cliché graphic above; I couldn’t help myself. See the original idea by Experimental Jetset here.

©2010